Why you can be ‘un-priested’ but not ‘un-baptized’

As a result of their responses to the Royal Commission into Institutional Sexual Abuse, there have been as number of priests and perhaps soon some bishops who have been ‘defrocked’ as the common speech would have it.

 

They have had their orders taken away from them. They can no longer call themselves ‘Bishop X or Fr. Y.’

 

This is a very serious matter. Here is how it works. The Church is seen, not as an hierarchy, but as a Spiritual community, where people are called to different ‘orders’. The first, and most important ‘order’ is the order of the baptized.  But then there are other orders.  There are deacons, and priests and bishops. Each of these orders represents a different way of being in the Church. So to be deposed from holy orders is to be deprived of a ‘way of being’.

 

This is tougher than just ‘being fired’. Every person who is either a Bishop, Priest or Deacon needs a licence, in order to function in one of these orders. If they can’t find a place from with to receive a licence, they may still be a bishop, priest or deacon, but just one who cannot find a job.

 

So being ‘un-priested, un-bishoped’ is a serious matter.

 

The interesting thing is that a person can never be ‘un-baptized’. It is rare, though possible that a Christian may be ‘excommunicated’ that is excluded from the communion of the Church, but this is not the same as being ‘un-baptized’.

 

This points me to the difference between baptism and the other orders of the Church. A baptism is real, not because of anything we do, but because of something God does.

 

It is true that when a person becomes a deacon, priest or bishop, they are asked ‘Do you truly believe that you are called [by God] to the order of ‘X’’

 

So no one becomes a bishop, priest or deacon just because they wasn’t to, it is always because they believe that they are called by God. But because being in tone of these orders is ‘undoable’ it means that the human agreement in that sense of being called is revoked.

 

This can never happen with a baptism. The reality of having once been plunged [baptized] into the life of Christ cannot be undone. This is because it is God who is reaching down and embracing us in baptism. It is not ‘about’ us but about God, who is always more active in our lives that we may want, or may be aware of.

 

This then gives weight to the impossibility of being re-baptized.

 

There are a number of people who have been baptized as infants and who then come to an adult understanding of faith. Sometimes these people say ‘I would like to be baptized.’ This is the ‘real one for me, the other one was not something that I was able to sign up to.’

Of course this is true, but for my money, it is not necessary. It is important that everyone comes to an adult faith, which they can own. I have been very happy to preside over ceremonies of recommitment and renewal of the baptismal vows.

 

We understand this about couple that have been married for a long time. They come into church and recommit themselves to their life’s partner. They do not say though, “I was too young when I was married to ‘X’, now that I understand it better, I want to marry her again. This is how I see baptism.

 

Sometimes, and there is plenty of evidence for this in the history of the Church, people have said that because they were not properly instructed, or were not fully immersed, that their baptism was not valid, so that they need it to be done validly.

 

This is harder, because doing something ‘validly’ is important. The Church has thought about this and come up with a proposal. The Church has said that the amount of water does not matter. It is nice and helps the meaning of the sacrament to come through if there is a lot of it, but the amount of water is not a matter that can make a baptism invalid. The other condition is who may do a baptism. The answer is that it is preferable if the minister of baptism is a bishop priest or deacon, but that it is possible for any Christian to baptize another person.  Last a baptism is valid if it is done in the ‘Name of the Father, son and holy Spirit.’

 

I think that proper Christian formation needs to happen with young adults who have been baptized as infants as they come to think about what life means for themselves. I think that this is a proper time for renewal of their baptismal covenant as they take up for themselves what has been done for them, but if they have been validly baptized, they cannot repudiate it and be ‘done’ again.

 

This approach, however, makes it all the more important that the parents, Godparents and member of the congregation take very seriously what they are doing. They ought not to mistake a baptism for something else, like a nice naming for their baby. They ought not to make the promises to bring their infant to Church if they do not intend to do just that. Otherwise they are lying, not to us but to God.

 

Not being able to be ‘un-baptised’ points to the significance of what is being done, and who is doing it.

