Archives For Theological Reflection

Family_Fathers_War

Royal Navy & A.I.F, 6th Lighthorse WW1, 6th A.B.G.R.O Coy WW1, 12th Reinforcements 4th Batt WW1. Papua New Guinea WW2, Royal Australian Airforce 1950’s & Army Reseve 1980’s. (Frederick Petrie not pictured).

I have a difficult relationship with Anzac day.

Firstly, I am fond of the practice of remembrance. It reminds the Australian people of their unique narrative, and place in the world. One that we can too easily take for granted, or pound into dust via political correctness.

For those of us with forefathers who were broken by war, it can be difficult to find a pathway beyond bitterness towards grateful ownership of our own narrative.

We find ourselves busy trying to repatriate ourselves into a family, in the shadow of those who found it difficult to be repatriated.

For example: ‘when the war ended, thousands of ex-servicemen, many disabled with physical or emotional wounds, had to be re-integrated into a society keen to consign the war to the past and resume normal life’. (AWM)

A personal example of this is my Great-Great grandfather, Frederick William Petrie. He was a locomotive fireman (stoker) and a volunteer, who enlisted in December 1916, at the age of 36.

From Australia he went to France, where he became a corporal in the ‘6th Australian broad gauge railroad company’ (6th A.B.G.R.O Coy). His war record shows that he served until July, 1918. Four months before the war was officially declared over.

Frederick’s reason for discharge was because he had ‘neurasthenia’. Neurasthenia is a general condition related to ‘shell shock’. That is, he suffered from ‘severe fatigue and emotional distress’. This was more than likely brought on by the trauma of spending eighteen months  shovelling coal into the belly of a steam train moving back and forth with supplies to ‘barren and bloodied battlefields’ (King).

Although Frederick was a non-combatant, as an engineer, his support role was crucial to the allied advance and it put him in harms way where he would surely have come under fire. Usually from artillery barrages, an enemy he could not see or even anticipate.

Lt. R.J Burchell in an interview for the ‘West Australian’ in 1919 illuminates the circumstances:

‘we were not fighting troops, but I may say that the whole of our sphere of operations was within range of the enemy’s artillery, and he paid particular attention to the railways, both with his heavy guns and aeroplane bombs. Even…the furthest back station of the 4th company was under fire from the 15in guns…With both planes and guns the enemy paid systematic attention to our main lines of rail, so you can realise that life in a railway unit was not altogether a picnic. The 5th Coy…had the worst of it…their section of line was continually exposed to bomb raids and gunfire, night and day, and their casualties were heavy…the amount of work behind a great army is tremendous. Despite the network of lines, I have seen 280 trains per day pass over a single section of line, and trains carry 1000-ton loads…the difficulties and odds against which they had to contend are seldom realised.’
(Lt. R.J Burchell 5th coy, The West Australian, June 1919)

F.W.P returned to Australia in 1918. Petrie had difficulty readjusting to a peacetime existence.

He helped raise my Grandfather, ‘Ted’, who had joined the Australian Airforce as an aircraft fitter in the 1950’s. ‘Ted’s testimony at a court-martial indicates the difficulty imposed on families by the ongoing effects of war:

Testimony_EdwardJHO

Adding to this the representative for his defence argued that:

assessmentbythedefendinglawyer_EdwardJHO

Although I have my reservations, I refuse to ‘howl with the wolves’ (Barth) and ridicule Anzac Day, deconstructing it, in an overexcited academic orgy that decries war, the evils of Patriarchy or the evils of Western civilisation.

I simply want to state that for me and my family, along with a large portion of Australians, Anzac day forces us to confront a ‘stubborn fact – the brutally elementary data’ (Arendt cited by Elshtain, 2000, p.135), that proves: causalities of war are not only the servicemen who were thrown into it’s abyss.

There is a ripple effect and it’s causalities also include the wives, children and the generations that followed these men.

Anzac day is not about a nations ideology. Anzac day is about a nations remembrance; its humanity and its theology. This is exhibited every April when a nation makes room for healing, gratitude and the acknowledgement that, those generations directly impacted by war are not forgotten.

Anzac day allows us the room to reflect and explain to others that we bear the burden of their scars, not just the benefit of their medals.

Anzac day should affect us. If the gravity of it doesn’t force us to reflect, we will end up in an ignorance which leads us to being only one misstep away from repeating history.

This also has theological relevance. For instance, we are reminded of  James’ call to look out for the widow and the orphan (Jm.1:27), and David’s reminder that ‘God is the father of the fatherless and protector of widows’ (Ps.68:5).

The benefit of Anzac day is that it allows a nation the room to grieve collectively.

According to my family history, we are the children of soldiers. We do not carry their wounds, but we do carry their scars.

Although we share different contexts, we still feel the effects of the price they paid.

Today, there are  serious interpersonal conflicts. These are largely caused by the hidden effects of a trauma still echoing through the generations. Because this goes unacknowledged, it is like watching ripples spread out from a point of impact in my family’s history. Anzac day helps me to frame that drama in a very real context. War, although now distant, is in large part the cause of that dysfunction.

Anzac day disturbs my complacency by confronting me with the story I am handed. It reminds us that we are given the gift of choice, and the chance to not make the same mistakes.

The Anzac pilgrimage each April is a paradox of thanksgiving grounded in the dialectic outcomes of war. War disinherits. Through the sacrifice of freedom it sets up an inheritance of freedom.

War costs families. It diminishes the potential for healthy and holistic relationships. Yet it opens the door for grace, forgiveness and gratitude.

Anzac day also brings us to find some deep sense of solidarity with Jesus Christ and the cross He was crucified on. It reminds us of His resurrection (Jn.15:13), and brings, by this fact, families to a place of hope, saying that through Him they can rise from the ashes of war.

Anzac day allows each generation to move forward in courage. It allows room for people to own their stories, leaving at the foot of the cross, the psychological, spiritual, emotional and financial dysfunction that war causes.

The hope of Anzac Day is Jesus Christ. It compels us to align ourselves with the table turning Messiah (Mt.21:12),  who, through His Spirit, is constantly at work in ordinary people, doing extraordinary things, even when we don’t see it.

It is here that we can catch our breath and find hope among the ashes.

#LestWeForget.


References (not otherwise linked):

Elshtain, J.B 2000 ‘Who are we?: Critical reflections and hopeful possibilities Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing company, Grand Rapids, Michigan

 

Here is a ‘note to self’ recently rediscovered. I wrote this back in 2011. Long before I’d even considered blogging as a means to connect, share, process, and improve on conclusions and thoughts I’d come to through my undergraduate days.

I’ll never know the privilege of having pride in my father; having a father’s loving advice, or an extended family, on my side, that through mutual reciprocity, enriches my own.

What was broken, is broken and the residue of the struggle to move beyond that remains. This has hindered me having confidence in myself, others, even in having hope for a future.

But through it, I have come to know and acknowledge that God, who in Jesus Christ, redeems even the chiefest of sinners, is greater than all this. Greater than words spoken in order to shame and therefore control.

Evident through Word & impossible changes becoming possible, I’ve seen God choose to step in and move me beyond it; to not let my past define my future.

Don’t let the world, friends, enemies or the past define you. God lives & speaks the same different word every time.

As the Apostle to the Gentile;the foreigner; the alien says, God in His freedom sets us up for freedom and empowers us to cry out ‘Abba Father’ (Romans 8 & 12); recognizing that God delivers on His promise to be the Father of the fatherless.

As the infamous African-American theologian, James Cone once said, ‘we are more than what has been defined for us by broken homes, sin and fatherlessness’ (Cone, p.11) [i]

Posting items and words like this on the internet can be treacherous. I recall Jesus’ wisdom when he talks about “giving to the dogs what is sacred and casting pearls before swine” (Mathew 7:6). Even with the context explained, it’s possibly to misuse my words here. As I’ve mentioned plenty of times in the past, social media, when it comes to community, isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be. It’s an ongoing conversation, that can bolster community, but it can never truly replace community; and in it’s current form, will only ever remain so.

[For more of my thoughts on this check out: Fake News Sells: Unfriending Ersatz Community ]

I say these things with confidence because community is best displayed by Christianity, or at least it should be. This is because Christianity is incarnational – where Word meets flesh; where Word meets both deed and attitude. It’s something, or rather, someone, who comes to us; not just pointing to the way, but making a way. God sets this standard and empowers it in Jesus Christ.

I was reminded of this the other day when I read these words from African-American, civil rights campaigner, John M. Perkins’ in his new book, ‘Dream With Me‘:

“I believe the human dimension of God;s work is very important. It’s not that He couldn’t accomplish anything He wanted to do without us, He chooses to [work] with human vessels.We are not the main force at work, yet we are involved. We are present. God uses us in one another’s lives.’ (Perkins, p.96)[ii]

Perkins follows this up with,

‘At a recent conference some of the young people I had met tried to convince me that they didn’t really need a preacher. They’re frustrated with traditional church leadership, [then they appealed to] the priesthood of all believers, which is all well and good. That they prefer a virtual church over a traditional one. I told them, “That’s going to be weak, because it’s going to miss the incarnation [the embodiment of Christ; Word made flesh]. It will not have a human touch (Hebrews 10:24-25).The active presence of other believers contributes to God’s work within us. Again, it’s that God needs us to complete what He is doing – but He allows that human dimension to be a part of His redemptive work.’ (Perkins, p.97)[iii]

Perkins is right. If we don’t speak for fear of the swine or throwing what is sacred to the dogs, then our silence may be motivated by fear, not wisdom.

I’m all for responsible vulnerability; the need to refine what we’re going to say, and then saying that with precision, so as to both guard our hearts with all diligence (Proverbs 4:23). However, we also put on the ‘Armor of Light (Jesus Christ), casting off the works of darkness’ (Romans 13:12); ‘building up and encouraging one another, through endurance and the scriptures, so that we might have hope’ (Romans 15:2).

Posts like these display vulnerability, which is why some, such as Brene Brown, might consider it also an act of extraordinary courage.

Whether or not these are unwise or an act of extraordinary courage, it doesn’t matter. What does matter is the raw truth contained it, and the Good News I wish to proclaim through it.

 


Sources:

[i] Cone, J. 1975 God Of the Oppressed, Orbis Books (1997 ed.) p.11

[ii] Perkins, J.M. 2017 Dream With Me: Race, Love, and the Struggle We Must Win, Baker Publishing Group

[iii] Ibid, 2017

artist-unknown-4_modified by RL2017Inner & outer peace is connected to the overcoming of evil with good. That fight for peace; for transformation of the heart and the renewing of the mind, begins with God and is the outworking of His dealings with us.

The strength and ability to fight that fight; to respond by taking in our hands the responsibility that is, even in our limited capacity, given to us, through His costly invitation, which grants us permission to participate, comes from the grace of God.

It is true, that He acts in His capacity as Master and true Lord over us, however, He is no master of puppets, nor does He will to be so [i]. In putting on ‘the armour of light’, (Rm.13:12-14)

Christians, through Jesus Christ, become what they, even in their own brokenness are: ambassadors of light.

‘According to Romans 12, there is a possibility of doing what the man torn by his inner distress cannot do […] This possibility is certainly not one which they can have of themselves […] Those who are in a state of inner disquiet can and must be peacemakers.’ (Karl Barth, CD 2/2:731) [ii]

To be Christian, doesn’t mean that we resign ourselves to ignorance, tyranny, blind compassion, or an oppressive ideological hegemony.

It means a realignment towards the One, who, on our behalf chose and chooses to correct, and challenge all ideological prisons that seek to nail distortions, disorder, and dysfunction, into the flesh of our entire existence.

Christian love, therefore, is knowing how, why and when to say “no”; as much as when, why and how to say “yes”. Christ did not preach or uphold an absolute ‘ethic of universal niceness.’

God is no master of puppets, nor does He will to be so.


Sources:

[i] ‘…but the sovereignty which was to be confirmed and glorified was the sovereignty of His love, which did not will to exercise mechanical force, to move the immobile from without, to rule over puppets or slaves, but willed rather to triumph in faithful servants and friends, not in their overthrow, but in their obedience, in their own free decision for Him.’ (Barth, The Election of Jesus, CD II/II p.178)

[ii] Barth, K. 1942 The Goodness of the Decision of God, Church Dogmatics, Hendrickson Publishers – It should be noted here that Barth is not advocating a kind of stoic detachment from conflict; he isn’t advocating pacifism. Particularly one that seeks stand over the Prince of Peace, pacifying Him and God’s command. See p.717 of CD: 2:2, ‘…We cannot and should not spare either ourselves or others this conflict.But it can and will be rightly conducted  only as we recognise that in itself the command of God is the command of absolute peace, and that we can engage in strife only for the sake of peace.’

Artwork: Unknown artist. I, however, have edited this from the original.

learning-in-progressAs the year draws to a close, I find myself thinking about the past twelve months of blogging. I’m fortunate to have had many new interactions with some great thinkers, and some edge dwelling doers, in the active academic field of theology and ministry.

This year, however, I’ve also met with a different, darker side of that field.

I’ve studied theology and have a double degree to show for it. I’ve Read the books. Ticked all the boxes, met the requirements; even made some lecturers smile. Yet, the more I read and learn; the more I seek to participate in the world of academia, the more I see that I don’t fit easily into some of its neatly stacked bubbles.

For starters, my current occupation involves me being a homeschool teacher to my five kids. I don’t say all the “right things” or do what others do to get noticed. I don’t pad agreement on top of agreement. I haven’t written a book yet, and I don’t write blog posts that give an overly appreciative applause to something I’ve read or someone I know.

I write to benefit the reader; share a discovery and hope to learn something in the process. I don’t write for the approval of any who might read my post. I don’t write for others to see how brilliant my academic ability is, and as a result offer me a position on their team. Neither do I seek to invite insult, just to paint myself as a victim.

My focus is on how the theology I read and study, critiques what we are being sold in by society through the media, Hollywood, the Universities and in politics.

I’m interested in working out how that theology translates into ministry; how the Gospel of Jesus Christ speaks to the world today in its obsession with escalating the hostility between Left and Right.

How that theology brings a critique against the conclusions of academics who, all too often, appear ready to shoot down conservatives, or those on the right with tired rhetoric, slogans and labels.

For sure, some of that criticism in the past has been justified, but when does that criticism, itself become a whip or chain used to oppress new victims?

For instance, I’ve come to learn that any post that seeks to draw theologians like Barth or Bonhoeffer ‘’outside of the box’’ won’t be met with encouragement, let alone a smile. I don’t read the works of Karl Barth or Dietrich Bonhoeffer through the agreed upon traditional political filters; speak about them through a modern liberal theological lens.

For that I’ve been drawn into some heavy discussions with overly picky critics. I’ve even had someone go out of their way to politely warn me that if I want to move forward in my academic studies, I shouldn’t upset those in power on the Left, by rocking their boat [i].

But I’m not the kind of person who goes around stroking egos, my own or those of the people around me. I aim to proclaim the truth and do that in a loving way. Will it be a flawed communication sometimes? Yes. Do I do my best to take into consideration the blind sides and their inevitable limitations? Absolutely. With every fiber of my ability to do so.

The more I venture into this post-grad world, the more I see; the more I begin to understand that if you’re not politically aligned with what is considered to be the collectives authorised narrative, you’re more likely to just end up speaking to yourself.

The warning signs are clear, if you’re not ‘’on board enough,’’ you won’t succeed beyond what you may have already accomplished. For some, it doesn’t matter how well you write, draw, paint, sing, create or communicate. If you say something different that opposes the consensus of those in box, you’re viewed as a threat to the thrones of those in power within the box.

Even though I’ve worked hard all my life, am a certified four year college graduate; parchment-on-the-wall qualified theologian. The past twelve months have shown me that in the field of theology, I’m an insider forced to live on the outside.

And that’s okay. Here I stand. Introspectively speaking, I’m freed from having to perform to the same oppressive modern liberal tune I suspect many others feel they have to dance to.

I have questions about the appearances, sums and conclusions, so widely assumed watertight, honest and reliable. I’m not looking to rise to the top of the echo chamber. Not looking to outdo, or compete for a position in it. I’m seeking to make an honest contribution. Share what I’ve found and work on refining that as God’s Grace allows.

The past twelve months have opened my eyes to the fact that if I’m relegated to the sidelines because of this, than perhaps the problem has less to do with me, and more to do with those who pushing me, and others like me, there.


Notes:

[i] Yes this did happen. No I’m not prepared to reveal who.

tony_evans_the_urban_alternativeAmerican author and Pastor, Tony Evans of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship gave this response to the recent elections in the United States.

Delivered in a fourteen minute address to his congregation, Evans’ hits home the reality of the responsibility of the Church, both universal and local.

Directing the Church to look towards the Kingship of Jesus Christ, Evans called Christians to practice honor in disagreement; to maintain kindness and seek to provide a reasoned voice in the midst of global and domestic, conflict and uncertainty.

His sermon stands as a noteworthy example, in an otherwise dreary week flooded with politics, overreaction, propaganda and opinion.

Here are five of his top points:

First:

 “So, let’s get something straight about elections.The bible says that God puts up kings and tears kings down. So your vote whoever you voted for is never the final say so. The final so-say is what God either causes or allows.Now, you are to vote. I am to vote. We are to participate, but heaven rules.”

Second:

“Regardless of which way you voted God has created a gap that the church needs to take advantage of. Because how do we expect them to get along out there if we can’t get along in here [the Church].”
 “However you voted, whether democrat of republican, or write in independent, God doesn’t ride the backs of Donkey’s or Elephants. However you voted you are bound to be living like a kingdom man or kingdom woman, for the advancement of the kingdom of God. So our job is to demonstrate what it looks like when  people of God represent the King. Not the president, the King. In how we act, react, talk. When you see some of the things people are saying. Some of the attitude being displayed and then attach God’s name to it! It’s a contradiction.”

Third:

“The bible says, honour the king and the King he told them to honour was Nero and he was horrible, but you honour the position even if you disagree with the person.
And just like President Obama was dishonoured in many, many ways and that dishonour should be rejected, any dishonour of the position, even though we must address individual issues with the person, is unbiblical, unchristian and is evil.So do not let anyone hear, coming out of your mouth, dishonour, even though you may express disagreement. You represent the King. You represent Jesus Christ. And do so as an individual in what you say and how you interact, and react. What you train your children to think and to do. You saw some of the violence out there, it’s just unspeakable.
We have the right to protest, but we only have the right to protest to the help of others, not to the hurt of others.

Fourth:

In our community people ought to see when you step out in your job or in your school, or wherever you are, that you are kingdom citizen. A kingdom citizen is a man or woman who is fully committed to Jesus Christ, and their commitment to Christ seeks to bring heavenly principles into earth’s concerns.That’s what we do, we bring heaven to bare on it.”

Fifth:

“We don’t just replicate what everybody else is saying. Presidents come and go, there’s only one King that stays on the throne. So it is absolutely critical during this day of chaos and confusion that you go out of your way, that we go out of our way.
The bible says, Galatians 6:10, “Do good to all man as you have opportunity, especially to the household of faith.” So rather than fuss and cuss, cry and create havoc, let our good works speak for us. Let people see that we represent God’s house. Cause, trust me God’s not going to skip the Church-house to fix the Whitehouse.”

In the interest of full disclosure, this is the first time I’ve heard Evans preach. I know little about his theology, or personal political position. This said, his sermon is, to me, balanced and not overly directed to one side over the other. There is no blame. No lamenting. No evasion of individual responsibility.

This first and foremost is a sermon to his church. It should be remembered that this is not a political speech directed at a wider audience or any particular political personality.


Notes:

PDF transcript up to 14:23 [link]

Image source: Wikipedia, Tony Evans, The Urban Alternative, Creative Commons.

#loveislove?

September 1, 2016 — Leave a comment

Questions RL2016Love is defined by God.Love cannot define love, it comes from who God is.

Love comes from the One who exists outside humanity; outside time and space. It comes from the One who seeks a response. The One who presents knowledge about Himself through covenant and in Jesus Christ. Eternity entering time to graciously seek out relationship with humanity.

‘…but the sovereignty which was to be confirmed and glorified was the sovereignty of His love, which did not will to exercise mechanical force, to move the immobile from without, to rule over puppets or slaves, but willed rather to triumph in faithful servants and friends, not in their overthrow, but in their obedience, in their own free decision for Him.’ (Barth p.178) [i]

The statement that God is love means that love is not god. It’s a distinction that liberates love from the human claim to be able to define love. This frees humanity from the burden of the oppressor who through the control of a ‘false consciousness’ (Karl Marx) makes love whatever he or she decides it should be.

The individual that has jettisoned God from love inevitably asserts a definition of love made in their own image.

Nothing and no one is allowed to challenge this. Any reasoned disagreement is considered to be outside this love. Measured against this new definition of love and found wanting, all opposition is sentenced to be an act of hatred, betrayal and treachery – anti-love.

To say that God is love is to revolt against this. Love is defined by what God does and what God does comes from who God is. It means to acknowledge that humanity is freed by God to stand in unison with others in an act of communal exorcism against the oppressor. In both its actuality and potentiality, to say that God is love is to break the chains of all ideologies that have become, or seek to become masters of humanity.

Love that defines itself, negates itself. Love cannot define itself any more than the slave or abused child can define freedom, when they have been taught to believe the abuse he or she might have received at the hands of an oppressor is normal.

That God is love and as such, lovingly acts in both His “yes” and “no”, raises humanity up to challenge the claims of the oppressor. For example: God’s command limits the freedom of oppressor. Such a limitation of freedom also frees the oppressed. God’s tough-love, His “no” to the oppressor tells the oppressed that the violence and abuse of the oppressed is wrong.

That God is love means love cannot be love without God at its center.  Likewise, human freedom grounded in love cannot be true freedom without grateful obedience to the Holy God who loves in freedom. It cannot be freedom without the ‘God who frees man and woman to be free for Him and free for each other.’ (Karl Barth) [ii]

Without God, love and even freedom become a cheap commodity, whose meaning is traded and swapped for that which sells best. Reduced to emotion, sex, money and the placating of an individual’s happiness.

If ”love is love” is to be taken to its logical end, aren’t the obscenely wealthy, or the national socialist justified in their love for money, nation or race, and to hell with the consequences?
If ”love is love” justifies lifestyle choices, such as its promotion as a legitimate argument for same-sex marriage. Then doesn’t ”love is love” justify servitude to a Führer and his/her ism, and the reign of terror that often follows?
In light of this, aren’t “love is love” advocates, especially those who protest Capitalism, in the end just hypocrites selling something no one should ever want to buy?

The “love is love” argument is therefore only a tool of the oppressor used to uphold human claims to ownership of what love is. Love is then determined to be anything the oppressor wants it to be. Which, as history tells us, is usually expressed by the whip, underpay, discrimination, special treatment, racism, greed, abuse and persecution of whatever the oppressed disagree with.

Though relationship exists because God wills and desires to be with us, the distinction remains clear: God is God and we are not.God frees love from fickle and insecure human authority. An ideology cannot be love anymore than it can usurp the God who loves.  It’s this way because we don’t own God any more than we can own love or know what love is outside of the God who loves us.

‘Be not wise in your own eyes, fear [trust] the Lord, and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your flesh, and refreshment to your bones’ – (Proverbs, 3:7-8)

Sources:

[i] Barth, K.1942 CD II/II: The Election of Jesus Christ  Hendrickson Publishers p.178

[ii] Barth, K. 1951 CD III.IV The doctrine of creation Hendrickson Publishers pp.170-180

800px-WEB_DuBois_1918The solidarity of suffering is a field of mutuality that lies unexplored. The online activity of the masses, from anonymous activist to celebrity conformist, misses the opportunity to untie the tangled pathos that cements individuals into collectives, and brands them as the possessions of “party-lines.”

Not all human suffering is equal, but all human suffering is equally painful. To exist as if the other has no idea about what suffering is, builds a wall of sand. It’s heavy, unpredictable, unnecessary, divisive and dangerous.

On a microscopic level, take for example, a family with a history filled with pain and suffering. One family member decides to function as though they are the only ones to have suffered. They persist until they’ve effectively painted themselves into a narrative of victimization. To do this the suffering of other family members is ignored, whilst they insert those same family members into a story of sabotage and villainy.

Sympathetic listeners are won over. Without a thought to how deep the actual story goes, one side is exalted and the other demonized. At the cost of the truth, one party signs on more and more members, as the self-serving deception expands. All attempts to counter this by its real victims are quickly neutralised through the consolidation of power by the real villain.

The real victims are denied a voice. Backed into a corner they respond, but their self-defence is pointed at, labelled and used in evidence to support the prevailing narrative of victimization. The narrative of victimization is now so water tight that it requires this one family member to orchestrate new dramas in order to maintain the conflict and retain control of the narrative.

This one family member’s broken throne is secured by the continuation of suffering. Thus, the cycle of abuse continues.

In his 1903 book, ‘The Souls Of Black Folk’, William Edward Burghardt Du Bios reflected on the African-American position, post Proclamation of Emancipation.  One of the statements he made resonated with me:

‘It is a peculiar sensation, always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others […] being measured by amused contempt and pity.’[i]

Although spoken in a specific context about a heavily oppressed group of people. These words speak for a good portion of the population. They almost perfectly describe the feelings of family members who’ve become victims of the narrative of victimization.

From the bullied youth, to the oppressed members of a family, there is a resonance that moves from the suffering of African-Americans out to all the down-trodden. From this resonance comes a basic solidarity of suffering. It’s from here that we arrive at a point, where understanding the pain of others, helps us understand our own.

In recent months we’ve seen the rise of #blacklivesmatter. A cause not without justification, but its presence has always coincided with the caveat from those who’ve read history and heed it. It’s a cause that must have as its inevitable conclusion, #humanlivesmatter.

If it doesn’t, the movement slides into a kind of reverse racism. It fails to mature beyond protest to justice to reconciliation. If this happens, “black lives matter” will inevitably morph into “only black lives matter,” and the positive aspects of the movement’s cause will be lost.

Bitterness, manipulation of the truth and an irresponsible self-defence binds us to toxic power brokers.

Asian, Latino, Indigenous, Black, White; as the Biblical text tells us, human equality before God is that: “all have fallen short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) and “1. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength. 2. Love your neighbour as you love yourself.” (Mark 12:28-34). Which means that there are groups within groups that have experienced some degree of suffering on one level or another – it means that there can be no attempt to outbid each other with a game of, who has suffered the most at the hands of an oppressor. For example: those of us, who come from housing projects, who’ve been raised on social welfare and who come from highly dysfunctional broken homes, can find some form of solidarity with the long-suffering of our neighbours who come from a similar place, but are different by “race”. This doesn’t deny our neighbour’s suffering, rather it recognises their suffering in our own!

The solidarity of suffering counters racism and replaces it with empathy. It empowers a reasoned turn towards justice, and steers us towards the goal of total racial reconciliation through a dialogue of differences mediated by a recognition of the common ground.

From what I’ve read of Du Bios’ early work so far, I think he’d agree.

How do we obtain this? In, through and with Jesus Christ at the head of it.

‘In song and exhortation swelled one refrain—Liberty; in his tears and curses, the God he implored had Freedom in his right hand.’[ii]

What can I learn from this?

My past does not define me. Understand your past, but don’t let it define you, even if others try to keep you living in it.

‘..his own soul rose before him, and he saw himself,[…]to attain his place in the world, he must be himself, and not another.’[iii]

Source:

[i] Du Bios, W.E.B, 1903 ‘The Souls Of Black Folk’ Coterie Classics, Dover Publications

[ii] Ibid

[iii] Ibid

Image: wikipedia