Nick Spencer, in his book Asylum and Immigration: A Christian Perspective on a Polarised Debate, talks about compassion for the vulnerable being the critical litmus test of a society’s social health – a truly sobering reminder of the state of our society’s declining social health, I thought. Spencer goes on to say that
a nation should be proud rather than grudging in its acceptance of the truly vulnerable, There are few higher callings than to clothe the naked, feed the hungry and house the homeless.
I was struck by these two thoughts of Anne Dufourmantelle today:
- Her talking about ‘the audacity that leads a philosophical utterance to make us desert those dwellings of the mind where reason lives as master, when for an instant astonishment makes reason a guest’. That’s just brilliantly put.
- Her insight into ‘the necessity of exile in order for “oneself as another” … to come into being’. No experience of exile – no deep transformation; that, too, makes sense to me.
Both thoughts are from Jacques Derrida and Anne Dufourmantelle, Of Hospitality: Anne Dufourmantelle Invites Jacques Derrida to Respond.
Women come off pretty badly in Christianity. Through Original Sin they are held responsible for everything in the world since the Garden of Eden. Women are weak, unclean, condemned to bear children in pain as punishment for the failures of Eve, they are the temptresses who turn the minds of men away from God; as if women were more responsible for men’s sexual feelings than the men themselves! Like Simone de Beauvoir says, women are always the ‘other’, the real business is between a man in the sky and the men on the ground. In fact women only exist at all as a kind of divine afterthought, put together out of a spare rib to keep men company and iron their shirts, and the biggest favour they can do Christianity is not to get dirtied up with sex, stay chaste, and if they can manage to have a baby at the same time then they’re measuring up to the Christian Church’s ideal of womanhood – the Virgin Mary.
This, it has to be said, is a pretty good summary of what has unfortunately and for far too long been a prevalent attitude within Christianity. Intriguingly, this summary is offered by Mary, one of the characters in Ian McEwan’s short story ‘Psychopolis’.
No matter where in the world he may be, no matter what may be his power of protest, or his means of expression, the poet finds himself ultimately where I am. Alone, silent, with the obligation of being very careful not to say what he does not mean, not to let himself be persuaded to say merely what another wants him to say, not to say what his own past work has led others to expect him to say.
Thomas Merton, Dancing in the Water of Life: Seeking Peace in the Hermitage
The fields will laugh, the woods will be drunk with flowers of rebellion, the night will make every fool sing in his sleep, and the morning will make him stand up in the sun and cover himself with water and with light.
Thomas Merton, Raids on the Unspeakable
… the only hammer in the house belongs to Tony, and for anything other than simple nail-pounding she looks in the Yellow Pages. Why risk your life? … She has never seen the point of lawns. Given the choice she’d prefer a moat, with a drawbridge, and crocodiles optional.
No deep wisdom here perhaps, but I can relate to these lines from Margaret Atwood’s novel The Robber Bride. There are days though when crocodiles are a must!
The serious doubter, the sincere enquirer, the person who hesitates a long time on a threshold, these are all people to be honoured and encouraged, not, as is so often the case, either demonized or cajoled.
Malcolm Guite, The Word in the Wilderness