the things we keep over there

4 01 2018

the things we keep over there
are over there for a reason
otherwise they would be over here


the things we keep over there
are out of sight
and with luck and busyness and a general sense of denial
also out of mind

when reading a biography of William Wilberforce
i discovered his realisation that we are satisfied
with building wealth on the breaking backs of others
as long as we don’t see it for ourselves
as long as it is kept over there
wherever there is

Wilberforce was born into ‘wealth, privilege and idleness’
and so did not need to ruffle any feathers that might challenge
the status quo of those with status
like him
but Wilberforce found a renewed faith in Jesus
and the gospel imperative that all people are equal
before God
if not before other people

suddenly he couldn’t do anything but challenge the slave trade
what was kept over there
could no longer be kept over there
out of sight
he realised the majority of British people had no idea what was going on
in their name
for their wealth
to turn a blind eye was to collaborate
to be a slave trader

to know about it and do nothing
was out of the question

Wilberforce challenged those with power
and this was no left-wing socialist revolution
for one of his co-conspirators was Adam Smith
upon whose system we build capitalism
and for whom slavery went against the capitalist principle
of personal freedom and opportunity for wealth-creation

so you see
we do see, I think we see
that not much has changed

we still keep those things mostly over there
slavery like cobalt mining in the DR Congo
or clothing factories in Bangladesh
or cocoa plantations in Ghana
or maybe the Amazon warehouse in Essex

injustice must be brought into the light
and once seen must be kept over here
and not put back over there
because it happens
so we must face it
and then we can choose to do nothing
but at least then they
and we
will know that we have chosen.




the sparkle in primark

26 06 2014

went the lock on the door
as the key turned
and in fear I 
the bridge to my future burned

I should have been
would have been
but now I lie passive
not rejecting
but expecting
this is my life now

this is my life now
I was a wife
am a wife
but now my life is over
as I sleep in a locked room
above the factory floor

above the factory floor
sold to pay a debt

though I wept
I was taken as my
children slept

now I’m kept
in this place 
a debt to collect

a debt to collect
instead of being a mum
I am needle and thread
sewing sequins until my fingers bled
a human trafficking debacle
so your clothes can sparkle
though the light is kept dim I’m still able
to read and re-read the retail label
so while the factory – like my life – is so dark
enjoy my clothes when you buy them in Primark. 

[© 2014 Kevin Lewis]

STT Fashion Victim pegs

This week I was part of a 6th Form Conference at Carshalton High School led by Sutton Schoolswork  a small Christian schoolswork charity, on the subject of Human Trafficking. We were privileged to have speakers from Croydon Community Against Trafficking and Ella’s Home. I led a creative writing workshop, and as the students worked so well I wrote this poem as they worked on theirs.

The students have pledged to raise money for Ella’s Home, and sent Stop the Traffik’s “Fashion Victim” campaign postcards to Zara and Primark asking questions about the fashion supply chain. Many of them were unaware of the issue before. This is why schoolswork matters. 

The Fashion Victim Campaign:

My Dangerous Loverboy – a music video showing the dangers of teenage girls being trafficked within the UK:




the nativity that needs saving

5 01 2014

Tabloid journalists wouldn’t have written good gospels. They’d have used up all the scroll just on the birth. See Prince George for evidence.

The gospel writers had loads of information and stories to work from, and they carefully chose which ones to use. And surpisingly, there’s no lingering over the holy birth. There’s no embellishments – no stables or donkeys; no silent nights, no ‘no crying he makes’; no angelic music or soft mood lighting. Jesus doesn’t perform miracles or speak early, he doesn’t fashion blackbirds from clay. No halo is painted over his head at his birth.

Why not? Because they were telling a real story about a world that needs saving. And the Christmas card nativity scene we propagate at Christmas doesn’t need saving. You know, the one where  the cows smile and the hay doesn’t itch and the King of the Jews doesn’t kill all the babies.

Take the visit of the magi. It can be easy to view the visit of the magi with rose-tinted spectacles. But they show us the kind of world Jesus came to save. A world in which people will do all they can not to be humble, not to kneel, but to defend their position at all costs. For Herod – the King of the Jews – that meant following in Pharaoh’s footsteps and ordering the murder of babies to protect his power.

