Presence

Earlier in the week I noticed Kaitlin Curtice’s blog post, ‘People Who Hold Space Will Heal the Church’, and I’m interested in what she says about holding space. She basically says that the church (and I think a lot of other institutions too) like to try and manage people rather than holding space where transformation could occur. (Reminds me a lot of the stuff I’ve been re-reading in Henri Nouwen’s book, Reaching Out.

On a similar theme, I’ve been thinking about what it means to be present to someone.

Sometimes it just means what some of us might regard as trivial bullshit. Talking about the weather, exchanging friendly banter, talking shit…

But we need to be alert to when that’s not what’s needed, when our guest has something deep they need to talk about – illness, love, death, family…

We’ve also got to be attentive to when someone just needs silence or space.

Sometimes presence means sitting with someone. Something it means banter. Sometimes it means politeness. Sometimes it means eye contact. Sometimes it means (thank God) no eye contact. Sometimes it means depth. Its just being present to the person and situation and responding as appropriate.

Saying no to a good cause

I recently watched this short talk from Sarah Knight:


While I was watching the video I got in touch with someone saying no to something they’d asked me to do. I knew that was what I had to do even before I watched the video. In the video Knight says that we need to say no to things we don’t care about. I don’t think I have trouble with that. I find that often I do need to say no to things even though I care about them, because the folks who want me to be involved aren’t treating me well. (To reuse Knight’s language, they don’t give a fuck!) I need to remind myself that it’s not worth working with people who are going to treat me badly, even if the cause is good.

Is the story of the resurrection a myth?

At Easter I published a post where I said that we should treat the story of Jesus as mythology. Some folks said they were interested in what I mean by that. I started wondering what I really mean by that.

Dominic Crossan says that myths are stories that try to explain everything, make us at ease, close all the gaps, show us that everything makes sense and everything is as it should be. Myths explain everything. Myths don’t leave space for more speculation or conversation.

Parables, on the other hand, challenge mythology. Parables, disrupt, question and transform. Historically Christians have often read the parables of Jesus as though they answered questions and summed up reality, but in their original context they often challenged people’s assumptions.

Given Crossan’s definitions, would you say that the story of Jesus’ resurrection is mythology or parable?

You can’t missionise people, then accuse them of cultural appropriation


This ANZAC Day it seemed like we hit peak outrage. There’s been a lot said about Yassmin Abdel-Magied’s ‘Lest we forget’ Facebook post. But some senstive folks were also upset by the words of Kaurna elder Katrina Ngaitlyala Power, who mentioned in her Welcome to Country, that this land was invaded. People were also upset that Power paraphrased the 23rd Psalm to say, ‘though I walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Invasion’.

“We had to listen to a culturally misappropriated, bastardised version of the Psalm that included “Yea though I walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Invasion”,” the Grange resident said. – Craig Cook, ‘Speech of welcome by Aboriginal elder Katrina Ngaitlyala Power at Anzac dawn service referencing slavery condemned as too political’ The Adveriser April 25

I think it is ridiculous to say that this is cultural appropriation. In any case, I don’t think cultural appropriation is always a problem. But in this case, I don’t think anyone has any right to criticise Power for using the psalm in this way. Aboriginal people have this Psalm because European Christians gave it to them. In many cases Europeans forced their faith on Aboriginal people. We have no right now to accuse Aboriginal people for adapting texts and traditions that we gave to them, often at the expense of their own culture and religion.

I don’t think we have any right to be offended by Power’s refernces to invasion. If we are paying attention, we should be aware of this fact whenever we acknowledge country or are welcomed onto country.

Are you morally obligated to punch a Nazi?

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Photo from ‘Was a Protester Throwing Explosives into a Berkley Crowd Before She Was Punched?’ from Snopes.

 

Katherine Cross’ article ‘Why Punching Nazis Is not Only Ethical, but Imperative’ has come up in my newsfeed a couple of times. I find Katherine Cross’ argument helpful even though I don’t agree with it. I don’t think you can you teach someone that violence is wrong by use of violence. That said, there needs to be a response, and I think that punching a Nazi is better than doing nothing.
I agree that it’s important to show that these people aren’t as powerful as they would like to pretend. I think that was demonstrated by the person who punched Richard Spencer. I think it has also been demonstrated in Melbourne when anti-immigration rallies have been organised and the counter-rallies have swamped the original rallies. I think this is demonstrated by parody groups like the Million Flag Patriots, when they anger alt right groups by taking the piss.
Some of my concerns with the left choosing a violent response are the likelihood of escalation and of the possibility of the left becoming as much a threat to safety as the right.

