Why do People Like Visits From Religious People?

Last week I happened to be ‘out and about’ in the town where I live, and where I used to be the Anglican Priest.

 

I met someone whom I had previously known as a worker at a Community Residential Unit.

 

I used to go to the Unit to visit the staff and residents whom I knew, and to collect palm branches from their tree for Palm Sunday each year.

 

So this former staff member said to me as we reconnected “You know, you were the only religious person who ever visited us.’

 

“Well thanks!” I replied. But then I became curious. I wonder what she could have meant?

 

Clearly, she appreciated the visits. Whish is a blessing. Once, while very new in the town, I was at the hospital. A woman whose mother was ill saw me in my cassock (because I had come to give communion to a member) and asked me to go to see her mother, who was sick. So I went into her room. “No, no, go away!” she called out! Clearly she did not appreciate even my best intentions. So a visit to a stranger, or a ‘secular’ place is not automatically welcome. Some people think that the Church only cares about them when there is money to be asked for. Which is not the case, but if suspicion is the name of the game, then any approach to a person who is not a regular member is going to be met with disapproval.

 

So there’s step one. My intention to offer care was received as such an offer.

 

But what was it about a religious person’s visit that meant so much?

 

I keep coming back to the deep disappointment and longing that lies behind this expression of appreciation.

 

Think of just how big are the promises that connectedness with god makes! “The Lord is my Shepherd, there is absolutely nothing I can lack, want or feel the need for! And “If God is for us, who can be against us? We are the custodians of such lavish promises of care and right relationships.

 

But all of us grow up with a sense of lack, because we are brought up by human beings as parents, and not by God. Yet Christians say “There is a kind of care that is available to you that can transcend your sense of neediness”

 

Is not this what St. Augustine says when he is describing his own life? “Our hearts are restless until they find their rest in You, O God?’

 

Now it is true that no amount of ‘caring’ can make up for the lack of care that we received as a child. There is only grieving, and moving on.

But when this person says to me ‘You are the only religious person who ever came to visit us.” I think that she is pointing up the difference between what the Church puts in its handouts about God’s love and care (which she would love to believe in) and the perceived lack in the Church’s witness to that very love and care. When that witness comes close to crossing the borders between those who are Church members and those who are not, risking the suspicious response ‘Go away, you only want money!” then clearly some people appreciate our efforts. Which is nice.

 

But there is also another side to this coin. I remember once there was a person who would come to the door of the vicarage and ask for money. They would always have a story to tell as to why I should give it to them.

 

But the degree of debasement that this person (and many like him) would go to in order to make me feel sorry for them was more of a problem to me than the fact that they had asked.

 

One time, I said to the person who asked “Look, you do not have to keep on spinning me a yarn like this. It distresses me to see you grovelling so much. And besides, if you came to Church, and were a member here, you would have this money as a right, not because you have grovelled to get it!’

 

This is what I wanted to say, sort of, to the person who appreciated my occasional visits to the Community Residential Unit. I wanted to say “Look, If you felt uncared-for, you could have had all the care you needed, had you been a member of the congregation. Had you come, and asked the residents to come with you, then you would not have had to do with the occasional times that I came around. You could have had this kind of care as a right. Many people are unaware of the real and tangible benefits of being a member of the Church. As the old Dunhill cigarette ad used to go about joining the ‘Dunhill Club’ ‘Membership has its benefits.”

 

But then too, I ask myself, would the congregation in that town have been enough of the ‘Body of Christ’ to really experience that the needs of one are the needs of us all? Sometimes we are just ‘Town X at prayer’ or hide our needs from members of the Church because we do not want to be seen as weak, or in need, or desirous of care. (My dog is great at expressing her need of a pat and a hug!)

So a simple expression of thanks raises deeper questions about our expression of need, the Church’s witness to God’s love and how congruent is what we do, with what we promise.

