Power, Permission and Non-Violence

As a human race, in our unaware state driven by a fear of being separate from Love, we organise ourselves around power. This plays out on a societal level with the combination of power and bias creating the violent oppression of racism, sexism, homophobia, classism, xenophobia and so on. The effects of living with this oppression are far reaching, many of which cannot even be discerned because the dynamic is so familiar, it seems real and true. The extent to which people question that reality and choose to live a different one, is generally the extent to which they are isolated, rejected, resisted, shunned, blamed, maimed or killed.

Other systems of oppression we live in today are perhaps quite subtle, feeling like the norm of our day and age—materialism, consumerism, capitalism… where the currency used to stay in the in group is performance, drivenness, social media presence, greed, attention and a pursuit of more, bigger, better, faster and newer. 

Most of us are seduced in one way or another daily, and are not even aware of it. Red push notifications from the apps on a phone, designed to grab your attention and keep you coming back for more; marketing and advertising convincing you of a need you didn’t know you had, and the resultant answer to that need which is something you didn’t know existed; Netflix series episodes rolling from one into the next before you’ve had time to press stop.

Further still are the daily oppressive beliefs we have of what makes us worthy of love and belonging, whether that be our looks, our ability to succeed or produce, the number of people who like us or praise us, our need to be perfect or to stand out… Not only do we face oppressive systems on the outside with their deathly effects, we hand our personal power over to some violent value judgment that leaves us in a place of anxiety, shame, anger, despair or depression.

At the same time, there is another Way in this world, a way that comes from a different place, from Love, a belief of Oneness. It is a voice of permission. Permission to Be. Be exactly who you are. In the words of one who is speaking Truth to systems of oppression in our day, Brenè Brown, “Imperfect and enough”.

What does permission look like for each of us today? Permission to question a system, protocol or expectation of us from outside ourselves, or become curious about the voice of the critic within that leaves us with a sense of unworthiness. Permission to feel all our feelings, to be different, to not conform, to have boundaries, to pull aside into stillness, silence, solitude. Permission to connect with a different Way, to connect with non-violent teachers such as nature, children, animals, art, dance, music. Permission to take a break from the intensity of social media and news, or hurtful, burdening or unhelpful conversations. Permission to acknowledge our needs, get to know them, express them, and put time, effort, and resources into meeting them. Give permission to the different parts of ourselves that are looking for expression, acceptance and love to be witnessed.

When we know the freedom, joy and life that that permission produces in us, we will be compelled, enCOURAGEd to work for it for those around us who are struggling to see or access a reality outside of the system. Because we are One, my freedom and well-being is inextricably linked to the freedom and well-being of all.

May we grow more and more confident in the Power of Love.
Catherine

 

 

Mend what you can, where you can

Grace to you

The pain of this past week is beyond words to describe … yet words are all we have … and with them we must resist the temptation to be silenced when fear grips us by the throat.

We live with war-zone-levels of violence in this country on a daily basis. Violence, or in the very least, news of violence assaults us daily – yet this past week felt like a ferocious flood that just kept on rising and rising – pushing past our usual defenses leaving us afraid that we will all drown. Drown in blood and grief and anger. Every time we thought the tide of blood couldn’t rise any higher … it did.

  • The deadly violence of men against women
  • The deadly violence of men against children
  • The deadly violence of South African citizens’ against people of other countries (mostly but not exclusively from the rest of the African continent).

And these violences (plural) themselves are the consequence of deep systemic-source-violences. The violences of patriarchy and racism. The violences of dispossession and oppression and exclusion and the further violences that flow from these violences, like poverty and hunger and unemployment. And tragically the people who suffer the most from the systemic-source-violences are the very people most likely to suffer the violence that we witnessed this week.

All these violences make us a deeply traumatised society. I am convinced that almost all of us live with PTSD. PTSD stands for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder – yet in our context I think it should also stand for PRESENT Traumatic Stress Disorder because the reasons for our trauma are constant – as one reason passes, another instantly takes its place. To live with Present TSD is abnormal. To live in a society that inscribes Present TSD is abnormal. So if we find ourselves acting in ways that might otherwise be deemed abnormal, this is in fact normal. 

So if you are feeling constantly overwhelmed – it is normal. If you are feeling anxious and edgy – it is normal. If you are feeling exhausted with constant fatigue – it is normal. If you can’t sleep – it is normal. If all you want to do is sleep – it is normal. If you can’t focus or concentrate – it is normal. If you have outbursts of strong emotions – it is normal. If you feel numb – it is normal. If you feel you can’t be around large crowds of people or around men – it is normal. All this is normal for a traumatised person to experience. What is important is that we feel what we feel without judgement, guilt and self-condemnation. Feelings are not good or bad – they just are and they long for full acknowledgement.

