Outside the Camp revisited
In April 2012, I published my book Outside the Camp – reflections of a Community Activist. It was the first title under the label jrb publications. The most recent title to come under that umbrella is Prophets of the Bible, to be followed up in the near future (DV) by Kings and Priests of the Bible.
In April 2014, I produced a second edition of the book, which included a number of updates, along with four further books:
- Spirituality and Mental Health
- The Gay Conundrum
- Onward and Upward
- Theological Musings
The first two were an elaboration of two subjects that earlier particularly interested me and was touched on in the first edition of Outside the Camp. The third was to include new topics related to the theme of the book and the fourth was to give a theological rational to my community activism. Around that time, I started my website jrbpublications.com and these five books were included as electronic versions that could be freely downloaded from the website along with some of my other writings. It was around that time I became a regular blogger (which continues to this day) and I also began to maintain a regular Facebook presence (partly in order to support my blogging).
One internet definition of Community Activist is it is a member of a community who is voluntarily working with others from that community to achieve common aims (delivering change) – someone who takes individual action or action with others in a community, in a planned way. It also represented my third career after starting off as a secondary science school teacher and then as a software engineer, including running my own business. It is what has occupied my last twenty years of my life and has involved a mixture of paid and voluntary positions (nowadays entirely voluntary). The idea behind the book was to tell my story, including setting the record straight so to speak.
I wanted to encourage and help the next generation of community activists based on my own experience, including as a result of making mistakes. I also had the desire to encourage Christians to get involved in their communities and where possible to work with those of all faiths and none in order to achieve common goals. I also wanted to reach out to non Christians based on the finding common ground principle and respecting different perspectives. But it is also about maintaining a balance and holding one’s nerve. I now put on my business card I am a gospel preaching, community activist, watchman on the wall, given I am into all three and believe all three to be important.
The picture at the start of this section is the painting of the Scapegoat by the Pre-Raphaelite artist: William Holman Hunt. Another internet definition is that a scapegoat is a person who is blamed for the wrongdoings, mistakes, or faults of others, especially for reasons of expediency. The Day of Atonement is the most important holy day of the Jewish calendar, when the High Priest made an atoning sacrifice for the sins of the people, the details of which are described in Leviticus 16. This act of paying the penalty for sin brought reconciliation (a restored relationship) between the people and God. A key part of the day’s proceedings was selecting two goats and the casting of lots.
The goat upon whom the lot had fallen was offered up as sacrifice and the other was released into the wilderness, after the sins of the people had been transferred onto it as a result of the High Priest laying on his hands. This was referred to as the scapegoat. “And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood. Let us, then, go to him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace he bore. For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come” Hebrews 13: 12-14. Jesus is our scapegoat and we are called to join him “outside the camp” and thus the title of my book and my community activist mantra.
It has been over seven years since I produced my second edition of the book and a lot of water has gone under the proverbial bridge and there is more wisdom I would dearly love to pass on, including the thought I may have gone full circle. I have come from a Christian background that was not keen on community activism that was not church and gospel centred but God in His sense of humour allowed me to get involved in set ups where many around me, including the Christians, did not see church and gospel as all that important and if they did these would need to bend to the prevailing cultural norms. I also learned many of the pitfalls of do-gooding, although doing good is what we should all be doing. I now see it as possible and needful to have your cake and eat it so to speak.
Getting involved in our communities in an appropriate way is the right thing to do, and there are opportunities galore, as is preaching the gospel (people need to be saved but to quote Francis of Assisi – using words if necessary) and being a watchman on the wall (warning others, especially in the light of the crazy things happening around us right now). The need is to maintain balance and, whatever we do, let it be to the glory of God. Whether I get to produce a third edition of Outside the Camp remains to be seen. If I do, I will try to make it less about me and more about others.