Advertisements
Posted in Religion and Society, Uncategorized, Weekly Reflections From Coller Crt. | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Two Examples of How I Think That God Works In Me

Two things have happened in the last couple of weeks that have spoken to me about what it means to be a Christian, and how God works in my life to change things.

 

The first event happened in the context of building a bookcase. It needed to be 700mm high, to fit underneath a window in the place where it would 3ventually live. But I made a mistake. Instead of butting the long side of the bookcase against the short edges, I joined them on top! Instead of being 700 mm high, the bookcase was now two thicknesses of timber too high (740mm!!!)

 

I thought “Maybe it will fit under the window anyway’”, but on checking I found out that no, the bookcase had to be 700mm high.

 

I was not a happy camper. The piece had already been glued and nailed together, and was stuck!

 

I did not know what to do.

 

But then, about life in general I was ‘stuck’ too. There had been some issues that had been plaguing me (which need to be kept private here). But about these issues, I decided I needed help. So I made contact with a spiritual director whom I trusted, and we had a conversation.

 

This conversation began the process of ‘unsticking’ me, and giving me a way forward about the issues I needed to deal with.

 

Now here is the notable thing! As I was going to sleep that day, in that half conscious time between waking and sleeping, a solution to the bookcase problem came to me. I could easily unstick the ply on the back of the book case, and even if it were a bit damaged in the process, that did not matter so much because it was going to be 40mm shorter anyway! I could easily un-glue the joints, cut 40mm off the short side, and re-join the sides with the top and bottom. Bingo. The next day I tried this, and it worked!

 

What was important to me was to notice that a learning how to ‘flow’ in one area of life ‘flowed through’ to another area of life, where I was also ‘stuck’.

 

The process by which this happened was in response to a conversation with a trusted person.

 

It may seem trite to say it, but conversation is a very good way to getting unstuck.

 

It’s like learning to ride. Every now and then I’d stop having lessons and try to teach myself. But I would inevitably get stuck. Another pair of eyes on the ground was always useful in both keeping me hopeful about riding, and giving me somewhere to ‘go’ when I was stuck.

The ‘Beyond Blue’ people have the ‘Are you OK’ programme, which invites those who may be stuck, or locked in because of depression to open out: to enter into conversation with another about what is going on.

 

I think that these kinds of conversations really are God’s ways of helping me to take another step in my Christian walk, and to keep hopeful about the fact that mistakes can be undone, and the bookcase of my life can be repaired.

 

The other event happened during the Eucharist. You know that I have written and often spoken about the fact that the Eucharist is an engine of transformation. Also, that the Eucharist as a structure, is capable of bearing the weight of my soul.

 

So last week I was in church, presiding over the Eucharist as usual. During this Eucharist, I was bringing to God the burdens that I was carrying, particularly to do with being forgiven, and being a forgiving person.

 

At the offertory, we sang ‘Inspired by love and anger, disturbed by need and pain’. This first line spoke to my own need and pain and I was very moved. Later I said the words “This is my blood of the new covenant, shed for you so that sins can be forgiven’

 

That was it! What are we doing in Church if my and other people’s sins couldn’t be forgiven! That is what the new covenant is for! That is what Jesus came to make possible.

 

So I thought, “There it is. I can begin again in being forgiving and in forgiving others”

 

This process of being freed up would not have happened had I not ‘put myself in God’s way’ by coming to Eucharist. This is so important to me. The words that I hear, and say to myself become God’s Word to me, and I would often not find a way through some issues, were it not for the fact that I am regularly putting myself in God’s way, listening to God’s view of me in he words of the Eucharist.

 

The second thing is that because I trust the process of the liturgy, I am not afraid to bring to that place the issues that are part of my life, whatever they be.

 

So there are two instances of how god helps me most often. In che course of an ‘unblocking’ conversation, and in the course of the always ‘flowing’ liturgy.

Posted in Engagement, Eucharist, Living Before the Face of God, Religion and Society, Weekly Reflections From Coller Crt. | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What To do About Young Adults Leaving Chritian Faith

I read an interesting article recently, about why young people are not taking up Christian faith or ‘losing their religion’ as they get older.