My hope is that if any of this resonates with you that you will find at least one other person to connect with to speak about what you are feeling. (And if someone decides to speak to any of us – that we will commit to listen without judgement or the need to give advice, and hold what is shared with love.)

In these days I have found myself returning to Clarissa Pinkola Estés, “Letter to a Young Activist during Troubled Times.” Especially these words:

…Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world all at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach. Any small, calm thing that one soul can do to help another soul, to assist some portion of this poor suffering world, will help immensely.

…One of the most calming and powerful actions you can do to intervene in a stormy world is to stand up and show your soul. … The light of the soul throws sparks, can send up flares, builds signal fires … causes proper matters to catch fire. To display the lantern of soul in shadowy times like these, to be fierce and to show mercy toward others – both are acts of immense bravery and greatest necessity. Struggling souls catch light from other souls who are fully lit and willing to show it. If you would help to calm the tumult, this is one of the strongest things you can do. (Please go to http://mavenproductions.com for the full letter.)

Grace,
Alan

‘You are us.’

Prime Minister of New Zealand:

Jacinda Ardern

 

Photograph: Kirk Hargreaves, Christchurch City Council


Grace and peace to you

As we reflected last Sunday, after calling Herod a fox, Jesus cried: “Jerusalem Jerusalem … how often I have desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings…” (Luke 13)

Prime Minister of New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern has lived this text into being this past week. In so doing she has shown the world what healthy, wise and strong leadership looks like. Ardern is not reading from a prepared script. She is simply honouring her heart and head – a heart that feels deeply and a head that is deeply thoughtful. Her own grief has set the tone for her nation’s grief. She articulates both her anger at the cause of grief and expresses her gentleness for the grieving. She rightly chooses to keep the spotlight on the loved ones of the deceased rather than the killer.

Ardern’s repeated words to the grieving: “You are us.”, are the most healing words she could possibly say. Spoken with the authority of a surgeon, she sews together with her words the truth that the killer attempted to shatter with his bullets. We are all one. These words at the same time expose the killer’s blindness and the blindness of Islamaphobia as well as all other forms of discrimination.

Without hesitation she has named the instrument (actually it’s an idol) – the gun – that when mixed with fear and hate, causes death on a massive scale. Simply put: she cares more about saving lives than a tiny group of people’s desire to own a firearm.

Prime Minister Ardern is a challenging sign of hope to us all.

Grace,
Alan


A story by Steve Mellon: “A woman approached the Islamic Center of Pittsburgh mostly unnoticed and carefully placed a bouquet of yellow flowers among the branches of a bush near the center’s concrete steps. She then crossed Bigelow Boulevard and sat on a stone retaining wall and wept.

She said she’d lost a family member when a man of hate entered the Tree of Life synagogue in October and gunned down people of faith. Now bullets had shattered lives at two New Zealand mosques.

The flowers and her quiet, anony- mous presence were gestures of solidarity with the Muslim community, she said. When a man at the mosque learned of the woman’s presence, he briefly held his hand to his heart, then crossed the street to chat with her.

Moments later, he guided her back across Bigelow Boulevard, up the concrete steps, and into the center’s lobby. The man offered the woman a chair and introduced her to others then gathering for traditional Friday prayers.

In the sunlit room, people of different faiths gathered in a small circle and shared stories of pain and sadness and strength and hope.”

@Stevemellon412

God has no favourites

Grace to you

Over the past two weeks we have reflected on the radical resistance story found in the book of Esther. We tasted early on that it is marinated in masculine entitlement and further sauced with religious, cultural, ethical and nationalistic supremacy. If we are honest, much of Scripture is marinated and sauced with both – and many since have sought to justify both as the will of God because of their prominence in scripture. Yet if we take our cue from Jesus, we will notice how he constantly subverted the marinade and sauce of the dominant class – choosing rather to salt it with a flavouring of those considered the least and lowly and left out to specifically remind us that God has no favourites.

The Psalms – as beautiful as they sound are very often extremely violent and patriarchal – perpetuating a false understanding of God that Jesus came to correct. According to Jesus God is not violent, but vulnerable. God’s purpose is to gently restore rather than vengefully destroy.

