Monthly Archives: September 2011

Stereotypes

Stereo-types

We have ‘stereotypes’ coming out both ears.  The result isn’t worth listening to.  But we do, we all do, and we all subscribe thoughtlessly to stereotypes because it is easier and it feeds our suspicions and fears.

I fear we have all but forgotten the art of being comfortable with who we are, where we came from, the colour of our skin, the tribe where we are connected.  We have both forgotten and been told we are skating perilously close to bigotry, racism and discrimination when we speak preferentially about our world, our communion, our smell, look and style.  But it is a weak inclusion that causes real exclusion.

We can be proud, without succumbing to pride, of our heritage, differences, and the colour we all bring to the table.  The world is richer, more marvellous because of our rejoicing in what genuinely and properly causes a ‘discriminating,’ an actual difference.  But this word is so politically loaded it has made simpering fools out of us – we cower under its fierce public gaze.

If I can’t, or am discouraged from saying I like being who I am I will never fully appreciate those who are not me, which is most of the world.  All I am left with are stereotypical views of others. I am forced to paint a community with one brush, or maybe two, if I’m not colour-blind.  And it is never painting, it is always tarring.

It is simply impossible to make one size fit all, and every time we do we are victims of poor discernment – a lack of true discrimination.

This was forcibly brought to attention with the recent riots in London.  It amazed us who got involved in the fiery fracas.   It wasn’t all racially motivated as originally suspected.  It wasn’t merely the poor venting on those ‘with.’  On the contrary, it involved young women, who certainly didn’t need another television.  It wasn’t all misguided youth, and to further alarm us it involved young girls, really young.  Perhaps they had got bored with binge drinking and thought binge recklessness would be better.  Who knows, and yes you are right – I succumbed to a stereotype.  They are hard to avoid.

But stereotypes do a disservice to the real reasons these things happen, which we are sometimes at a loss to discover.  But we want reasons so we descend to stereotypical judgments.  It satisfies the need to have a reason.  Do we feel safer behind generalisations, behind broad-brush application of opinion?  I suspect we do.  That way we can stand at a critical distance, justified in not connecting or bothering to look a little further than our preferences and prejudices.  Safer indeed – a dangerous safety.

What then can we resort to if we aren’t to languish in stereotypes?  What is sufficient to not be blinded by the ease of the stereotype?  How do we look at others without them being suspect ‘others,’ not our people, less deserving of everything we take for granted.  And heaven help the person who tries to take from us what we happily would take from others, even if only in our conversation.  How do we avoid, can we avoid the stereotypical view?  Can we see others apart from the tarring?

Yes.  Empathically so!  The only way possible, there is no other, is to love people, to see them through the strength of our sense of being thoroughly at peace with difference, therefore celebrating their differences.   Then we can see others as ‘ones’ more than ‘manys.’  Love for others doesn’t minimise difference nor act as though it doesn’t exist.  It does exist, but it doesn’t matter.

“Love is patient and kind.  Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude.  It does not demand its own way.  It is not irritable and it keeps no record of being wronged.  It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out.  Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through all circumstances.”

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Not a Magic Wand

THE BIBLE IS NOT A MAGIC WAND

(sorry friends)

 

By Valerie Donati

 

The Bible is not a magic wand, a disappointing if not liberating truth that I’ve discovered in recent years.  Disappointing because wouldn’t a magic wand make life a lot easier? Liberating because it takes some of the pressure off. When I first came back to my faith almost 20 years ago my first act was to believe for a change in my finances, which were in a dismal state. I was consistently living beyond my means, I never paid my bills on time, I had no vision for how I was ever going to get out of an increasingly dangerous downward spiral aside from “hitting it rich,” which I desperately hoped would happen (I was writing the next bestselling novel after all, wasn’t I?) I finally started tithing for the first time when I hit an all-time low (I had just been fired from my job, got diagnosed with a pre-cancerous condition and my mentor died unexpectedly). I didn’t have the money to tithe—there is never a good time, by the way. But as I stepped out in faith that God would help me if I believed He would, coupled with action, my financial situation turned around, in dramatic fashion. Within 10 years I went from earning $20,000 to over $300,000 a year with potential for much, much more.

During that time I transitioned from being an employee to running my own business—a fifteen-year process. Before I launched my company I got a scripture from the Book of Job that assured me, among other things, that God would “make a covenant with the stones of the field on my behalf.” In other words, God would overcome all obstacles. When the GFC hit I was already down $250,000 from financial mismanagement within my company and then I watched as over $1M was slowly eaten away as clients canceled deals. I had been tithing above 10 percent, giving in the hundreds of thousands and serving in church. I had always relied on what the scripture said about “pressed down, shaken and flowing over…” I was experiencing the opposite of this phenomenon, and I had been so faithful. I couldn’t figure out what I had done wrong. It was an extremely sobering experience, very scary for me since I didn’t have a financial backup. I reminded myself that the Bible said if you have faith the size of a mustard seed you could say to the mountain, be cast into the sea. My mountain was my growing business debt.  During those days I began to realize that having even that much faith is a challenge.