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

Society, Mohamed Noor Justine Damond Ruszczyk and Responsibility

I have been thinking about the guilty verdict pronounced on the former policeman Mohamed Noor, for the shooting of Justine Damond Ruszczyk.

 

I was thinking “What made him do it?’ I can’t believe that he as an individual is such a stupid person that he would as an individual have misjudged the situation so badly.

 

So I have been looking around for a context in which such actions would have made sense.

 

I can think of the police training, which is becoming ever more militarised. Citizens who are meant to be protected become the potential ‘enemy’ and the police become the ‘troops’ This means that everyone on the street or everyone who is pulled over by police, becomes a potential ‘enemy’. The loyalty of police is no longer to the rule of law or to the courts, or to those whom they are serving, but instead, their loyalty is to other police.

 

If a policeman is trained to aim for the largest mass of a person’s body, then that shooting is also likely to be lethal.

 

Then, if a policeman believes that his partner is in danger, and that any person running or not handcuffed is an enemy, shooting first and asking questions later is a rational thing to do.

 

As well, this set of beliefs is exacerbated by the prevalence of guns. If everyone has the right to have a gun, then, as the police witnesses said ‘If you see the gun, you are already dead’. This also means that shooting first and asking questions later is a rational thing to do.

 

So this one person, Mohamed Noor, although he is in some ways responsible, in other ways he is part of a web of belief and command, of which he is the sharp end.

 

It is right then that both the mayor and the police chief resigned over this incident, but perhaps they too should have been held criminally responsible for the training of police, at least, and the National Rifle Association could have been held criminally responsible for resisting any change to gun laws, which would make life safer for police.

 

Then the blame would have been sheeted home to the appropriate places where blame lay.

 

So this point in the reflection brings me to ask ‘Why is it that criminal charges are mostly brought against individuals?

 

I know that there is such a thing as a class action, which takes account of the collective damage that is done, and that collective groups ca n be criminally liable, but given the web of circumstances that Mohammed Noor found himself in, I find it unjust that he alone is charged.

 

This goes to the fiction, I think, that there are such things as individuals. It suits our own sense of importance to think that we are individuals, making our own choices. It suits some forms of Capitalism to individualise a workforce while collectivising capital, in order to weaken the bargaining power of the worker. Similarly, I think that it suits the justice system to believe that one person is liable for a long jail term, when that one person is part of a system, over which they have no control, apart from the decision perhaps to join the system.

 

Australian police operate within a different context. The population is not in general armed, so that police can approach us not as enemies, but as unarmed people. They have most of the power, and do not need to be afraid. That may account for a lot of why Australian police kill twelve times fewer people than in the us (about 100 per year vs 1200 per year in the US)

 

I heard on the radio on Wednesday a report of some research into the stress experienced by retail workers when customers become rude and abusive.

 

I did not hear in the report much about the understaffing of retail workers. I did not hear much about the insecurity that is inherent in their work. Researchers report on what they can research, and not necessarily on the context in which their research subjects live.So I am sorry for Mohammed Noor to some degree, that he has become part of a system that leads him to act in what turns out to be a way that destroys his life.

 

Christians believe that the first reality I not the individual, but the Church. The primary reality is a collective one, not an individual on. We, as Church, are like a body, made up of members, one of the other, where there is differentiation of role, yes, but this differentiation serves the welfare of each other member.

 

We represent a kind of society where openness to the other and love is the social norm, not individual defensiveness. It is this alternative that we are called to embody in our common life and represent to the World as an alternative. We are not ‘Mansfield, individually at Prayer’ but ‘the Body of Christ’ We show this in the simplest way by keeping our church doors open as a symbol of the rest of our life.

“Yet cheerful they, to suffering go, that they their foes from thence might save.’ What if this were the hymn of the Minneapolis police force? It would have made a difference to Mohammed Noor, and Justine Ruszczyk

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

The Fear Of Being Overwhelmed and the New Right

I’ve been thinking about the shootings in Christ Church and the rhetoric of the person who committed this act of murder.

