Saturday, 16 January 2010

Food in the City, Haiti and a thought on the New Creation

Below, Carolyn Steel talks about the relationship between food and cities and how we have "freed" ourselves from our ties to the land.

But when something like a tsunami, hurricane or earthquake hits, then in a matter of minutes, this whole infrastructure of "freedom" is destroyed, leaving thousands dead and hundreds of thousands on the verge of starvation. It's at times like this, we remember just how fragile and dependent we really are - when everything we've built lies in ruins.

Port au Prince is nearly three times the size of Reading, with a totally crippled infrastructure: no passable roads, a chaotic bottleneck at the airport and a destroyed shipping port. And the number of desperate starving mouths to feed is huge and growing.

For the rich, no amount of money can get them the food they need, and certainly not what they want. As for the poor, who knows how many will die as a secondary effect of the earthquake.

Moreover, who knows how many will be brutalised by the effects of mass looting and violence as people, driven by the desire to survive, do many inhumane things?

Last week, due to snow, my local supermarket was clearly down on food supplies. (However, the cosmetics aisles were still well stocked.) Whether that was because the infrastructure was badly affected or because people panic shopped I have no idea, but I found it eerie and humbling.

I realise I paint a bleak picture here, from an ironic comfy chair that cradles me and my more than adequate energy reserves. I don't want to be morbid, just real and honest.

No doubt there will be many who sacrifice themselves for the sake of others, not least thousands of mothers for the sake of their children. If I'm honest, I haven't quite worked out what my response to all this is. There is often a thin line between due financial diligence and a stingy selfish miserliness. Whilst, I'm against false guilt, emotionalism and knee jerk reactions, I also know it's possible to be a little too cool and "good investment" oriented. I must not forget that if it was me and my own children starving, I'd just be grateful for your help.

Many Christians see the city as the focal point of God's purpose - the place where everything is heading. This is true, but also misleading, because the cities we live in today are not like the one we see in Revelation, which is why I find Steel's video fascinating, (even if I wince every time she refers to humans as animals). The spirit of the age that creates the urban jungles we are well familiar with is not like the Spirit who will one day recreate the whole cosmos and bring all God's people - the Bride of Christ - to the heavenly city.

The New Jerusalem is not a megalopolis, but a garden city. A place where those who love Jesus have been given to rule over creation; being in harmony with it rather than plundering, pillaging and polluting it to put themselves on a pedestal.

Many labour under the (idolatrous) delusion that we must create (the impossible) utopia in this life. I am persuaded however, that we are to love humbly, generously and sacrificially, whilst patiently waiting and hoping in Jesus for the perfection of the next.

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