 

This article was based on research conducted in <a prior; 2016 Pew Research Centre survey> This survey came to the conclusion that those who had ‘No’ religion said ‘that they no longer identified with a religious group because they no longer believed it was true.”

 

The ‘No Religion’ group cited such things as learning about evolution, the lack of scientific evidence, and the making decisions for myself rather than accept what has been handed down as the reasons for their loss of their religion.

 

So this experience is the same for me. Ever since I was fourteen I have been asking questions, and once I was able (going away to study) I was going away from my religion as fast as I could.

 

But what was different for me I think was that in going away from my religion as I was taught it, the question of God and being Christian did not go away.

 

I think that this was, in part, because I was held to the question by not having the strength to break completely with the faith which I was brought up with. For sure, I found all of the holes in my religious up-bringing, and as soon as I could I began to study theology, so that I could work out for myself what I really believed. But my re-entry into the world if identifying as a Christian came about simply because I said “Well, if the question of who is Jesus will not go away, for what ever reason, then that is enough grounds to begin exploring for myself who Jesus is, and how He makes a difference to me”

 

So I guess that there are lots of other people who just make a side shift into other ‘big blocks’ of thinking. These shifts mean that the question of religion is not dealt with, but just side stepped. Instead of a religious world- view, a person replaces it with a scientific world view. Science wins, religion is no longer relevant.

 

Or a person might get married and raise a family. Then, a different set of concerns about being a husband or wife, and how to parent occupy the whole foreground of ones being, and the question of religion is just not answered.

 

I have experienced this too. I used to ant to progress as far as I could in the supervision of Pastoral Care Education. But then I moved out of the ‘institution’ of Chaplaincy, and into the ‘Institution’ of being a parish priest, and the ambition and concern I had for supervision skipped away. I just moved sideways.

 

So I am thinking, what is it that will ‘hold us to the fire’ in such a way such that young people need to come to terms with being Christian, rather than just side-stepping it?

 

Being married is something that people say ‘Oh, you have to work at it’. Why? Because once a person is married, getting out of it is emotionally and financially costly. It is not easy to disentangle a couple. So marriage is an institution, which is not perfect, but people stay in it, and ‘work at it’.

 

I think the same could be said of being Christian. My own fear of making a ‘complete break’ with god and Jesus made me ‘work at’ what Christian faith was about.

 

There is a theory that helps to explain this which was developed by Robert fowler, and John Westerhoff. They described stages, or styles of faith where as a teenager, the most important thing is the belief of the group. Teenagers share the faith that they have inherited through their peer group.

 

But after high school this group tends to break up, and at the same time new sources of information become available, and the cracks in the old way of believing appear.

 

Questioning everything becomes a way of being faithful. People move from a faith that is inarticulate, but held by the group, to a kind of faith that can speak for itself, and is owned by the person speaking.

 

That is, if the ‘side step’ manoeuvre is not made. That is, if the question of being Christian does not just ‘go away’. This is my story.

 

The down side of this is that most members of the congregation have not ‘worked at’ their faith enough in order to let them become articulate about it, so that they are able to respond intelligently to the questions that are being asked.

 

It is the sand in the shell that forces the production of the oyster.

 

This mean I think that Churches could become known among young people for the opportunity to ask their questions and to begin to see that questioning is not the worst thing that a person can do, but the most faithful thing a person can do, if they are going to mature as Christians. This I think is what successful congregations around universities do. But local congregations could do it too around high schools, and TAFE colleges too.

But the very first step is for us all to ‘work at’ the faith enough such that we have something sensible to say for ourselves. This is the big task of local congregations.

Posted in Religion and Society, Weekly Reflections at St. John's Montreux, Weekly Reflections From Coller Crt. | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The National Gallery of Victoria: A Biblical Metaphor in Stone

There are plans afoot to renovate and expand the National Gallery of Victoria. See this picture

NGV

This building is much loved by Melbournians, especially for the ‘Water Wall’ and the Leonard French ceiling in the Great Hall.