The soft-glow world of nativity plays doesn’t need saving from anything except bland irrelevance. A world in which children are used as the pawns in grown-ups power games does need saving. That is still our world.

Of course we civilised people look down our noses at the primitive cruelty of Herod. We wouldn’t sacrifice children for our own ends these days would we? Oh, except child soldiers. Child labour. Child sex trade and child abuse pornography. Child poverty. Child refugees. To name but a few.

Epiphany is the story of the foreigners being the first to worship the King of the Jews who did not clutch his equality with God like a selfish toddler but gave it up for us; whilst the King of the Jews cruelly clutches his power with his vicious murderous mandate of death. All of a sudden the soft-glow nativity becomes a very dark story about our cruel world and it’s cruel people and people who suffer for no reason other than the cruelty of others.

For so many it really is that Christmas every day. That’s a nativity that needs saving.   


some things cost more than you realise

15 05 2013

This is a video commissioned by Muse and MTV Exit as an initiative against human trafficking. 

It is easy to think it happens somewhere else. Next week I am going to a conference in nearby Croydon called Preventing Modern Slavery/Human Trafficking in Croydon. Because it happens on my doorstep. And yours too. And we wear it. Some things cost more than we realise. 

For more information about human trafficking see Stop the Traffik or YCAT. Because people shouldn’t be bought and sold, and slaves should be free. If it’s works in your community, use this video to spread the word.  

doctor who. protest. forget. abdicate.

12 04 2010

[Warning: Doctor Who plot spoiler from 10/04/10]

which doctor

So the Star Whale takes Starship UK on its own back to lead it from danger. A willing sacrifice made to save the human race (well, the UK) (except Scotland) (no change there) from destruction. The human race does not trust though, does not believe, cannot see a selfless act as just that: a selfless act. It captures the whale, forcing it to power the ship, torturing it in order to force it to do their will.

All the adults know this. They know that they have taken the very last Star Whale, and are torturing it to death, slowly, and feeding it with their own flesh and blood. They know, but they cannot live with it. So they are given a choice. They can protest against the treatment, the murder, the Police-state. But protest leads to their own death. The other option is to forget. Memory is erased, everyone carries on as if everything is normal. Fine.

Protest, or forget.

The Queen gets another option. She also knows. She is the highest authority. She can forget, or abdicate. She forgets, everything carries on. If she abdicates, the Star Whale is freed, the ship loses power, and everyone dies. Everyone. Every 10 years, she chooses to forget.

a different kind of queen

This is of course not real life, but Doctor Who: The Beast Below. There are parallels with the red pill/blue pill in The Matrix. And many parallels with life.

Having recently watched BBC Panorama’s Chocolate: the Bitter Truth, is it about the secret that we know most of our chocolate is produced using child slave labour  but we choose to forget. Because if we remembered, we couldn’t live with it. Children, fed to the monster. Protest? And not eat our favourite chocolate? Fat chance. We choose to forget, every time.


Is it about the fact that our economic system, built on debt and gambling and insatiable greed, is unsustainable, rewarding those at the top of the pile for gambling with someone else‘s money and laying off those at the bottom of the pile at the first sign of trouble. We all know, but we all need it, or we wouldn’t have our mortgages, our credit cards, our overdrafts. Protest, we lose easy credit and our greed is unsatisfied and we have to look inside our own heads and see how unfulfilled we are. Or forget, carry on as before, even after the great crash of 2009.We choose to forget, every time.

Or maybe it is about the one and only of his kind, not a Star Whale but the son of god, who took the world on his back and carried it to safety, but was mistrusted, tortured, and left to die. He who when people looked into his eyes, they could never forget, and ended up protesting too much. We try to forget, every time.

Maybe it is about us, we who know what Jesus has done, but cannot handle it, cannot accept it; who instead of accepting his sacrifice tie him up and want him to do our bidding, to do it our way, with us in charge, not accepting selfless love but making him a slave to our bidding. That, or we forget, we ignore it, we allow our relationship to become a habit to become a religion to become a prison and we ignore the Star Whale that powers the ship that leads us through the asteroid belt and to safety before we even asked it to.

Protest, forget, or abdicate? Abdicate. Hand over the power. Leave the world in the hands of the dying whale, and watch everything die with it. Or maybe, just maybe, you’ll be surprised that once you hand your power to the whale, the whale chooses life. Your life. Our life. My life.