 

It must come from a huge sense of grievance, like Anders Behring Breivik

Who killed all those people in Norway.

 

It is possible to dismiss them, and say “Oh, they are crazy’, but that does not help understand their motivation.

 

Recently I read an article that helped me a lot. It is by Ghassan Hage, in the guardian of 15th April 2019.

 

Hage describes the situation as one where the people committing these crimes have sensed that the world order is changing. The way that things used to be, where the colonists of Europe ran the world is perceived to be changing. He says ‘It is actually the case that a feeling of being besieged by the very people one is colonising is part and parcel of the history of European colonialism.’

 

I was reminded of the documentary on the roman Empire that I saw. It drew a picture of the small roman world in blue, with the whole of the rest of the world surrounding it in red. The ‘red’ was seen as uncivilised, and dangerous. The Romans were afraid of being overrun by the people whom they had colonised, just like us. So what did they do? They built the colosseum and replicas of it. Inside the colosseum, went all of the ‘red’ frightening bits of the world (slaves, Christians, wild beasts, foreign soldiers etc.) and then, safely arrayed around them were all the ‘blue’ bits of the empire, the romans themselves.

 

The events in the colosseum reassured everyone the gods were in heaven, and all was right with the world.

 

This is what Hague sees happening now. We are pushed around and dominated by other people, like the US, but we don’t mind, because we have not had a colonial relationship with them. But we are frightened of those whom we have dominated, and who are now starting to ‘push back’ a bit.

 

He says “Humans who cannot see themselves other than in as relation of domination with the natural world and whites, who, despite their protestations of being anything but racist, find it hard to be in anything but a dominant colonial position vis a vis non-white people.

 

The idea is one of being dominant.

 

This makes sense to me of why the Pauline Hanson’s One Nation Party was once afraid of the ‘Asianisation’ of Australia and is now afraid of the Muslims.  It makes sense to me of how many of the same people hate the ‘Greens’ because behind their hatred lies the view that Nature needs to be dominated, and used as a resource, rather than valued for her own sake.  Is it by accident that those people who want to solve our climate problems by huge geo-engineering programmes of diverting water over the Great divide are the same ones who are opposed to ‘Green’ policies?

 

 

I have to admit. It is a bit scary to see the decline of the ‘old world order’ where America was great and benign, and China was poor and submissive.

 

In the home too, if there are relationships with Children, and between spouses that have an answer to the question ‘Who is dominant’ at their heart, then we can see in this image the results in domestic violence, and the way that when one or other partners in a home feels as though they are losing their dominance, violence ensues.

 

It is this theme of being dominant that knits together a range of seemingly different issues with which we are faced now.

 

Christians have a particular take on the idea of dominance.It is common to call the church a ‘hierarchy’, with the idea of its being like a pyramid, with the pope or archbishops at the top, and power or dominance flowing down from it. This may be how the Church is actually organised, but it is not how the Church is theologically thought about, and ought not to be how the Church is actually organised.

 

The theological image of the Church’s leadership derives from the Trinitarian image of god. The three ‘Persona’ of the Trinity are related to one another, not by relationships of domination, but by a ‘dance’ of mutual love and mutual ‘giving up and taking up’ of control.

 

This image does not deny that there is control and does not deny that there is proper leadership. It does assert that these roles are governed by mutual love, and by a continual changing of who is in control; at any one moment.

 

It is this image that we try to put into place as an example of how groups can be run like a ‘body’ rather than like a hierarchy.

 

It strikes me, then, that in the face of the fear of losing a ‘dominant’ place in affairs, that gives rise to the kind of violence that we see in Christ Church, or in homes, or toward the environment, Christians could, in the public sphere make more of our special knowledge of how the Church works as a society of mutual love, where leadership and control ‘dance around’, and where the love that we have casts out fear of the other, and so allows a place where the need to be dominant decreases over time.

