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A generous hospitality?

P1050738 (2)Phil McCarthy
National Director
Prison Fellowship New Zealand

 Recently, in the Anglican Diocese of Wellington, of which I’m part, we’ve focused on what ‘A Generous Hospitality’ might look like.  It’s easy these days to despair as we observe what is happening in this country and in the world around us.   The world is not majoring on hospitality!  The sight on our TV screens of American Republican political candidates is deeply troubling as they spew hatred, actively foster racism and violence, glorify war and even war crimes, seek to exploit people’s fear of minorities into votes for political office, and firmly divide the world into ‘us’ and ‘them’ camps.

We are experiencing rampant capitalism as worship of the dollar and corporate profits is obliterating any sense of social justice or social responsibility.  Witness the CEO of Nestle arguing that people have no right of access to water, or the giant agricultural company Monsanto attempting to prevent poor farmers from growing and using patented seed, or the oil companies actively campaigning against effective climate change responses.

Here in New Zealand, we’ve heard the cry of anguish of the Children’s Commissioner as a real opportunity to do something about poor housing standards for poor children goes sliding past.

Writing in Tui Motu magazine recently, Peter Matheson commented on these worrying NZ trends.  Noting that the powers-that-be of the corporate and political worlds are truly formidable, he went on to say (1):

“Behind the callow ‘humanism” which largely has replaced a religious commitment can lurk a ruthless inhumanity.  There is scant sympathy for the refugee, the fostered child, the lowly paid and the weak.  Into the vacuum of values has rushed a totalitarianism of the market, impatient of dissent and with a growing throttle-hold on education, health and welfare.

“The dominant culture we are up against in Aotearoa today has both ideological and structural dimensions.  It propagates a vision of social life that is predominantly hedonistic and individualistic”.

I manage an organisation that remains firmly rooted in the faith-based milieu.  Many community organisations in New Zealand are similarly church (or ‘churches’) based, or had their origins in Christian environments.  Sometimes it seems to be a difficult place to stand in a world that is increasingly secular and that sometimes displays outright hostility to ‘religious’ values.  If we return briefly to the American presidential campaign, we get a whiff of how this has come about. Trump has apparently promised that under a Trump presidency “Christianity will have power again” – stick with me and I will give you influence, power and prestige.

Those of us who are Christian should far more readily identify the voice of the desert tempter than Jesus in this quote but we are faced with the apparent paradox that, in the throngs around Trump are many who’d claim the Christian label, and the allegedly Christian Cruz espouses even more elitist, exclusionary and hate-filled policies.

Prison Fellowship NZ, and other faith-motivated organisations seeking to model the values of our founder see things very differently.  I’ve come to realise that ‘hospitality’ is indeed a great way to capture the heart of an organisation that is genuinely driven by Gospel values.  What are they?  I see them as the following:

  • A welcoming inclusiveness
  • Forgiveness
  • A non-violent disposition
  • Humility
  • Care for the poor, the overlooked, the ignored

This generous hospitality is the antidote to both the merciless capitalism and the elitist bastardised Christianity that seeks to exclude and to impoverish so many.  Whatever our faith position, we all need to open our hearts to the other, to allow our world views to be challenged, to give space to new and different voices, to reject the comic book world that divides the world into goodies and baddies, into ‘us’ and ‘them’.  To include, to reach out; truly to be hospitable.

This blog has been contributed by a member of ComVoices

ComVoices  actively promotes the value that community sector organisations and their people, both paid and unpaid, add to New Zealand’s economic and social wellbeing through information, and political advocacy and dialogue.

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