Martin Wroe - Greenbelt
· Waiters Union
Plan Be rescues the ' Be-Attitudes' from obscurity and uses them for 'Plan Be' - 'being the change we want to see in the world'. 'Plan Be' is a simple practical easy-to-use manual for a do-it-yourself global ethical revolution. In this book Dave Andrews rescues the 'beatitudes' from their obscurity as a poetic introduction to Jesus' sermon on the Mount, and reframes them as a set of radical 'Be-Attitudes' that we can use as a life-changing framework for 'being the change we want to see in the world'. In 8 concise punchy chapters Dave unpacks the hidden dynamics in the 8 Be-Attitudes and shows us how they can help us reshape our personal-political worlds.
‘With gentle forcefulness Dave Andrews helps us to emancipate the Beatitudes from the too-hard list, and embrace them as prime ingredients in God’s recipe for a grace-full revolution.’
Steve Bradbury, TEAR Australia and Micah Network
'The essence of Jesus teaching is the Sermon on the mount. Yet Christians have not taken this seriously. Dave Andrew's reminds us that we edit out this teaching at our global peril.'
Tim Costello, CEO, World Vision Australia
‘The Anabaptists, the Radical wing of the Reformation, believed that the Sermon on the Mount was not simply a set of ideals for a brutal world, but a way of life in following Christ and his peaceable kingdom that could be lived. This challenging reader seeks to carry forward this vision into the 21st century. It is a personal and communal call to live against the tide of violence, retaliation, vengeance and unforgiveness, in order to nurture into being a world that reflects the radical grace, gentleness, love and justice of the One who uttered these words so long ago. This book is to be read, internalised and LIVED!’
Dr Charles Ringma Emeritus Professor Mission Studies, Regent College, Canada.
‘When I met Dave Andrews a few years ago, I could feel the fire burning in him. Then I heard him speak. Then I read his books. Ever since, he has been and continues to be a major inspiration for my life and work. I think Plan Be will be his most widely-read book yet, and will introduce a new readership to this important prophetic voice - one who deserves global attention. Plan A (Aggressive, Arrogant, Angry, or Apathetic Religion) has been tried and found disgusting. It's high time for Plan Be spirituality.’
Brian McLaren, author of The Secret Message of Jesus and Everything Must Change
I have become increasingly worried about how the so-called Christian neo-cons have set the global agenda and those of us - who have opposed the ‘coalition of the willing’ and protested against the killing that is being done in the name of God - have apparently been rendered utterly and thoroughly impotent. Millions of us have marched in protests, signed petitions, and spoken to politicians; but with little impact.
I have come to the conclusion that it is an illusion to think we can change anybody else but ourselves. The truth is that we cannot change them - we can only change ourselves. We need to remember the alternate version of the Serenity Prayer, and repeat it regularly:
Lord, give me the serenity
to accept the people I cannot change,
the courage to change the people I can,
and the wisdom to know it is me!”
Even when we realize we can only change ourselves, our aspirations are often simply too grandiose.
Big people can do big things. But we can only ever be big people in our own minds. In global terms, we will only ever really be little people. And, as little people, we can only do little things. Great things can happen. Not as a result of little people trying to do impossibly big things; but as result of the cumula-tive effect of lots of little people doing lots of the little things we can do.
As little people, we all know that there is nothing big we can do to change the world. But that doesn’t mean there is nothing we can do. We can be the change we want to see in the world by simply persistently doing all the little things we wish they would do, but don’t do, ourselves.
And, when a majority of us in each country, persistently do all the little things we wish they would do, ourselves, then it will be in the self-interest of those politicians, who want to ensure their own political survival, to develop policies that better reflect our concerns for the world.
‘Plan A’ has been to ‘treat others like they treat us’. On 9-11-2001, Osama Bin Laden ordered an attack on the twin towers of the World Trade Center at the heart of the American Empire. As the world looked on in astonishment Bin Laden cried ‘Here is America struck by God Almighty in one of its vital organs, so that its greatest buildings are destroyed.’ 1 In retaliation, George Bush ordered an attack on Osama Bin Laden in Afghanistan - and also an attack on Saddam Hussein in Iraq (who did not have any weapons of mass destruction, or anything to do with the 9-11attack, but had tried to kill Bush senior.) Bush claimed ‘God told me to strike al-Qaeda and I struck them, and then he instructed me to strike at Saddam, which I did.’2 As a result, so far over 100,000 innocent civilians have been killed - and we are still counting.
The trouble with an ‘eye-for-an-eye’ policy is that in the end it makes us ‘blind’ – we are no longer able to see - let alone do - the sort of things that make for peace and love and justice.
‘Plan Be’ is to ‘treat others like we would like to be treated’. In 1993, the Parliament of the World's Religions was convened in Chicago, with 8,000 people from all over the world coming together to see if they could find a common ethic in their religious traditions that they could use to address the issue of violence. And they came up with the Golden Rule. Not the new materialistic version of the Golden Rule – ‘that those with the gold rule. But the old spiritual version of the Golden Rule - 'do unto others as you would have them do unto you'. It’s a call for all people – regardless of religion - ‘to be the change we want to see in the world’- the ‘people-that-be’ over against
The great value of the Golden Rule is that it is acceptable not only to religious, but also to secular people. General reciprocity, seems to be ‘common to ethical systems everywhere.’ 3 But, while the strength of the Golden Rule is that everybody agrees with it, its weakness is that its a bit vague as guideline.
Which is why Jesus of Nazareth spent so much time unpacking the specific implications of the Golden Rule in his simply brilliant Sermon on the Mount - summarising his suggestions in the Be-Attitudes.