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

What Kind of an Event is the Resurrection?

Sunday will be day of the ‘Great Three Days’ when we celebrate the resurrection. But what kind of event are we celebrating?

 

Here I would like to outline some of the approaches to this event and have a look at them.

 

First, it is worth saying that the idea of the resurrection is a ‘doctrine’. As we learn from Mark’s Gospel (Ch. 12 and Acts 23:6) the Sadducees did not believe that there was such a thing as the resurrection. The Pharisees did, however and so Jesus and his disciples identifiy themselves as a person who shared the same beliefs as the Pharisees.

 

Second, the idea of the resurrection grew up to answer a big question. This question is still relevant today. What happens when really bad people die and are not punished? Do they simply get away with it?

 

Hinduism answers this question with the idea of Karma, and of reincarnation.

 

The Jews and us as Christians, and Moslems too believe in there being a last judgement. Here. All who have died will be raised and Judged according to how God sees them. Then, those who have done wrong will be seen as outside God’s plans: they will not have escaped ‘scott free’ with having done evil.

 

So, the idea of the resurrection reflects a concern for justice, and more, that god is seen to be just.

 

So how do we approach this idea today?

 

There are some who wish to emphasise the ‘historicity’ of the resurrection. That is, they say “If I had been there, I would have seen the tomb burst open, and would have been able to say ‘hello’ to Jesus.

 

It is as if ‘historicity’ can furnish some proof that this event ‘really happened’.

 

The problem with this is that as far as we know, this event is the beginning of the ‘Last judgement’. It is not like Lazarus’ revivification, or other resurrections that have been claimed since Jesus’ resurrection. As a result, the resurrection is a ‘one off’. It is unique, so there is no other event with which we can compare it in order to claim it as ‘historical’.

 

The resurrection is not an event that is subject to the judgement of ‘history’ (which puts us in the seat of the judge) but is an event that defines for all time what ‘historical’ can mean, which then puts God’s actions as the judge of what is ‘historical’

 

So now we can say not that the resurrection ‘is an historical event’ but that, now that the resurrection has been proclaimed, about Jesus of Nazareth, what can I hope for about myself and my future?

 

Jesus was crucified as a criminal, as one who by the definition of those who wanted it to happen, was outside of God’s love and justice and mercy. He was cursed (Deuteronomy 21:22 – 23). So the people who wanted to Get rid of this person who came in the name of God, and acted in ways that he thought was consistent with the God whom he called ‘Father’, wanted to say ‘Definitely NOT! Not this guy’.

 

But then on Easter day the proclamation is made “Jesus (the crucified and rejected one) has been raised by God and has been appointed as Judge! “This is the content of Peter’s speech ‘This Jesus, whom you crucified, God has made both Lord and Christ.’ (Acts 2:36)

 

So now here is a claim made about Jesus that tells us something about how God is!

 

God is the way that Jesus demonstrated all through his ministry. God raises from the dead those who are cursed.

 

What good news is that for me!  Because it was Jesus, the cursed one whom god brings into the very life and heart of divinity’, so there is hope for me in my miserable and sometimes cursed life.

 

Because Jesus was raised from the dead, it means that in congregations that seem to be ‘dying’ we can afford to have hope for the future, and act as if there is a future because we know that this is in line with the nature and will of the same god who raised up the cursed one, Jesus from the dead.

 

When my situation in life with marriage, or job, or health seems hopeless and cursed, I can hope that there will be a future, either in this life, or a future that transcends my own death, because Jesus has been raised.

 

I know that those who continue to want to exclude others and to act as if might is right and that ‘the strong do what they will, and the weak suffer what they must’ will meet with a judge who will ask them about how they thought that this attitude was sustainable.

 

So, the resurrection is much more than a really big ‘magic trick’ that proves that Jesus is God.

 

It is the announcement of the character of God which confirms Jesus whole life and action and gives hope to the most miserable of us all, and the promise of justice for them, and their oppressors.