To gain your life you must lose it. To hold power you must be prepared to give it up. Long live the Star Whale.

who's smiling?

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porn-again christian

14 01 2010

Porn again. And again. And again…

Lots of us view lots of porn. Christians included. Ones you know. They will probably never tell you, and you won‘t know which ones. The vast majority feel bad about it. Most wish they didn’t. Some are dealing with it. Some will deal with it tomorrow. And tomorrow. And tomorrow. Are you one? We all have issues that block the light we want to be in the world. This is a big one.

catchy t shirt

This issue matters. For lots of reasons. It is not simply harmless fun among consenting adults; there’s a more sinister underworld going on. It’s a billion pound industry intricately tied up with people trafficking, drugs, slavery, paedophilia and violence. People grow up thinking that other humans are simply for sex, for looking at, using, abusing and throwing away; or if not just for that, that real sexual encounters should resemble the encounters seen in magazines, in films, on the internet. Whether these are idealistically perfect or downright bizarre, this places huge pressure on real relationships. After all, what images of sex do you have in your head, and where are they from?

Some argue that the people involved are consenting. The vast majority are not. Even if they all were, would that make it right? Are human beings not worth massively, wonderfully more than what we can do with our bodies? Are human beings not precious and beautiful regardless of our ability to pose in front of a camera pretending we are having fun for a desperate and lonely remote viewer? When the bright lights and cameras are off, what of those women then? And those behind the camera, holding the sound cables…  what of them?

Let’s be careful.  Let’s not slag them off, call them names, separate ourselves with a wall of self-righteous indignation; let’s not simply be cruel to cover our shame, or outrage, or fear of people who are different. But let’s act.

We must talk about this. With our teenagers, yes. With our adults, yes. It must not be ignored and swept under the carpet because it is awkward or embarrassing or uncomfortable or not the sort of thing to talk about in church. Jesus said that even if we look at someone else lustfully we have committed adultery. That’s pretty strong, and pretty relevant. It affects what newspapers we buy, magazines we read, films we watch and TV programmes we view. If affects how we react to our friends and colleagues.

There are many motivations for acting against porn – preventing the images filling our minds, degrading us and the women we see; stopping the horrendous trade in people that sees many women, men and children trafficked into sex slavery and prostitution; and us being the salt and light of hope in a murky world of lust, fear and hopelessness. We are about light, not darkness.

Those of us who know the blindingly bright love of Jesus that exposes fully all of our indecencies and sordidness and forgives and loves and transforms and changes, don’t we want to just leave all that stuff behind? And don’t we want everyone to be free as well? Don’t we…?

Jesus loves porn stars. Jesus loves those who keep porn stars in business. Maybe that’s you. But Jesus does not love porn, and nor should we; and neither should we be a slave to it, as so many are, as we do not need to be enslaved to any addiction or temptation. And we also mustn’t simply turn a blind eye. May we make a difference. May we be different. May we not be porn-again Christians, but may we shine with light and glow with the Spirit and bring peace to the world’s rough edges. May we be gracious and compassionate, may we be pure and blameless. May we be filled with the Holy Spirit, real living temples of worship to God. May we be free. Amen.

catchy title

Some figures
You don’t have to try very hard to find porn. A few clicks on the mouse, some late night channel surfing, and you’ve got some explicit footage at your fingertips, on your phone, to watch where you like. 12% of all websites are porn; 8% of all emails are porn; 25% of all web searches are for porn; 20% of men admit to accessing porn at work; and 47% of Christians say it is a problem at home  (source: XXXChurch).

Action you can take NOW
I have installed a free piece of accountability software called X3Watch on my computer. It emails 2 friends if any ‘suspect’ sites are viewed. This post will probably set off an email because of its content. Vicars are particularly prone to laptop temptations.  4 in 10 pastors looked at porn today. Yes. that many.
So install X3Watch now, even before you ‘need’ to. Click on it NOW! There’s nothing quite like your wife finding out to stop you doing it! If it affects you directly, you need to have a difficult conversation with someone, to make yourself accountable. I’ve done it; you can too.  And if someone else has that conversation with you – be gracious.