 

I was listening to Joh Faine on morning radio talking about the building, and the metaphor that he wad using for the building was that of a castle. He said something like ‘The building sits there in stone, like a castle, with the moat going around it, and the draw bridge that you cross to get in. “ He then extended the metaphor by asking his guest ‘So how are you going to keep the ‘castle’ metaphor going in the renovation? Will we have more draw-bridges and so on?

 

Now I had never thought of any kind of metaphor to describe the building! But then I heard the architect himself, Roy Grounds, talking about his design. He used a completely different metaphor that blew my mind (as we used to say in the 70s)

 

Roy Grounds used the metaphor of an Ark (Like Noah’s Ark) to describe his design. All of a sudden, it made such sense.

 

First, I have often seen picture of Noah’s Ark that actually look like the National Gallery (See below!)

Ark

How about that! The similarity is striking.

 

But then, the metaphor works! Noah’s Ark was a place where ‘something’ was kept safe and available for the future, while all around was destruction. An Ark is a perfect metaphor for an art gallery.

 

What interests me especially, is that the metaphor of an ‘Ark’ is a Biblical one. When Roy Grounds chose this metaphor, he was doing ‘theological reflection.’ He was connecting God’s work in preserving the good of this world, with our co-operation with God, in preserving great art.

 

This tells me that the Bible is not just ‘literature’ but a library of living metaphors, our foundation mythology, whose power can still be invoked now to inform how we should live and what we should do.

 

This is true of the four foundation myths in the book of Genesis. These stories fall into the category of ‘Myth’: that is a story what never was true, but one which always is true. Apart from the story of Noah and the Ark, there is the Story of Creation and the Man and woman in the Garden, the Story of how Cain Kills Abel, and the story of the Tower of Babel. Each of these metaphors bears meaning that still ‘speaks into’ our situation today.

 

Take the ‘Tower of Babel’ story for example. We have been so proud of our technological tower that we have not seen the need to limit ourselves. As a result we have the disaster of climate change brought upon us as a result of our lack of humility as part of God’s creation.

 

Is the last ten years of confusion in Australian politics about climate change any different from the ‘confusion of languages’ that resulted from our ‘mythological’ technological hubris in the story of the tower of Babel? I don’t think so.

 

Take too the story of Cain and Abel. Here we have two brothers who are so closely related yet who cannot stand each other’s differences. One kills the other.

 

I cannot help see the way in which the increasing ‘tribalism’ of our times has given rise to the Arab-Jewish conflict in the Middle East. Arabs and Jews are really brothers, like Cain and Abel, whose fate repeats theirs.

 

Political parties too are like Cain and Able: So much alike, yet unable, except in the most rare of cases, to find common cause.

 

Last of all, but first in the Bible is a description of the continuing difficulties between men and women.

The problem begins when the implicit and complete trust in God breaks down under the influence of the serpent. ‘Did God really say?….He is only trying to protect himself by saying do not eat of this tree. He does not have your interests at heart!”

 

In this story, the definition on if ‘sin’ is the treating of someone as an enemy, when they are your friend. This leads to a breakdown in the relationship between men and women too and what could be a ‘paradise’ ends up as a place of pain and toil. How well we know that!

Good on you Roy Grounds for knowing how alive these stories really are, and for bringing God’s story into your buildings.

 

Posted in Religion and Society, Weekly Reflections From Coller Crt. | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Dying Sooner, Economics and Christianity

I was shocked to read in the ‘Guardian’ this week that the length of life is actually going down! It is not actually that many people are not living as long, but that there are more people in certain groups (from 25 – 64) who are actually dying! You will have to excuse my language, but the doctors who first noticed this are calling it ‘Shit Life” Syndrome. This means that because of the poor quality of life of this group, they are actually dying from  “Drug overdoses, but mortality also increased for alcohol-related conditions, suicides and organ diseases involving multiple body systems” (notably liver, heart diseases and cancers).

