I've been reflecting on overseas travel lately- prompted by the readings we've had in church about the Sabbath- which made me think of holidays- and the number of people from church away overseas these days- plus times of feeling uneasy with people telling their overseas holiday stories in front of people who could never afford it, unease about the behaviour of Australians in places like Bali, and the whole environmental thing of flying and pumping all that carbon straight into the atmosphere.
I was also prompted by our holiday to Sri Lanka earlier this year- that it does us good to read the scriptures from a third world perspective. How would they see us Western Christians? Mark Twain said: Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow mindedness. Yet it seems many travellers fly in, look around and leave with photos and are not changed at all.
I wondered if there’s a godly way to do holidays?
Travel and spirituality have a long association
- Travel is a constant in the bible- from Adam and Eve leaving the garden of Eden, to Abraham and Sarah called to move to a new land God would show them, to the journeys of the people of Israel, to Jesus' ministry to the apostles' journeys
- Christianity and other religions have a long history of people going on Pilgrimages
- The church has a long history of people travelling to different countries on Mission work
- Many Christians and people of other faiths have had to leave their country fleeing from persecution
I recently read a book 'Faith on the Road: a short theology of Travel and Justice' by Joerg Rieger which I’ve enjoyed reading. The main thing I hadn’t thought of much before was the place of power. Locals have to adapt to tourists expectations and ideals which tourists hardly notice. Tourism may support a third world economy but it reinforces the power imbalance between rich and poor nations, and spreads Western capitalist consumerist culture, undermining local culture.
So should we not travel? I believe we can make travel a good thing if we do it thoughtfully. Here are things to consider carefully for guilt free travel:
In the 'Window' on Koroit St at the church we've recently had a series of messages entitled Spiritual Tone-Up.
People go to the gym to get physically toned up through a series of exercises. The messages in the 'Window' are Spiritual Exercises that get you spiritually toned up- expressed in non-religious language. Because you can fit a maximum of 15 letters on only 4 rows (it's like half a tweet), it's had to be made very concise. Here's the original document I wrote.
In the 'Window' I divided no 3 into two separate messages. I believe if you give these a try regularly and you'll be fit to cope with whatever life throws at you with equanimity to remain positive. 10 Point Spiritual Health Tone Up
1 Take a moment to name things you are grateful for.
(this sets your spirit in the right frame)
2 Reaffirm your important beliefs and values.
(this brings you back to your true self)
3 Name things that have hurt you and silently speak forgiveness.
Name things that you regret and allow yourself to be forgiven.
(these are like dropping your baggage)
4 Name the strengths you need and ask for them.
(this is like picking up your luggage)
5 Spend some time just being in nature.
(connect with the universe)
6 Spend some time just playing, non-competitively.
(connect with your innocence)
7 Spend some time being creative without judging what you do.
(connect with God’s gifts to you)
8 Give something freely- time or money or some thing you have.
(connect with others’ needs)
9 Send love, goodwill, peace, joy, hope to others.
(connect with others’ spirits)
10 Spend some time seeking silence and the stilling of the mind.
(connect with the Universal Spirit)