Go to XXX Church for more information and to see their work within the porn industry in Las Vegas.. Get your church to take part in Porn Sunday. For more information on human trafficking and how you can get involved in stopping it, go to Stop the Traffik. Read The Girl Who Played With Fire for a novelists take on the sex industry. Ask your vicar or pastor to preach on it; get your youth worker to do a session about it. Watch them squirm. It’s important.

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2 fingers to the inheritance of vipers

15 12 2009

No babes in mangers but broods of vipers. No chestnuts roasting on an open fire but the rotten fruit of the children of Abraham. No royalty privilege but repentance.

brood of vipers

The set reading for this Sunday was a bit of surprise for those who think Christmas has already started. According to the Church of Retail and Commerce, it begins in September when the suntan lotion is replaced by tinsel and baubles. But according to the Church of England lectionary (like Pictionary only without the giggles), we are still firmly in advent. So, for us this week there were no shepherds or kings, no stables or donkeys. Instead, some fiery John the Baptist having a pop at his own followers.

The crowds follow him, as he preaches his message of repentance. He spots a bit of hypocrisy. Some people coming who are in it for the ride, going through the motions, don’t fully get it. He doesn’t have a quiet word. “You brood of vipers!” Wow. These are the people who are coming to him; not the classic scary street preacher having at go at those who don’t come. Why does he do this? Because repentance is a serious business. There is no room for elitism. And definitely no room for hereditary holiness: “Do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our Father'”. To a nation and belief system based on the assumption that they were the chosen ones and therefore were ok, this is big stuff.

We, of course, would never fall into that trap. We, the Church of England, the ‘proper’ church. We would never be arrogant enough to assume that we had it right. That all others were a pale reflection of proper worship, proper repentance, proper priesthood. Would we? We, the nation of the United Kingdom, a ‘proper’ country, would never assume we have a right to be healthy, wealthy, rich and comfortable at the expense of any others. We are the good people.  Aren’t we?

christmas crunch

When questioned, John goes on to give examples of living out true repentance, rather than paying it lip service. “Anyone who has two shirts should give to one who has none. Anyone who has food should do the same.” Here comes the Christmas crunch. In a time of excess of things and food, we are called to share. Our food our clothes our presents our chocolate our families our wealth. Not just some loose change as an after-thought.

This is bigger than you, me and our next-door neighbours. A global economy means global consequences. Who makes the clothes we wear? Who makes the chocolate we eat? If we close our ears to those difficult, very un-festive questions we are no better than a brood of hypocritical vipers looking for a salve to our conscience without a change to our lifestyle.

know this logo

Did you know that if your chocolate isn’t marked as fair-trade, then there is no guarantee the farmer was adequately paid? Or that slaves were not used in its production? Slaves! Often children. Most of our cheap chocolate comes from the Cote d’Ivoire, where use of chocolate slaves is rife. Now, thankfully there have been some significant victories in the world of chocolate production recently. Some of Cadbury’s Dairy Milk bars are now Fairtrade. Nestle have recently announced that their 4-finger Kit Kat bars will be Fairtrade from January. These are big hitters and this is big news. It is an encouragement to people who have been campaigning for years. But it is still a tiny proportion of the market.

christmas crunch

If we want to take seriously John the Baptist’s challenge; if we want to take seriously the true, raw, honest and painful meaning of Christmas; if we want to be followers of Christ and not the crowd, then we must act differently. It may make us unpopular. Our families may not like us only buying fair-trade chocolate as presents. It is more expensive, so we buy less. (Why is it more expensive? Ask Tescos why they cannot absorb the extra cost into their vast profits.)  Our families and friends may not like us turning our lives around to fit Jesus in rather than just turning the lounge around to fit the tree in.  Tell them why.  And tell Cadbury’s, tell Nestle. Thank them for the fair-trade 4-finger Kit Kat, then give them 2 fingers, and ask them why not that bar too. Because we have no inherited right to chocolate produced in the dark, underbelly of slavery. We have no inherited right to have 2 shirts when others have only 1. We have no inherited right to speak of repentance if it does not impact us where it hurts.

Now that is a Christmas message. And John ended up dead for it. Nice.

For more information on these issues go to the Stop the Traffik campaign, the Fairtrade Foundation, visit your local Oxfam shop, and remember to always ask for Fairtrade coffee in in your local coffee shop. Contact Cadbury’sNestle and Mars here to thank them and ask them for more Fairtrade products.

a slumdog sent[i]mentality

1 10 2009

D. It is written.

If you’ve seen Slumdog Millionaire, you will know.

Some things we see or experience or know can connect us with something bigger than ourselves, something awesome and powerful and terrifying and hopeless – true desperation, poverty, horror – and yet something so hopeful the hairs on the back of my neck rise and make me want to shout out loud in a slightly embarrassing way “you see, there is more!!”.

Something, dare I say, spiritual.

it is written

it is written

When I see a film like Slumdog or The Constant Gardener or The Interpreter or many others that deal with the harsh realities of life I find they connect me with my spirituality – as if we can ever be “disconnected” – far more profoundly than a church service or a beautiful mountain scene or those horrendously cheesy posters with a big dog a small cat and a cheerful bible text.

Spirituality can so easily become entwined with sentimentality that it becomes nothing more than something about positive feelings. About me, my life, my well-being. In popular speak it refers to that un-identifiable something or other, usually accompanied by a “warm feeling”. A spiritual experience usually means a personal, inward looking one.

The moment...

The moment...

But that is not a spirituality that sits well with Jesus. Sentimentality like that is too easy, too shallow; it cannot engage with true pain, with poverty, with torture, with utter hopelessness and desperation, with mediocrity or the plain dull; it cannot engage with the cross, the resurrection, with Jesus as Lord. It fears and resists being linked with a god who self-empties, who gives of himself and does not clutch his divinity or majesty but instead is willingly sent to be and to know and to love and to be loved by his human creations.

It is, of course, a start. We must feel and we must express sentiment. But that is not where it ends. There is a greater, deeper, more profound and beautiful and challenging and uncomfortable aspect to us that if we remain disconnected from it, we cannot be fully who we are created to be.

We are called not to have a sentimentality, but to have a sent mentality. It does not have “i” in the middle. So we must see films like Slumdog, or find some way to engage with real pain – which is far more than knowing it exists and feeling sorry for it – because it is to the middle of that pain that our spirituality is sent. To be part of the hope, the change, the light. That is the hope. Always the hope.

Our spirituality therefore must be robust. If it is weak it cannot stand among the slumdogs or the millionaires. And it must be centred on Jesus, not on the “I” of me. If it centres on me, then it has nothing to offer or give except me, and no-one to be sent except me, and that is not enough because only Jesus is. True spirituality must be about being sent to the mess, not sentimental about it.

What the kerfuffle?

20 08 2009

What the kerfuffle?

There’s a whole load of kerfuffle going on. A medical kerfuffle.  You’ve probably heard. I went to the doctor yesterday, to be greeted by a sign on the door that told me if I was feeling ill, to go away. I thought, but this is the doctors. Luckily, I wasn’t feeling ill, just recovering from a 4-inch hole in my tummy. Anyway…. There’s a virus going round causing a kerfuffle; it’s making some people ill, you see. Mostly not badly ill. Sometimes, unfortunately, yes. But most of the time, its just a bad flu. The swine. And yet…

Yesterday, there were 2 bombs in Baghdad that killed 95 people . There are a million orphans in Zimbabwe , read more on Zimbabwe from Nick Baines. 1.2 million children are trafficked every year, many to make our chocolate bars. Maybe 10% of the South African population has HIV/AIDS, with up to one third of pregnant women carrying the virus. Annie Lennox (she’s a singer, they know about these things) has called it a pandemic. There’s a familiar word.

But that is a pandemic virus problem that surely deserves a kerfuffle.

I wrote the following, about the human tendency to worry about our own more than others. I’m no great poet, but someone once said if you go where the poets are, you find out what people really think. The thing is, what do we then do about it?

The World Was Silent When We Died

the world was silent when we died.
silent, but not unseeing.
silent, but not innocent.
the anguish of a million souls
torn and cut and bleeding
denied, or ignored, or condoned.

by default the human cares only for its own.
the sufferings of its own a source of morbid fascination
but of its enemy, or its other
a different colour…

the numbers don’t add
the silence is quieter
the necks that keep turning away
growing stiffer.

© 2007 Kevin Lewis

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