From Gavin’s desk 26/07/2020

Freedom from Fear and Violence: Methodists against Gender Based Violence – Mind your Power

Readings: 2 Samuel 11: 2-27, Matthew 20: 20-28, Psalm 51



I think that one of the most iconic internationally recognised expressions of later years is “mind the gap”. This is an expression that comes from the British rail system and has been extrapolated across manifold contexts, in many nations and hardly has anything to do with the rail system at all for many of the people who use it.

Mind the Gap means that we should pay attention to the gap in front of us and we should cross that gap with caution lest we misstep. There are many gaps that we need to pay attention to. We need to pay attention to the disparities and the gaps that exist along gender lines, along racial lines, along age lines and generational divides, along political lines, along economic lines and along countless other lines. There are so many gaps that we assume don’t exist and more often than not; if we see that it does exist, we assume that it is because you are far away from me rather than we are far away from each other. Every “Gap” conversation is filled with emotion and becomes a debate about who is right and who is wrong and about which action is more or less good and evil when all along; we need to understand that the gap is not because of the train or the passenger; it is a present reality and we need to pay attention to it to make sure that we don’t get stuck in it but that we use our energy closing the gap properly. When we see the gap that exists and we do everything we can to minimize the gap so that everyone can be on the same train, then it is healthy. The train is not a gravy train but a train that leads us all to a new tomorrow where everyone is treated equally because they have the same ticket that leads to the same destination.

There is a gap that exists that seems to be getting harder to bridge than the other gaps and that is the “power gap”. It seems that the darker side of human nature becomes apparent when anyone who believes they have power over another for whatever reason becomes untouchable. They believe they are untouchable when the gap that exists in their minds between them and those without power is great enough to keep their intentions and actions hidden and should it be revealed they believe that the gap is big enough to keep them safe. Power does corrupt and it takes an incredibly strong will to remain honest when power presents an appetising taste of being above others. It also creates its own demons as even the allure of power and the possibilities it presents corrupts the heart of humanity.

We all have power over something or someone, we all have the ability to hurt something or someone who is vulnerable to us and we all have to decide whether we will keep the gap closed or whether we will let it widen. We all decide whether we will use our power for the intended responsibility of building up that which has made itself vulnerable to us or whether we will widen the gap by using our power to benefit our own desires. Pay attention to the power that has been given to you and pay attention to why it was given to you and pay attention to how God is guiding you to use it in order that His Kingdom may be the reality of your world.

Gavin

From Gavin’s desk 19/07/2020

Freedom from Fear and Violence: Methodists against Gender Based Violence – Silence is not always consent

Readings: Isaiah 1:10-31 (1-31), Ephesians 4:17 – 5:2, Matthew 26:57-68, John 8:2-11

The forces of nature are powerful and they don’t hold much sway for the personal preferences of individuals. The gentle breeze we feel blowing across our face on a warm summer day brings refreshing or irritation out of the same action. It is refreshing if we receive it as that and it is irritating if we dislike the wind blowing in our faces. A thunderstorm that fills the sky with flashes of lightning as it rages around us brings a sense of awe for the Creator, a sense of pleasure for the light show that is before us, a sense of joy for the negative ions in the air, a sense of relief for the rain that quenches a parched land, a sense of fear for those who are not accustomed to it, a sense of anxiety for those who hide under the covers and a warning for those who take cover under the trees. The same storm that is received in a number of ways holds no concern over how it is received. A warm summer day gives life to some and lethargy to others. A cold winter day gives life to some and lethargy to others. Forces of nature do not care whether we are in agreement with them or not. They don’t care whether we are vocal or silent about what is happening. Their power places them outside of the range of our voice.

We are too often faced with people who live theirs lives as if they were a force of nature. We are too often faced with people who believe that their words and actions are placed outside of the range of our voice. We are too often faced with those who don’t care whether we are vocal or silent because they will do what they have thought to do whether there is disagreement or not.

In order to stand against a force of nature, you would need to oppose it with an equal force (since a greater force would simply create another force we would need to oppose when it becomes destructive). Those who assume they are above the law and above contradiction need to be brought to account by those whose voice is loud enough and clear enough to do that, although it is more often than not going to be a collection of voices that will accomplish this rather than a single voice.

In Dr. Seuss’ Horton hears a Who!, every Who in Whoville has to add their voice to the whole in order to save their speck of a world that nobody except Horton believes exists. It is when the body of Christ raises their voices together that we are able to ensure that the voice that stands opposed to violence and fear is never silent and that it is never destructive. When the Church is obedient to the God they worship, it’s voice can only bring healing as we share the gift of life, the grace of God, with a world intent on destroying itself.

Gavin

From Gavin’s desk 12/07/2020

Freedom from Fear and Violence: Methodists against Gender Based Violence – Custodians and perpetrators of injustice under one roof.