The trouble is, few people who would claim to be admirers of Jesus - even among those who would call themselves “believers” – take the Be-Attitudes seriously as ethical guidelines for at least three reasons.
The first reason is that the Be-Attitudes are rarely taught in churches. (My friend Nick says he cannot remember hearing a single sermon preached on the Be-attitudes in his church.) If the Be-Attitudes are referred to, they are usually cited as picture postcard spiritual promises, not as basic practical operating principles.
The second reason is that the Sermon on the Mount, which the Be-Attitudes serve as an introduction, hasn’t been taught as framework for ethics ever since the church chose to align itself with the state (under the Emperor Constantine). As it was necessary to set aside the basic practical operating principles of the Sermon, (like ‘turn the other cheek’) in order to support the imperial demand to do otherwise (eg ‘take up the sword in defence of the empire’).
The third reason is when people have tried to reclaim the Sermon on the Mount as a frame-work for ethics, they have often unfortunately misinterpreted the content and turned the Sermon on the Mount into a set of idealistic, but unrealistic set of (‘no anger’) guidelines which make Jesus seem completely unreasonable and/or irrational.
I hope to show you that Sermon on the Mount, in general and the Be-Attitudes in particular, are actually an original, imaginative and brilliantly do-able set of realistic ideals that give us a way to engage a world of poverty and violence .
In the Be-Attitudes, I would like to suggest that Jesus gives us a set of ethical guidelines that we can help us be the change we want to see in the world
Let’s reflect on the Be-Attitudes for a moment…
3"Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
5Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
6Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
7Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
8Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
9Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
10Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
Who are the people blessed in the Be-Attitudes?
the poor - or poor in spirit – who identify with the poor ‘in spirit’
those who mourn – who grieve over the injustice in the world
the meek – who get angry, but who never get aggressive
those who hunger and thirst for righteousness - who seek justice
the merciful – who are compassionate to everyone in need
the pure in heart – who are whole-hearted in desire to do right
the peacemakers – who work for peace in a world at war
those persecuted for righteousness - who suffer for just causes
What are the virtues in each of the Be-Attitudes that are being blessed?
Focusing on the poor (not status or riches) Humility
Grieving over the injustice in the world Empathy
Getting angry but not getting aggressive Self-restraint
Seeking for justice (not vengeance) Righteousness
Extending compassion to all in need Mercy
Being whole-hearted in a desire to do right Integrity
Working for peace in a world at war Non-violence
Suffering for just causes (patiently) Perseverance
If we were to use the virtues blessed in the Be-Attitudes as guidelines for our lives, what kind of people do you imagine would we be?
We’d identify with the poor ‘in spirit’.
We’d grieve over injustice in the world.
We’d get angry, but never get aggressive.
We’d seek to do justice, even to my enemies.
We’d extend compassion to all those in need.
We’d act with integrity, not just for the publicity.
We’d work for peace in the midst of the violence.
We’d suffer ourselves, rather than inflict suffering.
In the Be-Attitudes, Jesus gives us a set of clear ethical guidelines that can help become the ‘people-that-be’ over against the ‘powers-that-be’.
I would encourage as many of you who can to buy Plan Be and read it, talk about it with your friends, and either give a copy as a present or encourage others to buy it. Word of mouth is the best advertising in the world. I would also encourage you to write a review of Plan Be for your favourite magazine, put it on your blog and post it on an Amazon website, feature it on facebook and tell people what it means to you on myspace.
I would love to see Plan Be become a catalyst for a do-it-yourself, personal-political, ethical revolution. And to equip you ‘be the revolution’ we have set up a website - www.wecan.be (donated by some generous Belgians) - to help you 'be inspired' through songs, images, quotes, etc; 'be encouraged' through stories from round the world; 'be informed' through current news and views; 'be connected' through accompanying groups; 'be active’ through practical campaigns; and 'be reflective' through spirited meditations.
Before he died, Kurt Vonnegut, the famous satirical American author, wrote: "For some reason, the most vocal Christians among us never mention the beatitudes. But - often with tears in their eyes - they demand that the Ten Commandments be posted in public buildings. And of course that's Moses, not Jesus. I haven't heard one of them demand that the Sermon on the Mount, the beatitudes, be posted anywhere." I think its time we took up Kurt’s challenge, and posted the Be-Attitudes up everywhere we can. I am mindful of how Luther’s nailing of his theses for reform to the door of his church led to the reformation of his times; and am of the mind that by posting a copy of the Be-Attitudes up not only in private spaces – like on the back of our bedroom door – but also in public spaces – like on the front of the door to our church, might lead to a new, more radical, reformation - which not only preaches grace as a precept but practices it as a process.
Imagine what could happen if, instead of merely reciting our creeds, which (by and large) have little ethical content, we began every week by reciting - and reflecting on - the Be-Attitudes, with a focus on Christlike ethical responses? Imagine what could happen if our churches, temples, synagogues, and mosques, were transformed into spirited support groups that were committed to helping people live out the Be-Attitudes as an integrated step program? What AA groups have done for our addiction to alcohol, Be groups could do for our addiction to status and violence. They could set us free to ‘love our neighbours as ourselves.’
Lets ‘be the revolution’
Plan Be Study Guide (PDF 67kb)
1 Bruce Lincoln Holy Terrors University Of Chicago Press, Chicago 2002
2 Greg Austin, Todd Kranock, Thom Oommen God And War Department of Peace Studies, Bradford 2003
3 Peter Singer One World Text Publishing Melbourne 2002