The author, Will Hutton, goes on to say Poor working-age Americans of all races are locked in a cycle of poverty and neglect, amid wider affluence. They are ill educated and ill trained. The jobs available are drudge work paying the minimum wage, with minimal or no job security. They are trapped in poor neighbourhoods where the prospect of owning a home is a distant dream. There is little social housing, scant income support and contingent access to healthcare. Finding meaning in life is close to impossible; the struggle to survive commands all intellectual and emotional resources. Yet turn on the TV or visit a middle-class shopping mall and a very different and unattainable world presents itself. Knowing that you are valueless, you resort to drugs, antidepressants and booze. You eat junk food and watch your ill-treated body balloon. It is not just poverty, but growing relative poverty in an era of rising inequality, with all its psychological side-effects, that is the killer.

 

Then comes the punch line: “ Shit-life syndrome captures the truth that the bad medical statistics have economic and social roots.”

 

We have been getting to this point for at least the last thirty years. If you don’t count the ‘Mont Pelerin ’Society, who met in the late 1940s with the express aim of winding back the welfare state in favour of business, we have had since Ronald Regan and Maggie Thatcher, and the rise of think tanks like ‘The Institute for Public Affairs’ a shift in the power from workers to bosses, from employees to shareholders and CEOs.

 

This has given us the Banks that we have , the Superannuation Societies that we have, the ‘Gig Economy’ and insecure, low paid work, the idea that ‘trickle down economics’ works (Hoping to get higher wages via tax cuts to the rich), and the demonization of the poor.

 

I am not talking here about globalisation, or the effects of technology on the workforce. These things perhaps are inevitable.

 

What I am taking about is that this shift in power has led to the current corruption that we see, and so to the social conditions that give rise to the ‘shit life’ syndrome.

 

What we see happening is a polarisation of society. Instead of looking for the real causes of this malaise, people in desperation are turning inwards, against migrants and muslims and ‘African Gangs’ and any other convenient scapegoat that they can find. There are some politicians who will stir up such fears as a distraction, while they go about cutting taxes for the rich. The ‘sensible centre’ has gone, and we see now the Liberal Party in turmoil because there are those determined to stop the stream of votes to the populist cause by occupying that space themselves.

 

Do you notice the phrase ‘finding meaning in life is close to impossible’. I think that our times are close to those that pertained in the late 18th Century, right up to the 1930s of the last century.

Back then, it was John Wesley’s preaching and Methodism that helped people to find meaning in life, and then begin to form Trade Unions. Later it was Catholic Social Teaching in Rarum Novarum that ‘pushed back’ against rampant capitalism on one side, and Marxism on the other to establish the principle that a person’s income is not a function of their ‘added value’ but a function of what they need to live a dignified life.

 

All this has been wound back in our time.

 

The Church is suffering terribly because of the Child Sexual Abuse scandal. But we could do a deal to recover our reputation by devoting ourselves to pointing out the real causes of the sickness.

 

First, human dignity is given to us because we are created in God’s image. Calling people into a dignified life, rather than pointing opt their sins might be a good start. If every hair of our head is numbered, why are people treating is as though we are great clumps of hair that can be used for any purpose they like?

 

Then we could start to hold forums that are designed to highlight the true economic bases of the nature of work, the obesity epidemic, the increase in electricity prices, and so on. There is a direct link between islamophobia and insecure work. This link needs to be spelled out.

 

We could begin to help those people who are worst affected by having to deal with ‘Robo-debt’ form Centrelink by actually going with them when they have to deal with Government, or sitting with them when they have to be on the phone for hours.

 

If our congregation was known in our towns and suburbs for these things, we might be on the way to renewal.

Posted in Religion and Society | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

On Motivation: From within or Without?

The ‘All In The Mind” programme on Radio National this week featured, the psychologist Richard Ryan who co-founded with Edward Deasy the theory of motivation called ‘Self Determination.”

