Monthly Archives: April 2012

Springing into action?

At the start of spring, in fact on Mothering Sunday, two orphan lambs came to live here. Orphan is a bit of a misnomer, as in all probability their mother is still living. Lambs usually become orphan from either being rejected by their Mum or being one of triplets … and due to the habit of lambs drinking at the same time from the ewe’s two teats, this is not good news.

Anyhow, looking very small and lost, week old lambs came, and were duly named Hilda and Cuthbertha. I am currently giving lambs Judeao-Christian names. After a slightly wobbly start they survived. My craving for lambs and need to expand the flock was satisfied.

Then on Tuesday the shepherd turned up on my doorstep with two more, this time known to be the third of triplets. They were – well, skinny. They were two weeks younger than mine and half the size. I softened. I weakened.

So, knowing I cannot face hand rearing lambs, and then eating them, the Hannah herd has expanded. The two new lambs are now putting on weight like nobody’s business, and bounding around all over the place. Mind you feeding two while being mugged by the other two is a feat in itself.

Because he rose

‘It must be a great comfort to you to believe that you will live after death,’ says yet another person, ‘I suppose that is what it is all about.’

Er, no. Because he rose, he is with us helping us work now. Looking to him we find life, energy.

Energy to work for justice, so that trade generates wealth for the producers and workers, so that they can live a full life. And for the environment, while it is still there to be loved and nurtured as the God-given thing it is. Energy to work for a world where people are individuals, free, accepting of who they are, and yet striving to be the best they can be. Where nobody is limited by class, colour, gender, or orientation. A world where people can face pain, and disappointment, and that hope deferred which makes the heart sick, and still get up the next morning and start again.

Above all, to work for a world where people can forgive, and can accept forgiveness. A Kingdom where shame has been destroyed, so that people can face their guilt, and work on not endlessly repeating the same mistakes. A Kingdom where each person knows they are loved, and loves themselves, and can therefore love others.

Because he rose, we are set free to live and love now. And wonderful as it is to know we are loved for ever, it is not as important as knowing that hatred can never destroy love, and we are loved now, now.

Because he died

Gentle reader, you are due a non-religious post. Not a hope.

This is Good Friday, and the Christian world is racked with pain. Read it here and here.

Anything I can add will be very poor, but I still feel impelled to try. I have been trying to explain to incredulous customers why I (as one of them put it) ‘bounce up and down the motorway’ and increasingly unseasonal times – last night home at 1am and on Sunday, starting at 6.30 am having previously fed lambs and walked dogs. Why do this to sit in church often hungry and thirsty, sometimes in tears, usually tired, when I could be having a jolly holiday?

Because life is deeper than that. More mysterious. Because some day I will sit and know I will be leaving my family and leaving it to go alone to death. Because I have sat with myself enough to know the terrible depths which lurk in the nice old lady. Because I live in a world where children die from lack of food. Because I have more than some people I know, and far less than others. Because pretending I never damage the environment, or hurt others, is a hollow lie. Because I believe God is everywhere, and suffers with every single sufferer and rejoices in every act of love. Because to find a faith which can encompass the depths of sorrow and the heights of joy, I have to make time to sit and think, to experience, to kneel, to ache, to struggle with sleep, to have the tiredness headache, to kiss inanimate objects because of what lies behind them, to read blog posts and cry in a cafe, to lose jolliness.

Because it is only after that lot I can actually get out there and function a good nearer the me I can be at best. Or cope with the ordinary miseries of life. It is not because Jesus rose on Easter Day that I can face death, especially the deaths of those I love. It is because he died on Good Friday.

Group identity should never involve the sacrifice of the individual’s truth

Have identity politics gone too far? Rowan Williams is, very properly, making use of his last months in office by saying what he wants to be heard to say, rather than being driven by topics on which others want his to speak. This weekend, he wanted to say that ‘identity politics’ have gone too far. That is to say, if I understand rightly, that people have become so involved in campaigning for the rights of women, black people and LGBT people that they will put those rights forward at the expense of everything else. The overwhelming drive for these things has now passed the point of championing the disadvantaged and now is putting individuals before the greater good of the whole.
I would reply that, as far as I can see that is precisely what Jesus always did. When he found himself with a load of hungry disciples, and one women, Martha, was struggling to get the meal together for them, and her sister was selfishly and most improperly sitting with the men, learning, Jesus championed Mary, the improper learner, and let the good of the group go hang. When a woman with a reputation turned up and anointed his feet, a woman touching a man in public, damaging his good name, and that of his whole movement, Jesus let the movement be damaged. When he was touched by an unclean woman, he made no attempt to hide the fact, and, and, and…
I cannot think of one single time when Jesus in fact put the good of the group before the good of the individual. It seems that each time he had a choice, he went for the individual. It is true that these were individuals, they were not ‘movements’. There is however a reason for movements,and why there are gay pride marches, and not straight marches. It is, generally, that those who have power already do not need to protest.

There are of course exceptions, exceptions where whites and men (who look like the majority) protest. They are generally those who feel disadvantaged, those who have lost a power they used to have. Both the white urban poor become BNP, and those who believe women cannot be priests, and that they contaminate male priests just by being ordained, they both protest. I think that generally the difference between them and ‘rights’ voices is this: the voices of feminists, gay and civil rights are asking for inclusion on strictly equal terms. The voices of those who have had and are losing power are asking for others to be excluded. ‘Don’t have blacks as equal members of society, don’t have women in this or that position of power.’ They are not asking ‘Allow me to be all I can be.’
And that is the thing, isn’t it? Jesus’s overriding concern seems to be that each person should be all they can be; forgiven, healed, learning, acting in love. You might call this ‘the individual’s truth’, their being what they are called to be, and not impeded because they upset others. I cannot imagine any circumstance in which he would ask a person to stand back from office because it would upset others. Instead he asked others to do as he did: to further the individual, and to allow the group to support and care for those who were in any way hurt.
At the same time, I do not think that Jesus’s gospel is very individualistic. He has his ‘twelve’ who are his ‘new Israel’. He is envisaging a new community, living together, holding both truth and possessions as a common good, but not at expense of the individuals within it, rather, through their fulfilment. Group identity should never involve the sacrifice of the individual’s truth.