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 a 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…