It’s here that I go back to my love of the Old Testament prophets. In Hebrews 11 we find these men toiling away for God and all kinds of nasty things happen to them anyway, including being sawed in half. After all their sacrifice they had not reached their promised land, far from it. They had faith, if anyone did. Faith in God, faith in what He had promised them and the people of Israel. Some did ok like Abraham, some not so much, like John the Baptist. Their faith could have seemed lost along the way, but they didn’t give up.

So, no, these days I don’t use the Bible as a magic wand. But that doesn’t mean I don’t think the Word of God (Jesus) can’t cover and heal our problems, because I do believe that, wholeheartedly. In my case, my company didn’t suddenly pop out of debt, but as He said He would do, I have been protected from ruin and we are solidly making our way back. The issue isn’t the Bible, the challenge is our understanding of both the Word and the life we receive when we believe.  If you see each day as a gift, if you see the people around you as brothers and sisters doing the best they can to keep going, if you see a mouthful of water as a beautiful thing, an embrace as a treasure, you’ll see God. And when you remember what He was willing to do for you, and that you have a home waiting for you, the biggest problems start to become a little bit smaller. In other words, our perspective changes. We have not been left alone, His Word (Jesus) is here to comfort us. In a world of freewill bad things do happen, but God is still good. The Word may not “act” like a magic wand, but it promises so much more than simply making “everything go our way.” The Word promises us life. Remember… “Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?” Amen.


Discipleship – No Thanks!

Discipleship – No Thanks!

 

 

Romantic notions of discipleship proliferate but the truth of it, the truth about it, is much less convenient – much less. Did I say, ‘much less?’  Actually it is worse than a mere inconvenience.  Inconvenience would be a relief, a stroll in the park, happy days indeed.

Let me say it as plainly as I can.  You should avoid at all costs allowing anyone to disciple you – it hurts.  And whatever you do don’t pray for, provoke, imagine or precipitate a process of discipleship that resembles in any hue the sort Jesus demanded of the twelve.  It is a wonder they lasted at all, and can you imagine the damage their tender souls incurred as he spoke to them in no uncertain and confronting terms.  No wonder Peter went back to his fishing.  Paul was fortunate enough to have missed this process; mind you his initial encounter was hardly life affirming and encouraging and certainly didn’t take into account that he was only a confused but, deep down, really nice person.

If you’re not prepared to feel like a miscreant or a failure, or be washed by a warm flush of embarrassment then you aren’t constituted for even the mildest version of this brutal act of transformation.  Did I say ‘transformation’ because that is the alleged goal of this medieval form of soul torture?  It is much easier and preferable to plod along, stumbling and bumbling your way through life, blissfully oblivious to your actual effect on others.

And what in the world was Solomon prattling on about when he penned such mystifying maxims as:  “If you had responded to my rebuke, I would have poured out my heart to you.” And, “Blows and wounds cleanse away evil, beatings purge the inmost being.” And what of this adage, “A rebuke impresses a man of discernment, more than a hundred lashes a fool.”  And what of this difficult and dark saying, “Better is open rebuke than hidden love.  Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.”  Kisses sound good to me – what’s the problem?

I’d hoped that discipleship was about my preferences, my natural agilities and gifts.  But apparently not; it is, they say, about our character and especially it in its natural messed up state.  It is about those things I can’t see – looking out from these eyes.  It is about things I consider normal, but apparently not God.  It is about things that I don’t wish to address nor frankly see the necessity of addressing but apparently God does.  It is about things that irk others but that I barely notice much less care about.  And I get this sneaking and uncomfortable suspicion that the deeper the issue the stronger the reproof required to dislodge it.  “Get behind me Satan.” – That sort of thing.

It seems, and I know that it appears I am making a case for discipleship but I am only commenting – not endorsing, Jesus did his discipleship by example primarily. You had to be around him to see it and therefore get it.  But it appears he had another method.  He would speak direct to attitudes and misconceptions.  The disciples, poor souls, heard direct and strong.  He would rebuke them in front of each other. He would call a ‘devil’ a devil and worldliness for what it was.  No subtle amelioration here.  Glad I wasn’t there.  Miracles are one thing – public rebukes another.

Discipleship – no thanks!


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