The violence of our time

June, 07 2020 Alan Storey: Making Disciples in a Violent World.
[Genesis 1:1-2:4a; Psalm 8; 2 Corinthians 13:11-13; Matthew 28:16-20]

 

Reclaim the City takes over the Rondebosch Golf Course to protest against the City’s failure to redistribute public land for the development of affordable housing.
Picture: Tracey Adams / African News Agency (ANA)

 

Friends,

Today I want to talk about golf. Well actually golf courses. More specifically, golf courses that are proximate to the city. This may seem strange or insensitive to you considering what is going on in the world at the moment: Covid-19. Unemployment and growing hunger. Gender based violence. Military and Police killings. Murderous racism. Climate devastation. Beijing stomping all over Hong Kong. USA fracturing under fascism.

However, I assure you that focusing our eyes down a few fairways and landing our thoughts on a couple of greens has everything to do with what is going on in the world today. Let me explain.

You may remember that late last year, to draw attention to the stubborn reluctance of the city to reverse the persistent Apartheid legacy of spacial planning, we raised a yellow banner on the steeple of CMM with the words: “Golf courses or social housing? What would Jesus want?” (Luke 9:58 has the answer). We were collaborating with civil society organisations Reclaim The City, who occupied the Rondebosch Golf Course on Human Rights Day last year, and Ndifuna Ukwazi. Ndifuna Ukwazi released a report entitled “City Leases” showing that the lack of change is not for a lack of available land but rather that there is no political will to allocate public land for public good. Please read our press statement here.

One would think that when faced with the choice of preserving a recreation facility for the few or providing social housing for the many, especially in a country with a pandemic of overcrowded informal settlements, that it would be a no-brainer on every ethical scale of common decency and common sense to choose social housing. Yet the mowed fairways and manicured greens remain as do the under-serviced and overcrowded informal settlements. This is nothing short of murderous. But no murder docket is opened and you will not find a single article anywhere that describes this choice of recreation over social housing as an act of violence.

Most people do not see this as a violent and deadly decision. So we need to translate the decision to bring it home for us to see and feel. In fact, let us take this decision into our own households. This is very appropriate because the original meaning of the word ‘economy’ means: management of the household.

Imagine a parent favouring one child’s recreational desires over the basic needs of their other children. Surely this parent’s potentially life threatening behaviour would be called out as abusive in the very least? And rightly so. And how easy this is to see. Yet when it comes to seeing this on a larger societal scale many of us remain blind.

The overwhelming majority of parents would never do this because they know how unjust and inhumane it is. They know the emotional trauma and physical damage it will do to their ignored children. They know the suffering and heartache that will manifest forever in the future. They know that violence will one day erupt within their household when their ignored children refuse to be ignored any longer and when their ignored children demand that their lives matter. They know their parental authority will mean little at that moment of rage and revolt. Perhaps police will need to be called to the home to stop the violence or even open a murder docket. A picture may be taken and the heading ‘violent criminal on the run’ typed in bold. Simply put, the parents know that without fairness in their home there will be no peace.

The parents also know how their spoiled child will carry an ingrained sense of entitlement and superiority that will resist equality in relationships going forward because “when you accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression”.

Above all else the parents know that their household is more peaceful, healthy and fruitful when each child receives the optimal level of care and respectful appreciation for their being.

When this public policy is brought into our own homes we can easily discern how violent it is. We can easily understand the violence of revolt. We can also clearly see who the victims are and who the perpetrators and beneficiaries are.

Can you now see how the decision to favour the recreation of a few, literally robs thousands and thousands of people of a more peaceful, healthy and fruitful life? It is a violence that seeds more violence. Violence must be pulled out at its root. Therefore, until systemic violence is seen as clearly as the violence in our streets is seen, there will be no end to violence. The one legitimises the other. Can you see how when similar decisions are made in just about every sector of society over years and years that we end up with the world we are living in today? If we cannot see this, then we have work to do. Let us have a conversation.

[See Abahlali baseMjondolo’s press statement this past week for further insight into the struggles of the landless.

For our CMM Chat at 11h11 on Sunday the context of systemic violence will form the canvas for our conversation. Please email welcome@cmm.org.za for the zoom link.

Grace,
Alan

Womb-Justice

Grace to you

Imagine all of us here today were not quite born yet. Imagine we were still all hanging out in an extra large womb. Imagine we didn’t know who we would be once we were born. We could be any nationality, culture, religion, sexual orientation, gender, colour, age. We could be rich or desperately poor. We could be employed or jobless, with a home or homeless. We could be healthy or sickly. We could be blind or deaf or neither. Now imagine having an opportunity to write the laws for the society that we are about to be born into – but remember – we don’t know who we will be when we take our first breath. What values will you write into law for your future society?

The philosopher, John Rawls answered this question by suggesting that we would always want to secure the best possible situation for those who are in the worst possible position – just in case that person happens to be us. I agree with him. Every time I ask groups of people what they would do – the answer is unanimous: “We want equality. We want justice. We don’t want any super rich and desperately poor. No one must be homeless, etc.” I have yet to meet anyone willing to take the risk of being born into a society of great inequality. No one wants to play “birthing-roulette”. When there is the slightest possibility of us ourselves being at the bottom of society we become very clear on what a just and good society looks like. We become convicted that it is wrong to have a society of rich and poor and we write laws to prevent this.

The challenge is for us to honour the just life we so clearly could see while in the womb. Perhaps this is what Jesus meant by calling us to be “born again” and again and again. Live out of the knowledge of the womb! Jesus also told us that he knows who he will by outside the womb. He tells us he will be the poorest of the poor when he says: “What you do to the least of these you do to me” so another motivating factor for his followers is to write laws that not only protect us if we happen to be at the bottom but to protect Jesus who is already at the bottom.

Scripture is full of laws for society to practice to honour this innate sense of Womb-Justice. Here are a few verses from Leviticus 19: 

The Lord spoke to Moses, saying:

9 When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap to the very edges of your field, or gather the gleanings of your harvest.

10 You shall not strip your vineyard bare, or gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the poor and the alien: I am the Lord your God.

13 You shall not defraud your neighbour; you shall not steal; and you shall not keep for yourself the wages of a labourer until morning.

14 You shall not revile the deaf or put a stumbling-block before the blind; you shall fear your God: I am the Lord.

15 You shall not render an unjust judgement; you shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great: with justice you shall judge your neighbour.

16 You shall not go around as a slanderer among your people, and you shall not profit by the blood of your neighbour: I am the Lord.

33 When an alien resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the alien.

34 The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.

35 You shall not cheat in measuring length, weight, or quantity.

36 You shall have honest balances, honest weights, an honest ephah, and an honest hin: I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt.

37 You shall keep all my statutes and all my ordinances, and observe them: I am the Lord.

For Womb-Justice,
Alan