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

Going to a Seminar on LGBTQIA+

I went to a seminar last week about whether the diocese of Wangaratta would begin to design a service for the blessing of same sex couples who had already been married under civil law.   The day was conducted by an Anglican priest whose main work is with supporting people who are either gay or thinking about the transition from one gender to another.

 

I found the day confirming of some views that I hold, but confronting about others. It was also informative! Let me share some of what happened.

 

Let me tell you what was informative. The presenter told us what it is like to be a person who is in transition from one gender to another. It is terrible. The worst is not the physical transition, but the constant ‘having to tell their story again and again as they go from one professional to another. It is the constant having to justify their existence, and their ‘transitioning’ to everyone.

 

This I found an enlightenment. It is like all kinds of privilege: the best thing about it is that I can be oblivious to the suffering and trials of others. I can take for granted my good name, my status and the ease of doing things (hard though dealing with bureaucracy be!) But the folk whom I heard about live with the questioning of their ‘being’ every day.

 

They also only know about the Church from what they hear in the media, and so are frightened of what kind of a response they would get, if they, being Gay or ‘trans’ decided that being a Christian was for them. The person who was to have helped our presenter on the day was not able to come because she was too frightened of the kind of response that she would receive from a group of church people. We knew ourselves to be a nice group, but she did not know that. This kind of fear I not a normal part of my life, but now I understand that it is part of hers. That is how I am enlightened.

 

The confirmation of my already held beliefs came as I heard about the great range of expression of sexuality that there can be: Hence the increasing number of letters describing those who want a hearing from us. Now, we are hearing not just from Gay people, but bisexual, trans-sexual, intersex, and asexual people.

 

It was not so long ago that everyone was forced into being ‘right handed’. Now we don’t mind that some of us are ‘left handed’ (though life is not easy when using all kinds of tools). Now we also accept that dome people are ambidextrous. In short, we believe that ‘handedness’ which was once considered to have moral implications is now a continuum and we may fall at any number of specific places upon it.

 

The same is rapidly becoming true of sexuality. Previously we have been ‘shoe-horned’ as it were into descriptions of being ‘male and female’. But we are finding out that gender too is a continuum, and perhaps none of us fits neatly into one pole or the other of this continuum.

 

Here is where I was challenged. I was invited to decide what are my ‘pronouns’. The logic of this invitation is as follows “Since gender can be fluid, what   pronoun I identify as is also not a matter of being taken for granted. So to call someone ‘him’ who is transitioning to being ‘her’ mis represents them. Consequently, it is polite to announce my pronouns, and to inquire after another’s before conversation gets going.

 

As I say, this was pretty challenging. But then I asked myself what the challenge was. Well, first it was because this claim on me was new. But second, it was just because there was a new claim upon me.

 

It started for me in the 1970s with the new wave of feminism. Then we learned to accept the claims of women that language that always used ‘he’ excluded them. Now I am used to that way of speaking, and I do not want to offend anyone by using sexist language. Then comes the claims if indigenous peoples, and the regular ‘recognition of traditional custodians of the land.’  Now comes the claims of LGBTQIA+ communities on me for a change in language. This makes me anxious. I wonder do I have to take this claim on me seriously?

Some people I think express a similar anxiety in outright rejection. They say ‘Ah, this is a bridge too far! No! I’m not going there.’ But now, I don’t know.

 

I think that I have to come back to the idea of ‘table fellowship’ and personal connection as my ‘touchstone’ for trying to navigate my way around these issues.

 

I ought not make any judgements on anyone’s claim on me and how I think without first getting to know them around as meal.

 

This is the meaning of the Eucharist. We all belong around the table of the Lord (the most challenging hose and guest of all). Everyone has a right ass brother and sister in Christ to make a claim on me, as I have a right to make a claim on others as members of Christ. Rejection of the claim cannot be my first move, just because I am sick of different groups making their claims upon me.

We live in difficult and ‘transitional’ times. We need more love and more common meals to negotiate our way around them.