More on practising resurrection


I thought I’d write a bit more about practising resurrection, after my Easter Sunday post

One of the reasons I was sick of seeing the articles arguing for or against an hisotircal, literal resurrection was that I am not convinced that arguing gets us anywhere. I think it stops us from hearing what the other has to say. I think people who write these arguments already know what they think and are looking for arguments to back up what they think.
In the Facebook thread where I posted what I’d written, some folks started arguing. 😉 I engaged a little bit, but didn’t want to get drawn into arguing. That was exactly what the original post was about! (My trust is that it was still encourgiung for the folks it was meant for. I hope that folks who didn’t find it helpful are able to let it go.)

I don’t want to get involved in arguing this question because I just don’t know. But I do find myself inspired by and caught up in this story. I believe it because I’ve experienced people acting in the way Jesus did. (If you want you can read about that in a post I wrote last year.)

I don’t know whether Jesus’ followers met with a Jesus who was literally resurrected. I don’t know whether they simply meant that they experienced his corporeal presence in the body of believers or among the poor of Galillee. I find both possibilities inspiring as I try to practise resurrection, or at least not get in the way of others as they practise.

I’m going to finish today’s post there. It doesn’t mean this is finished. If you think it’s not finished, feel free to write a response. Or let me know if you think there’s more I should be exploring.

‘Nothing about us without us’


I’ve just watched this video (it’s a Facebook link, but it should still work if you’re not a Facebook user) of Idil Ali from RISE: Refugees, Survivors and Ex-detainees speaking at the Palm Sunday rally on the weekend. I had trouble hearing most of the speakers from where I was. But I think she was also saying earlier on that all of the speakers at the rally should have been refugees. (If I misheard or if it was someone else, please let me know.) This year there were more refugees speaking than the previous year, so I was initially thinking that Ali was asking a bit much by expecting that all of the speakers should be refugees or asylum seekers. That’s what I said when Beth asked me yesterday what I thought.

But as I thought about it more later, I realised that it shouldn’t seem like a big ask. If all of the groups that are represented have refugees or asylum seekers involved (and I’m pretty sure they do) it shouldn’t be hard for them to let a refugee or asylum seeker from their group represent them.

Working with mental health

I’ve been enouraged recently by my cousin-in-law Carolyn, who’s started a blog about mental health. I think it’s important that we talk about mental health because if we’re secretive about it we all remain isolated in our struggles. For a long time our society maintained a cone of silence around mental health, which meant that struggles were seen as unusual and shameful.

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When I was 16 I was prescribed antidepressant medication. I was advised not to talk about this at the time because I might be stigmatised. I chose to talk about it anyway. I’m glad I did. There were a couple of people at school who made fun of me, but mostly people were just concerned or were amazed to know that the illness existed.

I wasn’t medicated for very long, but it helped me to get going again. Afterwards I was able to keep an eye on my mental health a lot better.

As an adult I went to see a counsellor for a while. We were able to look into what was behind all this. I found that really helpful. It’s made me more aware of how my mind works and how I can look after my mind.

Looking after my mental health is something I still need to be aware of. Things can go bad if I’m not careful, or if I feel like things in my life are out of control or like I have no opportunity to contribute my work.

I might post more about this in future.

George Gilder’s digital rapture


Over the last few days I’ve been reading Linda Kintz’s 2004 article, ‘Performing Virtual Whiteness: The Psychic Fantasy of Globalization’, first published in Duke University’s Comparative Literature journal. While reading the article I was particularly struck by Kintz’s description of George Gilder’s understanding of digital technology. Kintz says that Gilder believes that mind and not matter is the ground of existance and that the point of digital techonology is to move human beings beyond the limitations of the body to become pure mind. To me this sounds a lot like the (relatively modern) Christian idea of ‘the rature’, a supernatural event where true believers are expected to be whisked away from the physical world into a spiritual experience of heaven. (I don’t believe in this, but I was exposed to the idea a lot when I was younger.)

Kintz is suggesting that the fantasy of being liberated from materiality tells us something about ‘white’ identity. For a long time I’ve been familiar with the idea that ‘white’ identity is a lack of ethnic identity (many people who identify as ‘white’ claim that they have no culture, no ethncity and no origin), as though whiteness is a default and other identities are deviations from whiteness. (I think this kind of construction of identity is very problematic, and that Europeans who have become ‘white’ need to rediscover their actual cultures and stories.) Kintz is claiming that the what Gilder is describing is a fantasy of ultimate whitness, where all particularity of material existance can be transcended.

What is Stan Grant getting at?


Last week I published a post about some stuff that Stan Grant has been saying: that everyone in our society is balck-and-white, and that our peoples bend toward each other but don’t touch. Our household has been reflecting on that idea a bit, and at Surrender over the weekend we had some postcards I’d made, inviting others to reflect on what he might be getting at.

I don’t know if this is what Stan Grant is getting at, but to me it suggests that we are all both black and white (and every other colour) because through our history, particulalry the atrocities committed by European colonists, our stories and fates have become intertwined. However, it has been possible for colonist people to remain ignorant of this, and to pretend the relationship doesn’t exist.