One of my favourite authors who is able to re-salt the scriptures in this Jesus-like-way is Nan Merrill. In her translation of the Psalms she replaces the militaristic patriarchy with profoundly beautiful images that remind us that our real enemy is fear within rather than foes without. This enemy within is only ever defeated through acceptance and love for only “love can cast out fear”. Here is her translation of Psalm 91 (in part):

Psalm 91

Those who dwell in the shelter of
                Infinite Light,
Who abide in the wings of
                Infinite Love,
Will raise their voices in praise:
                “My refuge and my strength;
                In You alone will I trust.”
For You deliver me from the webs
                of fear,
                from all that separates and divides;
You protect me as an eagle shields
                its young,
                Your faithfulness is sure, like
                an arrow set upon the mark.
I will not fear the shadows of the night,
                nor the confusion that comes
                by day,
Nor the dreams that awaken me from
                sleep,
                nor the daily changes that
                life brings.

Though a thousand may deride this
                radical trust,
                ten thousand laugh as I seek
                to do your Will,
Yet will I surrender myself to You,
                abandoning myself into your Hands
                without reserve.

~ Nan C. Merrill, Psalms for Praying

Christ Reigns

Grace and peace to you

Today is the “Reign of Christ” Sunday marking the end of the Christian year. Today liturgically / symbolically invites us to trust that after all is said and done Christ will reign on high. Put differently, it means that everything Jesus believed in and gave his life for will win in the end: love will face down fear, truth will win the race against the lies and justice will satisfy the hungry. Mercy will be without measure and the gentle will finally inherit the earth.

We have seen evidence of this in the past couple of days. Oppressors fall (and fall asleep!) while the God who neither sleeps nor slumbers fans the flames of freedom within the human hearts of the dispossessed. And the Spirit hovers over our imaginations with new visions of what justice and peace really look like. What was whispered is now declared from the rooftops. That which was feared is now laughed at. What was covered up is exposed. This is true in neighbouring Zimbabwe as it will be true once more in our own land. The final score will be in Jesus’ favour.

Knowing the end score before the end of the game en-courage-s us to be bold and faithful, especially when all the evidence suggests that a loss is inevitable. Knowing justice and truth and freedom will win encourages us to follow the light while it is still dark and speak-up while many still whisper in fear. The end in Jesus’ favour demands we stay in the game and not forsake the field where justice and mercy are being contested. None of us know when the final whistle will blow just as a few weeks ago no one on the planet could foresee the resignation of Robert Mugabe this past week… and besides it is not for us to know dates and times of end whistles.

We must not be naïve though. This game is not a friendly. The fight is fierce. The stakes are high. There have been casualties and sadly there will be more. Listen to how Prof. Njabulo Ndebele – an academic and chairperson of the Nelson Mandela Foundation – describes the desperate state of South Africa today:

“The government that was elected to act according to, support and promote law, order and constitutional rule, has abdicated that responsibility. It has itself become a thief that steals… Under this government, syndicated thieving has become the very purpose of government, because government has become an instrument that protects itself from the consequences of its own transgressions.”

It is against this tragic truth that we dare to proclaim Christ Reigns.

Grace,
Alan

Violation provokes violence

SA Navy to spend R60 million on weapon barely used since World War 2

As reported in Sunday Times 15th October 2017

The SA Navy is set to buy new torpedoes for its submarines, despite it battling to keep its standard fleet operational. According to a report in the Sunday Times, Armscor has confirmed plans to buy a new torpedo system for Heroine-class submarines. The new torpedoes are said to cost up to R60 million each. Industry experts told the Sunday Times that South Africa does not need new torpedoes. Worldwide, there have been only three torpedo engagements since World War 2.

https://mybroadband.co.za/news/government/233261-sa-navy-to-spend-r60-million-on-weapon-barely-used-since-world-war-2.html

 


Grace to you

One of the great lies that the world is ever tempted to swallow (and swallow it does) is that violence can be good, righteous and sacred and therefore necessary. It is this lie that Jesus – the Truth – came to set us free from, yet we refuse to be released and thus remain willing prisoners ever-protective of our chains.

And if not Jesus, then one would think that the history of violence’s horror would have brought us to our senses, but alas we overwhelmingly continue to believe that our violence is morally good while the violence of those against us is morally evil. We rage about “their” violence but are blind to our violence. Our “good cause” is what blinds us. Ours is a righteous violence … but not for the family of those we kill … for them it’s the soil of suffering that justifies the planting of the seeds of revenge. This deathly logic plays itself out daily in a million different ways: gang violence; gender based violence; police brutality and war.

Last Saturday a huge truck bomb killed over 300 people in Mogadishu, Somalia. This was done in retaliation to one of the many raids by local troops and US special forces in which countless civilians have been killed over many years in a never-ending cycle of violence.