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

On Tradies and being ‘All Good’

Well our new kitchen is almost finished. In this last phase, I have had to take over from the ‘kitchen bloke’ and co-ordinate several different tradespeople: There is the tiler for the floor, the electrician and plumber (again) and the guy at the metal shop to make a new cowling for the rangehood.

All these people have different jobs to do, and different time lines in which to do them.  As I have written before, I have been really impressed by their willingness to work with me as the ‘employer’ and with the care and professionalism with which they have gone about their work. They carry so much implicit knowledge about ‘how things are done’ and so much muscle memory about how to manage their tools of trade. This is the difference between a ‘tradie’ and a DIY job!

But this reflection is about something else that I have noticed as ‘project manager’. Here it is. The most common phrase that I have heard in ordering materials, or in organising times for people to come or deliver goods has been “All Good”! or words like it. Sometimes people have said “Too easy” or ‘No Problem” or just ‘Sweet!’

I have noticed this because of the fact that there might precisely be a problem!  Trades people might not be able to come when I want them. They may have done things a certain way (like the height of cupboards etc.) which need to be queried, or there might be problems with the way the metal has been folded. Or, there might be things that I need done, but that I don’t know how to achieve the end, so I need to ask advice.

In all circumstances, no matter what has gone wrong, it is important that there be the appearance that there is nothing really wrong, and that everything is manageable. All good!

Now I’m not really sure about this, but for me, from the inside it seemed that what was going on was that the potential for my anxiety to get out of control was high. The means of interacting with the tradespeople was in all cases a determined effort to keep things on an even emotional keel. It was a way of saying “We know how difficult it can be when we are coming into your living space, and being paid to do work which you might not understand, or agree with, BUT everything can be managed, nothing is without a solution if it is approached in a friendly ‘blokey’? manner. No matter what has gone wrong, it can be fixed ‘Too easy, all good!’

There are some people who, in the media that I have read, have been critical of this kind of ‘blokey bonhomie’

I am thinking about those who criticize mostly male dominated football shows and so on.

What I have thought about as a result of my recent experience is that ‘blokeyness’ might be a way of managing anxiety.

This means that instead of people criticizing men for being examples of ‘toxic masculinity’ I think that it might be more helpful to identify the real cause of it and speak instead about ‘toxic ways of dealing with fragility.’

Clearly physical violence in a domestic setting is not a solution to anything.

We send men (mostly) to war and women have also approved of this. It is not that in certain situations the use of physical or other kinds of violence on the part of men to solve problems is not condoned. It is.

The problem occurs when the ‘all good’ way of dealing with issues. What happens when blokes are not ‘all good’? What happens when the fragility that underlies a need for everything between men to be ‘too easy’ cannot be dealt with in this way?

Then, I think it is possible to talk of something that is ‘toxic’, because the issue needs another kind of solution.

But to speak of poor ways of dealing with one’s fragility is a different thing from being called out for being a ‘an exemplar of ‘toxic masculinity’ by panellists on various shows that discuss such matters.

Everyone is aware of just how fragile it can be, being a human. Trying to deal with this kind of fragility can take various forms, and if one is physically strong, then I guess using ones extra physical strength to deal with it is one way to go. It comes in handy in a domestic situation when it comes to starting lawn mowers, to opening bottles, or moving heavy objects. This is where men’s physical strength, as it encounters women’s fragility is useful. It is just that in situations of conflict, such strength is not useful. Men have to find other ways of dealing with their human frailty than by saying ‘All good!’ or by physically getting rid of the problem.

I think though, that it might create some empathy between the genders if it were recognised that both men and women are subject to feeling vulnerable and fragile. Both men and women are capable of expressing this fragility in ways that are ‘toxic’. We are all sinners and we all need the grace of God to be able to tell the truth about ourselves! I have found the ‘Too easy, all good!’ kind of response a helpful way of dealing with the fragility of negotiating a new kitchen. It’s not totally true though! It masks some fragility. I hope this reflection becomes a contribution to the kind of truth telling that sets us free.

