From my heart to yours – August 2013

An inclusive Christian community in Auckland, New Zealand

From my heart to yours – August 2013

Last Sunday, while travelling to St Aidans, I was listening to Media Watch on Radio New Zealand National, I heard a report on the work of Transparency International and their recent Corruption Survey. The following is from their New Zealand web site:

9 July, 2013 – Transparency International today released the 2013 Global Corruption Barometer, and its key finding from the global survey of 114,000 respondents in 107 countries: bribery is widespread with 27 per cent of those surveyed globally reporting they have paid a bribe in the last 12 months when interacting with public institutions and services.

The New Zealand component of the survey involved 1000 New Zealanders and was undertaken by Colmar Brunton in January and February this year and found:

  • 3% of New Zealanders surveyed reported paying a bribe Of those who reported paying a bribe their reasons for doing so were because:
  • It was the only way to obtain a service (35%)
  • To get a cheaper service (29%)
  • To speed things up (21%)
  • As a gift/gratitude (15%)
  • 65% of those surveyed thought the level of corruption in New Zealand has increased over the past two years

Transparency International New Zealand Chair Suzanne Snively says she is not surprised by the research but acknowledges many will be.

“There is a mistaken impression that New Zealand is somehow removed from bribery practices which are common place in the rest of the world. In fact, as we seek to strengthen our business and trade opportunities with countries that are commonly ranking poorly on anti-corruption indices, our exposure to illegal activity such as bribery is increasing.

“Having a public sector that operates with high integrity provides an opportunity for the lower cost of doing business, access to quality markets, more satisfied customers, better shareholder return and the attraction and retention of employees who want to work for ethical organisations. The objective of the assessment is to keep New Zealand as good as it is perceived”, she said. “Internationally we are ‘perceived’ as a country of little corruption. We currently rank at the top of the annual Corruptions Perception Index which rates perception not experience. This reputation presents significant competitive advantages and economic benefits for New Zealand business. But we need to ensure that perception is reality”, she said.

“There is no place for complacency for any of us whether we are at work, in school, or at board, management or government level in New Zealand. We must be vigilant about these matters and ensure we manage our risks actively and resoundingly” she said.

Other New Zealand findings include:

  • 44% responded that the New Zealand government’s actions are ineffective in the fight against corruption.
  • 88% of New Zealanders surveyed reported willingness to sign a petition asking the government to do more to fight corruption.

We each will have our individual responses and reasons for such startling results. You may even doubt they could be present here in what was once termed ‘God’s own quarter acre, pavalova paradise.’ Those days alas are well and truly gone. Our world has changed and continues to change. When I read the above, I asked myself, is the church in its many guises free of bribery and corruption.  I don’t think so.

Having said that, it’s very easy to point the finger at other church denominations, along with communities of faith and make critical judgements. While forgetting that we too are human, with our own weaknesses and frailties and never perfect. The gospel writer Luke has Jesus expressing this so well:

How can you say to your neighbour, “Friend, let me take out the speck in your eye”, when you yourself do not see the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbour’s eye   (Luke 6:42)

This same truth is echoed in that old saying:

‘People in glass houses, should not throw stones’

Yet, often, it is very easy to throw brickbats and forget that we need to throw bouquets with delight at what we see and hear.  I want to throw a bouquet at Pope Francis, for in the NZ Herald (30/713) there was this story:

‘Pope Francis reached out to gays, declaring that it is not his place to judge them – while also condemning the Vatican‘s reported gay lobby as a “serious problem”. The remarks to journalists as he flew back to Rome from a high-profile trip to Brazil appeared to be more conciliatory towards homosexuals than his predecessor Benedict XVI. “If someone is gay and seeks the Lord with good will, who am I to judge?” the pope asked. “The problem is not having this orientation, it is lobbying. That’s the most serious problem.” The pope had admitted in June that there was a “gay lobby” in the Vatican‘s secretive administration, the Roman Curia, according to a Latin American Catholic website.

Whether we like it or not, it is easy to critically analyse the statement, however, I delight in its transparency and openness.  We often forget that the words we use reflect the thoughts, attitudes of our heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart thinks and feels. Consequently, how we see and hear, determines what we see and hear.

Since being part of this community of faith, I have offered you a variety of poems in various contexts; often I leave you to discover the meaning of the poem for yourself.  This month, I offer you a very different poem and then I want to make a few comments:

The uses of not

Thirty spokes

Meet in the hub.

Where the wheel isn’t,

is where it’s useful.

Hollowed out,

Clay makes a pot.
Where the pot‘s not,

is where it’s useful.

Cut doors and windows

to make a room.

Where the room isn’t,
there’s room for you.

So the profit in what is
is in the use of what isn’t

-          Lao Tzu

This poem invites us to consider that the things we tend to see immediately, the wheel, the pot, the room are really not the things we need to pay attention to. There is always something deeper, more significant, which may be described as magical and mysterious, waiting to be seen and heard.

I am reminded of this poem, when I am tempted to offer quick judgements of others, to throw brickbats instead of bouquets. It invites me to pause, reflect, consider what else may be happening which is not visible and yet needs to be appreciated and honoured.  This allows space for  ‘what’s not’ to become ‘what is’ -  that open door way into the soul of myself and fellow travellers on the journey of life. When that happens it offers the fertile soil for transparency to grow and bear fruit in our individual and communal lives.

I leave you with these words from Marcel Proust (French Novelist died 1922)

The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes

but in having new eyes.

Meanwhile peace and delight in throwing bouquets