Readings: 2 Samuel 13: 1-39, Psalm 27

I find that some of the most entertaining movies are those in which you have been watching one movie and the whole time you have been thinking that everything is as you see it and then near the end something is said or done that brings an incredible realisation that the movie you have seen is not quite what you thought it was. The twist brings with it a depth to the story that wasn’t there before; a depth that had been running just below the surface the whole way through. Everything that was true for the story before the twist is still true but the twist brings out a completely different significance.

Where we so easily label things as black and white, we discover that in the reality of most situations there are moments of black and moments of white, moments of less black and moments of less white. Determining cause and effect might be straight forward in inanimate objects and amoebas but in humanity, there is such a complexity of conflicting emotions, motivations, and abilities at work in every action that nothing is terribly straight forward. We draw general assumptions from observed behaviour, but not everything is true for every person because no person fits perfectly into any mould.

The rape of Tamar is a complex story in itself, but we see in it how every ounce of complexity is removed from Tamar by the rest of the characters involved in this story. They can abuse her in the way they do and they can discard her in the way they do because they have removed every ounce of emotion, motivation, and ability from her. They have turned her into something between an inanimate object and an amoeba and they have freed themselves to exercise all manner of evil and injustice over her. If you say that it was only one woman; then you need to ask any one woman how she felt in the reading of the story. If you say it was only rape; you should ask any woman who has been raped how she felt. If you should say that they were right to silence her because woman should be silent, then you shouldn’t ask any woman anything because you should not be anywhere near any woman.

Nobody deserves to be silenced, nobody deserves to be disregarded, nobody deserves to be bullied into anything that they are not in agreement with because God never does that to us. Overcoming this kind of abuse is only possible when you believe in the value of all of creation and as those who have been called to take care of the works of God’s hands; we have been given the Spirit of God who reveals the value of all of God’s creation to our spirits. Tamar has value. Every single Tamar has value. Every single Tamar is a human being, with a complexity of conflicting emotions, motivations, and abilities at work in every action. Every vulnerable person who suffers at the hands of those who have power is Tamar.

Lord God help me to pray for the victim and the perpetrator. Lord God help me to care perfectly for Tamar and Amnon. Lord God help me to work with you as you restore the value of creation through the work of your perfect love.

Gavin

From Gavin’s desk 05/07/2020

Freedom from Fear and Violence: Methodists against Gender Based Violence – Saying “No” to the powers that be.

Readings: Esther 1: 1-22, Ephesians 5: 21-33, Luke 10: 38-42

When children play together in a group, there is often a child who will move a little bit more forward than the rest when it comes to directing the games and organising the other players. I think that from the point of view of the casual observer, the child who has taken control and is most vocal at giving directions to everyone else looks like the leader but I know that when we used to play together in our neighbourhood; this wasn’t always the case. Sometimes the leader was actually the one who whispered the instructions into the ear of the one whose voice was the loudest. While the one took charge, the other orchestrated the motions from the side. Just because the one who whispered from the side’s voice was soft; it didn’t mean that it carried less value than the one whose voice was loud.

When we read scripture, we hear the voice of the men coming through strongly, but I think that the whisper we hear from the women is just as loud and often even more valuable than the voice of the men. If we pay attention, then the absence of comment is louder than the comments themselves. If we pay attention, we will know that the missing voices will tell us more about a situation than the voice that describes that situation. Stereotypically speaking, if a man is telling a story and gives the colour of the shoes that the other person was wearing, especially when he is unable to connect that fact to the purpose of the story, you can be relatively confident that the story was put together by at least two voices and his voice didn’t understand why the colour of the shoes mattered. In the same way that a sharp gasp will tell you that a statement was unexpected or inappropriate, so the absence of a comment by a woman in a crowd who are wanting to stone her for sinning speaks volumes about how pointless it would be to argue with those who have already made up their minds and who are using her as a means to get to someone else. It also speaks about how a pure and holy law had been turned into an instrument of power over those people who needed its protection the most. In a conversation where women are free to speak their mind to Jesus; it tells us the value Jesus ascribed to woman. In a community where submission is the act of doing everything to ensure that the whole is built up rather than being a doormat, we hear the word of scripture speak of the incredible value of relationship and the way in which each person in that relationship has to be recognised as equals or that relationship will not grow or add value to the whole.

I think that it is ungodly to value the voice of one person over another simply based on a chance roll of the DNA dice. I cannot find anywhere in scripture where God made a statement that Eve’s voice should not be as highly regarded as Adam’s. I cannot find anywhere in Scripture where the Kingdom of God excluded anyone from anything based on gender. When children play, the only objections they have to the children they play with are the objections that the adults give them in the whispers and careless and bigoted conversations. The God we find in Scripture is a God who tells us that those children we don’t like playing with are His favourites, in exactly the same way that we are His favourites.

Gavin