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

The Shootings In Christchurch: Signal and Noise

I have been really provoked to thought by the comments that have surrounded the recent shootings in Christchurch.

 

Some have defended the right of free speech’. The other side of the debate has drawn attention to the ‘climate’ of conversation that has made possible, and legitimated the kinds of radicalisation that have led to the shooting of fifty people.

 

The ‘free speech’ movement really got going in the enlightenment. Before that, kings and other authorities could stifle dissent by saying, ‘You are not allowed to say that, and if you do, I will kill you or lock you up.”

 

Well the enlightenment got around to saying that well known phrase “I may hate what you say with all my being, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.’

 

So in the context where authority is shifting from kings and rulers to ‘the people’ it makes some kind of sense to champion ‘free speech’. As George Brandis said ‘People have the right to be bigots you know.’

 

And I am not totally happy with the movement to curtail speech either. Sometimes saying something is just not possible because the majority of people are saying something else so loudly that to even suggest something different brings jowls of disapproval and exclusion.

 

I can remember times when I was arguing for a more disciplined approach to infant baptism, and having a whole conference turn on me, saying things like ‘But you can’t question their faith!!!!, don’t you believe in an inclusive God?????’

So, I know what it feels like to be silenced in the name of something.

 

After the shootings in Christchurch, many are making the point that to ‘get into bed’ with the One Nation party creates the permission or moral climate for those who will become radicalised toward violence to feel validated.

 

They say that Fraser Anning ‘legitimates’ some white supremacist language and points of view by ‘adorning’ their meetings with his presence: he lends an air of legitimacy by going to their meetings, as a politician.

 

My desire not to have ‘telling the truth’ be swamped by faux politeness has made me a bit ambivalent about these calls to limit the speech, until I read this piece by Greg Barton from ‘The Conversation’ of 23rd March. Greg Barton thinks that “One of the main reasons that authorities struggle with right-wing extremist ‘nobodies’ who post online, before they turn to violence, is that it is difficult to pick up a clear signal in the noise of a national discourse [that is] increasingly dominated by exactly the same narrative elements of mistrust, anxiety and blaming the other’ Do you notice that Greg Barton is using the metaphor of ‘signal and noise.’ Those who drive in the country know well the moment when the static on the radio (noise) outweighs the strength of the ‘signal’ that one wants to hear. It’s time to change the station!

 

But in this case, the ‘noise’ is represented by a whole hose of people who feel disenfranchised by the movements that are afoot in our time. The movement of globalisation has shifted many low-level jobs away from the west. Those who are disadvantaged by this change find no one to champion their cause. Instead governments blame those on welfare and further demonise them. Instead of responding to the real causes of our dis-ease we find a governmental conversation that blames the wrong people!

 

It is not Muslims, or Asians or migrants who are causing our pain, or ‘swamping’ us, but an economic system that treats human beings as production units.

 

Do you think that the National Party would be so much in favour of Coal if the people whose jobs were endangered by the loss of coal mines were promised a living income for as long as it took to develop new jobs?

It is hard to pick out the ‘signal’ of really dangerous people when so many of us feel the same way.

 

One Nation policies would find no echo or foothold in people’s consciousness if we started to be more of a society that knew that we all belonged together than an ‘economy’ which at the moment has seen a great shift in wealth and security away from ordinary people who work for a living and onto chief executives, and company profits. As Mathias Corman has said ‘low wages are a ‘design feature’ of the economy. That is, they are built into the plan.

 

This is so far from the way that Christians think about the world, I am tempted to ask ‘Are we on the same planet?’

 

The Church has its own ‘economy’ too. We are the Body of Christ, where we belong to one another; where reconciliation is possible and where love takes precedence over ones ‘rights’ to freedom of speech.

 

I think that Greg Barton is right. If we want to reduce the possibility of the shootings in Christchurch, we have to make the society start looking and sounding more like ‘Christ’s Church’ than the economy in which we are all now forced to live

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