 

These two were examining the ‘Carrot and Stick’ ideas about what motivates people and thought it was deficient. Here is why.

 

When one applies the carrot and stick method of motivating people then the continual application of the ‘carrot’ or the stick’ is an external influence which provides the reason for doing something. But then, one is locked into continually providing ‘carrots’ or ‘sticks’ to keep he desired behaviour going.

 

Richard Ryan gave the example of someone who says to their child ‘If you get an A in this subject, I will buy you an iPad”. So what happens after they do well and get the iPad? What is the motivation for doing well apart from that?

 

Richard Ryan’s research was looking at the ways in which motivation for doing a task could come from within a person, so that they did it without the application of external motivators.

 

The next move that Ryan and Deasey made is for me the most interesting. They say that in order for a motivation to come from within, it must satisfy three psychological needs. They are (1) The need for some autonomy (a sense of having some control over the task at hand) (2) A sense that the person doing the task can do it well, and be effective and (3) and that in the doing of the task a person is connected to others.

 

This struck a chord for me because one of the least happy phases in my life as a priest was when I was teaching at the Theological College. There, I was responsible for the formation programme for the priests and deacons in training, but had little autonomy, because the principal of the college had the title ‘director of formation’ and the Archbishop kept adding to the ‘requirements’ of those in training, which left ever less room for anything else. In short, I felt as though there was not much autonomy, in comparison with being a parish priest.

 

I also felt disconnected. Apart from the fact that I had left my home diocese to go somewhere else, the way that the teaching was organised was that each discipline was put into its own ‘silo’ so that there was little connection between my work of formation and the other disciplines of history, biblical studies and theology.

 

So I get exactly what Richard Ryan and Ed. Deasey were talking about.

 

But then I am thinking about some other situations, which might not be as straightforward.

When I was working in a shoe factory, we had to ‘clock on and clock off’ each day. If we were late coming, or early going our pay was cut.

 

This is a kind of ‘carrot and stick’ motivation for coming on time to work. But what would happen if the ‘clock on-clock off’ system were abolished” Would the factory work better? I don’t think so, because the work itself was terrible. When the job itself is organised by the ‘time and motion’ people, (which means more work in he same time), there is little room for autonomy, and effectiveness and connection with others. The only way that a day’s work could be extracted from workers doing a terrible kind of job was to have a ‘clock on-clock off system’.

 

So in order for this ‘Self Determination’ system to work, the prior question must be asked “I the job worth doing in this way?” When the Volvo people organised car manufacture into ‘teams’ where each car was produced from beginning to end by the one team, who was responsible for its quality, then a potentially soul destroying factory operation became a job worth doing. Then they could afford to drop the clock on clock off system because the team was autonomous, did a worthwhile job in building a good car, and was connected, the one to the other.

 

This is starting to sound a lot like the Church: an inter-connected ‘Body’ , doing a worthwhile job, with different ministries in which there is a degree of autonomy, but which are co-ordinated by the Spirit.

 

The only problem I can see is this. Often in my experience, the definition if the main ‘main thing’ of the parish is not clear, or agreed upon.

 

As a priest I have sometimes felt that the thing for which I would like to motivate the congregation, in accord with my estimation of the needs of the church for the present age are not the same ones as the members of the congregation want for themselves.

 

I have for example, thought that since before the 1990s, that Evangelism and the making of new Christians was the main task of the church. But I have found few people who shared this with me. As a result, I think, Anglican Christianity is in steady decline. Most places where I have been priest have wanted to be cared for, and that I should be responsible for the growth of the congregation. Sometimes I think that in calling attention to the needs of the times, which people may not have seen themselves, is part of the motivating (prophetic) task of a parish priest. This does not exclude the other psychological needs of motivation, but adds a dimension, which allows for insights from outside, as to what should be done.