A recent United Nations study found that in “a majority of cases, state action appears to be the primary factor finally pushing individuals into violent extremism in Africa”. Of more than 500 former members of militant organisations interviewed for the report, 71% pointed to “government action”, including “killing of a family member or friend” or “arrest of a family member or friend” as the incident that prompted them to join a group.

Violation provokes violence which begets more violence.

And while we lament the violence, we forget that we have supported it from the beginning – by refusing to pass laws that prevent it, like banning guns, and by paying for the weapons responsible for it like the SA Navy buying deathly wasteful torpedoes for millions.

When it comes to the cycle of violence in the world the Christian Church has much blood on its hands, not just directly but indirectly in the way we have propagated the false narrative of “sacred violence”. For the idea of “sacred violence” is deeply rooted in interpreting the Crucifixion of Christ as a necessary sacrifice (act of violence) in order for God to save the world. This is a terror-ble lie. Rather the Cross of Christ reveals to us the grace-full truth that God would rather suffer violence than ever perpetrate it.

Devastatingly the greatest act of non-violent loving has consistently been interpreted as an act of Divine violence by the Christian faith itself, turning the greatest gift the Christian faith has to offer the world into its greatest stumbling block to world peace. The d-evil must dance with delight as we do its work.

Jesus reveals God as Love. Therefore for God to stop loving is for God to stop being. We are born in the image of Love and when we stop loving we die and cause death.

Grace,
Alan

 

 

Evil & Success

On the First Thursday of the Month the city comes alive at night in a very special way. There is a free concert on Greenmarket Square (in our backyard) as well as around 30 art galleries that open their doors until about 9 p.m. I encourage you next month on 3 October to join this Art Pilgrimage.

You have heard the words from Edmund Burke many times before, “That all it takes for evil to succeed is for good people to do nothing”. It is true. But it is not so simple.

The problem with evil (here broadly defined as that which destroys life) is that it does not always look like evil. Often the evilest evil is presented as good and virtuous, something to be aspired to and sought after. It is very difficult to detect especially when the dominant culture labels it “success” and invites us to pay homage to its achievement.

Take for example the transfer fee of +R1.4bn for soccer player Gareth Bale by Real Madrid which is more than half a million Rand a day.

In a world where all life is interdependent on the generous sharing of all other life — this is evil. It is evil because it results in one having too much and many others having too little. Yet this evil is hailed as the pinnacle of success. I am not saying Gareth Bale is evil (well no more than anyone else) rather it is the system that enables such an insanely huge sum of money to be paid to an individual that is evil.

And here is the thing that is really sick about this evil, that the very people who live with too little are the ones who support this kind of system, not intentionally, but by crowding around TV’s with sponsor’s drinks in hand to catch a glimpse of the “beautiful game”. And any suggestion to boycott watching soccer would probably unite opposing fans in seeking one’s blood.

May our eyes be opened to evil in our midst and may God give us the courage to admit where we are complicit in the systems of evil in the world — it is this we are called to confess and turn from. May we inspire each other to do so.

Grace, Alan

___________________________

Next week Tuesday, 10 September 2013, the Campaign for Safe Communities and other partner organisations will be making a solidarity visit to Manenberg to speak to community members about their experience with gang violence and to show our support.

Over 26 people have been killed over the last few weeks owing to gang violence. 14 Schools had to be closed in August after teachers, fearing for their safety as well as the safety of their learners, requested support from the government and threatened to walk out en masse.

Recognising that this is a crisis, the province has since shifted R6 million from the education budget towards the deployment of Metro police in Manenberg. This has reduced the levels of gun violence on the streets, but the climate of tension and fear remains.

Community members, particularly the youth, have been deeply affected by the loss of family members, witnessing extreme acts of violence, and being directly victims of violence themselves. The youth need to be given special consideration. Trauma caused by exposure to violence makes it impossible for many of the youth to function effectively at school, and school closure means that they are significantly behind in the curriculum. Many youth also risk being caught in the crossfire while walking to and from school. Unfortunately, many of the youth also end up being perpetrators of violence, targeted for recruitment by the gangs and many youths feel that joining a gang is the only way to ensure their safety.

Gangsterism is now spilling over from Manenberg to other areas such as Hanover Park, Mitchells Plain and even Khayelitsha. We must not turn our back on the Manenberg community when their constitutional rights to life, safety and education are being threatened daily. Everyone, whether they live in Manenberg or not, has a responsibility to oppose this violence and support the people of Manenberg in the building of a safe community.

If you are interested in joining in this solidarity visit please contact Roegchanda Pascoe at shanda.pascoe20@gmail.com