an inconvenient love of women

7 03 2012

The Christian Aid logo

Thursday 8th March 2012 is International Women’s Day. According to Christian Aid 70% of the world’s poor are women. It is good that this falls in Lent because it must act as a call to action. Why? 

The primary action at the beginning of Lent for Anglicans is the imposition of ashes. The ashes represent all that is broken and lost in the world, the burnt cross of the execution stake. Because they are smeared and spread on our foreheads, imposed on the most viewed part of us, smudged across our make-up, spoiling our fringe, and sometimes forgotten about until someone says ‘when did you last wash?’

God always wants to remind us to do decent service, not to do decent service. Not to fast whilst we are still slagging off our wives; not to put our feet up whilst the women do the work; not to worship whilst we are spending money other families need more; not to pray in public lest we forget to clothe the naked.

This can be imposition for us. So easily we – and I include me – slip into the kingdom of comfort, feel we’ve done our time in the kingdom of pain. We become desensitised, we get compassion-fatigue or whatever else we call it. We forget to be human and humane and close our eyes to the suffering of all – including women - around us. To remember is an imposition. To be reminded is an inconvenience.

Well, says God, allow me to impose. Allow me to inconvenience you. Because any sort of faith that doesn’t have at its heart God’s care for the exiled, the pained, the tortured, the bereaved and the hurting is no faith I recognise. Any faith that speaks of caring for the poor as if that is a hobby and not a lifestyle is not a faith I recognise. Any faith that doesn’t welcome and truly welcome the strange and the stranger and the strangest is not a faith I recognise. Any faith that turns a blind eye to abuse of women in all its forms is not a faith I recognise. Any faith that denigrates instead of celebrates women is not a faith I recognise. 

Allow me to impose, says God. Because I get religion-fatigue. I can’t be bothered any more. Your religion interests me; I would love to study it sometime. But now, please, for goodness sake get back to basics, strip it down and see what you really need. I think you’ll find it’s me.

I am the poor. You have clothes. And I am naked.  

Whilst you are here, why not check out this campaign from the Home Office called This is Abuse.

This is an edited version of religion-fatigue and the imposition of haberdashery that I wrote back in 2010. I re-read and thought I’d share it again… 

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7 03 2012
c2drl

There are two external things that may tell me a lot about God. One is his creation and the second is his Church.

His creation shows me a God of extravagant celebration and joy, creating not just a few things but masses of different things, (hosts of different birds, fish, insects, plants etc) many of which appear to have no utility but are just there to be enjoyed. God makes things of beauty, he makes things which bring pleasure and he wants us to enjoy that which he has made. Of course, probe a bit deeper and we find sin and its effects but I don’t think they actually tell us about God although they do show how he has patiently allowed them to exist until he decides otherwise.

His Church so often, but not always, paints me a different picture. It seems to remind me of a mean spirited parent – don’t do this, take care here, do things in the right order, don’t enjoy, serve, work, sacrifice. I think these ideas come not from God but from a world view that sees man in charge with the burden of forming his own destiny, sees work as a chore and takes responsibility on himself for all that is wrong.

I also see from my own life that when I do things because I am told to, or think I ought to, or out of a sense of responsibility I seldom enjoy them or do them really well.However when I do them out of love, because my heart is so stirred that I can’t stop then much is achieved and Gods Spirit is released in unimaginable ways.

And that is where I start in my thinking about women. God in his creation has given us men and women, so that we can enjoy different textures and nuances of creation and of our likeness to him. I don’t hate abuse because God tells me to, I have abuse because I love Gods creation, all of it. And I think it is abuse of women also when people, women as well as men, try to make women like men instead of acknowledging that they are different, beautifully different and we need each other. It seems to me that we have moved at a stroke from a position on one extremity of a scale where we abuse women because men thought they were better and stronger, to a point at the other end where we abuse women and men by trying to make them the same, and we never stopped in the middle to celebrate them as wonderful, different beings from men.

God has created this wonderful, extravagant world, rich in diversity, colour and texture, ever changing as He sustains it Yet his Church is colluding with the world in trying to constrain the world into uniformity, ‘soundness’, majority opinion, dominated by mankind. Creation is a rich tapestry not a faded monochrome photograph. God didn’t give us rules he gave us love. He didn’t say be saafe, he said enjoy.

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