A source of life and service

In her poem ‘The Lord’s Prayer from Guatemala’ (1979), also published in Threatened with Resurrection/Amenazado de resurrección, Julia Esquivel envisages that:

churches abandon their structures of power and domination
and become instead a source of life and service
for all humankind.

For yours is the kingdom
belonging to no usurper,
yours is the power
belonging to no structure or organization,
and yours is the glory,
for you are the only God and Father
forever and ever, AMEN.

Multitasking and the divided self

Multitasking is the drive to be more than we are, to control more than we do, to extend our power and our effectiveness. Such practice yields a divided self, with full attention given to nothing.

This again is from Walter Brueggemann’s Sabbath as Resistance: Saying No to a Culture of Now. ‘Full attention given to nothing’ – as a teacher I’d say this is one of the most debilitating faults of our 24/7 society.

If I kill my enemy

Peaceableness toward enemies is an idea that will, of course, continue to be denounced as impractical. It has been too little tried by individuals, much less by nations. It will not readily or easily serve those who are greedy for power. It cannot be effectively used for bad ends. It could not be used as the basis of an empire. It does not afford opportunities for profit. It involves danger to practitioners. It requires sacrifice. And yet it seems to me that it is practical, for it offers the only escape from the logic of retribution.

… The logic of retribution implies no end and no hope. If I kill my enemy, and his brother kills me, and my brother kills his brother, and so on and on, we may all have strong motives and even good reasons; the world may be better off without all of us. And yet this is a form of behavior that we have wisely outlawed. We have outlawed it, that is, in private life. In our national life, it remains the established and honored procedure.

… Peaceableness is not … passive. It is the ability to act to resolve conflict without violence. If it is not a practical and a practicable method, it is nothing. … In the face of conflict, the peaceable person may find several solutions, the violent person only one.

Wendell Berry, ‘Peaceableness toward Enemies’, in Sex, Economy, Freedom and Community

One fingernail at a time

When Christians try to exercise power as if it were God doing it, cruelty and suffering and tyranny follow swiftly. In short order, we get the steely-eyed monks of the Inquisition trying to drag the Moors and Jews of Spain into perfect orthodoxy, one fingernail at a time; we get the theocrats of Protestant New England hanging Quakers …; we get holy war, with weapons of ever-increasing sophistication. We get Guantánamo.

Francis Spufford, Unapologetic

Not obliged to submit

Some further thoughts from Barbara Glasson’s A Spirituality of Survival: Enabling a Response to Trauma and Abuse:

Relationships should never be traps; they should hold and not bind. […] abuse is about the misuse of power and to ‘sur vivre‘ is to emerge from underneath the story of oppression.

We are most likely to ‘sur vivre‘ if we know that someone is searching for us, that there is a longing for us to re-surface among those who realize we are missing.

Abuse is not just a blip in an otherwise normal life, it is a total disruption of normality. What is perceived to be normal is in fact destructive.

However, the problem is that a woman suffering abuse:

believes that her experience is ‘just how it is’ and so fails to speak out for fear of destruction on the one hand and ridicule on the other.

In many ways a victim of … abuse does not have choices. Abuse happens to them, they are trapped, silenced, damaged … by others who have taken away any sense of their autonomy or self-worth, they are made into objects.

Those … whose lives have been violated, subsumed and stolen … are called to find freedom, safe enough space in which to claim life and flourish. They are not obliged to submit to repressive, self-denying demands but to find strength and authenticity through the bringing to light of the truth.

A way to flourish

I believe in a gospel that calls us to ‘life in all its fullness’. This is not just divine wishful thinking but the call to live our lives on top of oppression and abuse and enable others to do the same. If abuse is about the deadly effect of misappropriated power, then I believe that God calls forth life, life from under the oppressions that seek to crush us, and begins to give voice to another way. God desires us to live in a way that subverts abuses. God’s way is not a way of death, but a way to flourish.

Barbara Glasson, A Spirituality of Survival: Enabling a Response to Trauma and Abuse