Posted in Religion and Society, Weekly Reflections From Coller Crt. | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Christian Approach To Airport Security

Every time I travel, I get very anxious about the security systems. First there is the problem of the machine that goes “bing!!” I do everything to prevent it from going of, like taking off my belt, and shoes, and watch, but nothing ever seems to be enough. Last time it was my cross, worn under my clothes that had to be taken of (first time ever!). And now they have these full body X-ray machines for people! All I want to do is to know the rules in advance, and know what I have to do to get through without trouble, but nothing works. I am tempted to take off all my clothes and walk through naked, as a protest. One security officer told me that sometimes the machine just goes of at random, so there is no way of getting through!

 

And the staff! It is as if they have had a psychology test for the staff to choose the most unpleasant, authoritarian people they could find to do this job. Anyone who is pleasant, who will be will be kind and will try to lower my anxiety by talking to me seems to have been ‘screened out’ of getting a job in the first place.

 

Much of all this trouble I put down to the ‘theatre’ of security, because if anyone wanted to do real damage, they could get a job as a baggage handler or some other ‘air side’ job.

 

And then, if you actually say anything, apart from being silently compliant, like lambs led to the slaughter, the whole weight of the security apparatus is brought down upon you.

Imagine my pleasure and surprise when this week, a tidal wave of complaint was unleashed upon the talk-back radio when an elderly woman rang up to complain that, when she was called aside for a ‘pat -down’ by the security staff, someone stole her handbag from the X-ray conveyor belt, took all of the contents, and then put it back. Worse, the security staff would take no responsibility for it.

 

So the business of travelling just got a whole lot worse. They require us to be separated from our property for a ‘pat-down’ but then also require us to take responsibility for the theft.

 

The great number of callers to the talk-back radio said to me that I am not alone in my worries about the security process. It is as if we have all suffered in silence for such a long time: living with the anxiety, the sullenness and authoritarian nature of security staff: until now! It is like another “#Me Too” has begun about how we are treated at airports.

 

In the #Me Too movement, the floodgates have been opened on the alienating effect on women as they feel powerless in the face of men who can damage or promote their careers, or who are physically stronger than they are.

 

And about the Church too: We have promised so much and delivered the opposite. It is not surprising that a number of prominent people have been targeted for the ire of a lot of alienated people in the face of the Church’s protectiveness of its own reputation.

 

But the book of Revelation talks about the battle between the ‘beastly one’ and the ‘human one’. Being under the thumb of ‘the beast’ produces the very anxiety and alienation that the #Me Too movement, and the complaints about the security at the airport are point to.

 

Christian faith points to the fact that we are all worth more than ‘many sparrows’ and that every hair of our heads is numbered. Far be it from any one else to treat us differently.

 

Christian faith points to the fact that since the Incarnation, it is possible to be ‘visited’ by God in Christ by anyone we may come across.

 

This goes for every person who is demeaned by the beastly behaviour on the part of security staff, and for everyone who comes across a security staff member who is perhaps demeaned by the way in which they have to do their job!

 

Do you remember the story of the vicar who went to his new congregation on the Sunday before his induction? He dressed up as if he were a homeless person, in order to test whether the congregation would treat him as ‘Christ’ or whether they would tell him to go away.

 

For my money, part of the solution to the problem lies in this: That we try as much as possible to ‘humanise’ the ‘beastly’ process of security checks.

 

This has been done in lots of places. I remember particularly the clowns and comedians that they had to ‘humanise’ the waiting in line that was part of the Expo in Brisbane. I was impressed!

 

I remember that a traffic jam in driving to work was made almost pleasant by a traffic policeman who smiled and greeted people as they passed his traffic point.

 

Why can’t security personnel be trained in the same way? But for me, can I put aside my focus n my own anxiety to make an effort to see each staff member as ‘Jesus in disguise ‘ too? Moistly at the moment I sing to myself, and pray in the hope that this will relax me. It has to a degree.

That said though, it seems to me that the airline security system is one that could do with a good dose of Christian humanising.

Posted in Religion and Society, Weekly Reflections From Coller Crt. | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment