2021 02 21 Alan Storey: A Confessing Church
South Africa is an extremely violent country. This was confirmed on Friday by Police Minister Bheki Cele. He reported that between October – December 2020 the number of people murdered had increased by 6.6% and the number of people raped had increased by 1.5%. This means that 4,124 people were murdered (2,481 people were murdered in public places and 1,643 people were killed at the home of the victim or of the perpetrator) and 12,218 people were raped, of which more than 4,900 took place at the home of the victim or the home of the rapist. All this in only 3 months!
South Africa is an extremely violent country. This was confirmed on Thursday by The Children’s Institute that launched the South African Child Gauge 2020.
The report describes the deteriorating nutritional status of children as “the slow violence of malnutrition”. The “slow violence” is “hidden” within the permanent negative outcomes that include, stunted growth, a compromised immune system and reduced cognitive ability. This will be a contributing factor in whether a child starting Grade 1 actually completes Grade 12. (On Friday the Matric pass rate for 2020 was announced as 98.07% – yet what is hidden within that percentage is that it only about 50% of the total number of learners who entered Grade 1 twelve years ago.)
South Africa is an extremely violent country. There is the explicit violence and the hidden violence. They are linked. The explicit is underpinned by the hidden. To address the explicit, the hidden must be uncovered, brought into the light and acknowledged if it is to be healed. Yet the explicit violence mentioned by the Police Minister is often the only violence actually recognised as violence. This is the violence one most commonly thinks of when we hear the words “South Africa is an extremely violent country”. As a result, according to the Police Minister, the solution is for the “the police to dig deep and put the shoulder to the wheel”. Yet the hidden violence of one’s human dignity being denied as a result of not having the very basics to live on, runs deeper and is far more extensive than any increased police beat.
Millions of people in South Africa literally live in a permanent state of violence. Of violation. A violation that is not seen or recognised as a violation. As Parker Palmer insightfully says: “Violence is what happens when we don’t know what else to do with our suffering.” One way to interpret what he is saying is that explicit violence will result from hidden violence not being validated.
Therefore, the first step to reducing violence in South Africa is to recognise the hidden violence. This is the violence that must come first into our minds when we hear “South Africa is an extremely violent society”. This is the crime that we must first consider when we speak of South Africa as a crime ridden society. This is the primary crime.
I refer you to a paper by Prof. Anthony Collins on violence. In my mind one the most helpful and insightful papers on violence in South Africa.
Within this paper he decides to turn things on its head and ask the question: How to create a violent society. Sadly, you will see that South Africa ticks all the boxes to create a violent society.
To reduce and end violence is our work. This is the work Jesus calls us into. This includes both the hidden and the explicit violence. This violence resides both within us and around us. It therefore includes work within our hearts as well as work on the streets and in the institutions that shape our lives. Our approach is always confessional. Meaning, that we start by asking ourselves where we are part of the problem. To the extent that we can be truthful in this, is the extent to which we can ultimately be set free and in doing so bring change within and beyond ourselves.
Ultimately the work Jesus calls us to in reducing and ending violence, is a work of celebration. The celebration of the sacredness of all Life.
We will explore this further this Sunday at 10am. The zoom link is available from email@example.com.
Bonus: Interview with Prof. Julian May, from the Centre of Excellence in Food Security.
Grace and peace to you
In Methodist-speak, the Central Methodist Mission is not a Church, but rather a Society, a word that has an inclusive ring to it. A place where all are welcome to come and worship and where nobody is excluded.
Like all Societies, CMM relies on members of the congregation to assist with the running of the Society. These volunteers are known, uniquely at CMM, as Donkeys.
We hope the name becomes infectious.
People often ask why? Why use the name of an animal that is seen as a joke (jackass), is not considered beautiful (when compared to a horse or zebra) and stands last in the queue when it comes to needing attention?
A donkey is present at the birth of Christ; as it would have carried a heavily pregnant Mary to Bethlehem.
As we enter Lent we also know that on Palm Sunday it was on the back of a donkey that Jesus entered Jerusalem, ahead of his arrest, trial and murder.
I believe that the presence of the donkey in the story of both Christ’s birth and death is not coincidental, but rather a very calculated and understated lesson. It is always in the misunderstood, the abused, the neglected, the supposedly ugly, and the other that we find Jesus, his way and his teaching.
In the rural parts of South Africa, donkeys play an important role in assisting people to collect water and firewood as well as transporting families between the farms as they do seasonal agricultural work, such as sheep shearing and the harvesting of crops.
Like their owners, these donkeys are often treated badly and neglected.
I own two donkeys and they have taught me a great deal. That with basic care, donkeys are very willing and hardworking animals. They are highly intelligent, intuitive creatures and able to remain in good condition in a tough environment such as the Karoo.
A well cared for donkey will live up to the age of 50. They have a long gestation period and are excellent parents. Unlike horses, they cannot be made to perform, and prefer to quietly get on with their work.
So they are the perfect tool to help uplift poor communities.
Volunteers at CMM are proud to be called Donkeys.
So next time you see a donkey on your travels, I would encourage you to take some time out to stop, say hello and share an apple or a carrot. You may meet Jesus.
– A Member of the Donkey Team
Grace and peace to you …
Following on from last week’s sermon about mountains and valleys being joined at the hip we noted that because they shared the same landscape that we couldn’t have one without the other. After last week’s service I had a number of people use the metaphor of mountains and valleys to let me know where they are in their life or at least in which direction they felt their life was moving.
I have been thinking about this mountain and valley stuff in the last few days. I wonder if the following statement holds any water for you: It may not be obvious to us that we are moving from the mountain into the valley or from the valley up the mountain. Why not?
Well you see, when we walk down a mountain our head is normally held high as we breathe in the breadth of the view stretching to the horizon. As we marvelling at the view we may not notice that we are actually walking down and down into the valley – until of course we have no more vision of a glorious view and only then do we suddenly realise we are off the mountain and in the valley. Equally, when we are walking out of the valley up the mountain our heads are often down and our view is of the soil and rock a meter in front of us. Nothing changes step after step, until all of a sudden a single step settles us on the summit or if not summit then at least some lookout area on which we can turn around and see how far we have come and how high we have climbed.
When I lived in Johannesburg I would leave early in the morning and drive to work along Oxford Road turning into Corlett Drive and the sun would pierce my morning eyes. As I drove down into the valley of Corlett Drive before turning onto the M1 highway the sun would have disappeared and I would sometimes have to put on my headlights because of how dark it was. This reminded me that just because I was in the dark, it didn’t mean that the sun had stopped shining. This really is the challenge during the mountain and valley experiences of our living: To remember the light in the darkness and to hold onto the vision in the valley.
This Lent we are invited to contemplate the Light that it may guide us even when we only see darkness.
These two quotes were referred to during Alan’s sermon on February 7, 2016:
“When we are young and hear longing and
sadness in love songs, we think that the sadness
and disappointment are a prelude to the
experience of love and not really the result of its
experience. Later, with a deeper experience,
we realise that the sadness, longing, and
disappointment ultimately originate not from the
fact that love has not taken place but that human
love is finite. This insight helps us realise that the
first task in any love, whether in a marriage or in
a deep friendship, is for the two persons to console
each other for the limits of their love, for the fact
that they cannot not disappoint each other.”
~ Ronald Rolheiser
“A relationship is like a long trip and there’s
bound to be some long dull stretches.
Don’t travel with someone who expects
you to be exciting all the time.”
~ Daniel Berrigan