A post from Oct 2018

I looked back tonight to find a post from 2018 where I reflect on a coming crisis. Here is the post that can be clicked on.

Here are a few excerpts from that post:

I have been very exercised about some of the significant global crises that are on the horizon. For the past 3 weeks I have been seeing a very serious economic upheaval. Then a few days ago the global climate report was published with the ‘we have twelve years to address this’.

The façades are opening. It is not simply that we will be able to see the bizarre nature of the Western economic system that only operates if there is debt (debt will always result somewhere in slavery and at some measure an inevitable eating tomorrow’s bread today) or the paucity of public political debate but we will be able to see some very deep roots… unless we close our eyes to what is being revealed. The familiar can close the façades down, although I wonder if we (believers) will even be able to do that this time round. And beyond the familiar there are factors that hamper our sight. Those will be found in our commitment to a shallow Gospel that does not challenge nationalism, patriotism, patriarchy and the deep inequalities in society. If we do not heed at this time that the Gospel is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, nor male and female we will find our eyes will not even see what is before us and we will simply look for ‘normal’ to be restored.

What is being exposed in the days that lie ahead (and I am sure much more can be added to this) are:

  • greed and consumerism
  • misogyny
  • protectionism that demonises the ‘other’

I suggest we have the next two years, when either a level playing field will be established or we will leave the next generation a Herculean task to bring things forward to something that resembles a God shape for society.

Mis-fitting – to be fit for God’s world

On October 13, 2018 (Will we make a difference) I wrote:

The façades are opening. It is not simply that we will be able to see the bizarre nature of the Western economic system that only operates if there is debt (debt will always result somewhere in slavery and at some measure an inevitable eating tomorrow’s bread today) or the paucity of public political debate but we will be able to see some very deep roots… unless we close our eyes to what is being revealed. The familiar can close the façades down, although I wonder if we (believers) will even be able to do that this time round. And beyond the familiar there are factors that hamper our sight. Those will be found in our commitment to a shallow Gospel that does not challenge nationalism, patriotism, patriarchy and the deep inequalities in society. If we do not heed at this time that the Gospel is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, nor male and female we will find our eyes will not even see what is before us and we will simply look for ‘normal’ to be restored.

What is being exposed in the days that lie ahead (and I am sure much more can be added to this) are:

greed and consumerism
misogyny
protectionism that demonises the ‘other’

The inevitable result will not just be trade wars, but war. It will not simply be a major shift to extreme right wing policies (as we see rise in Europe) but the establishing of a neo-nazi totalitarianism that will eventually be seen not be favourable to faith, including that of the Christian faith.

Yesterday I read an article in the Guardian (Spain Turkey far right Vox culture war) that makes for both insightful and frightening reading. In the name of values how an anti-feminist position is central to what is taking place. The goal in Europe the article says is:

Not a new Europe, not even an old Europe, but a Europe modelled on an imaginary, mythical past. A monolithic Europe dedicated to halting and reversing progress.

‘Might is right’ has to give way to humility being the path. I remember many years ago taking a prayer week where the working together of the body of Christ was a challenge. Everyone had their own agenda and each expression was more ‘right’ than the other. As I prayed that morning I sensed strongly that a pathway of humility was the only way forward. One of the leaders who was participating in the week was away on business in London that day. He came back saying that he had been praying about the lack of unity, and as he came over a hill and could see the city in front of him the Lord said to him ‘humility is the path forward’.

As a male it is very hard for me to recognise misogyny. Is it in me? I would be foolish to claim that it was not… that is the problem so often. We assume we are free but fall painfully and blindly short.

I am more convinced than ever that there is a fresh discovery of the Gospel. Yes there will be understandings of the cross that Tom Wright describes as ‘pagan’ that will have to be jettisoned, or at least radically revised. There will be perspectives concerning the work of the Spirit that will expose the gap between being ‘born again’ and yet harbouring and fostering old fallen creation values. At the heart of all this will be an incredible new vision of humanity. This will never take place without feminisation. Whether the church leads in this or not is unimportant. The lead might well come from the world. It might well come from the political world. In Spain the dormant seeds of Paul’s Gospel are in the land (and in Turkey, referencing the Guardian article, the fruit of the seeds have been cut off – the seven churches of Revelation… but the seed remains). Maybe they are beginning to germinate at this time. Maybe this is why there is such a push for this one-cultural Europe. Maybe the enemy is moving because the Spirit of God is hovering. Certainly we need to push for this again. We have our battles in Spain. Our focus is on the political scene, ever grateful for the women who have humbly taken their place.

If there is any value in this post I dedicate it to the memory and testimony of Rachel Held Evans (photo at top… check out her writings). Too young (37 years old) to die. But the seed will continue. (Health Updates). One newspaper described her as a ‘hero to Christian misfits’. Come on you misfits!

Dreams can help

The above image is of the ‘Toros de Guisando’. They are ancient statues of bulls or possibly wild boars. There are a number of these in north west Spain – these ones are 70kms from Madrid and we recently paid them a visit. They are also located at a very historic site in Spain where a treaty shaped the future of the peninsula.

Gayle had two dreams about wild boars and in the first one she was being pushed around by one of them. In previous dreams concerning animals she has known that they represented something coming against her and also she has known what the strategy was to deal with those animals but this was the first with boars and in the dream she did not know how to respond. (Animals in dreams can be a challenge, for they are even that within Scripture. The serpent is on a spectrum from the devil, to a symbol of healing, wisdom right through to symbolically containing eschatological hope!) She then had a second dream concerning wild boars. The dreams were either side of a very significant women’s march in Spain, and we knew that whatever the boars represented they were at least connected with patriarchy, misogyny and the domesticating of the feminine. I was reading a book on Madrid in between the dreams and came across the many statues of bulls and/or boars that are mainly in the north of Spain. The book focused on the well known ‘Toros de Guisando’, some 70 kms to the West of Madrid. Connecting the dots we knew this was a place we had to go to and pray. They are located in the place where a Treaty was signed in 1468 that is arguably the treaty that opened the way for the unification of Spain under the ‘Catholic monarchs’, resulting in the driving out of the Muslims (1492 the last kingdom in Granada to surrender that year), the expulsion of the Jews and the sending out of Columbus (1492) to discover the new world / destroy an existing civilisation.

In these last years there has been a real battle on for the soul of Spain. At a time when there is potential for change there are two possibilities. If history is not dealt with there is a pull back and old entrenchments in the land are re-established. We have listened to language in these past months that is shocking, language literally pulling on ‘the spirit of Columbus’. A party leader recently went to these bulls of Guisando. He has taken his party much further to the right. These public figures might not know what they are pulling on but pull on it they do. Our responsibility is to be awake enough to ensure that old dangerous ‘spirits’ are not reactivated. I suspect many places are like this at this time. It indicates a time of change is here, and warns us that we could equally lose ground that has been gained thus far.

Many aspects came together in and through these recent days – we have prayed into Columbus Day and have almost certainly been on camera when we planted on the eve of that celebration some subversive art. Interestingly since the year we did that the day itself has been challenged and for the first time boycotted by certain officials. We prayed of course into the ReConquista and the subsequent events for almost a whole year.

We have had a Spanish flag for 10 years and we have known for some time that we needed to bury the flag somewhere at the right time. We have had no further discussion on this, but we both came to the conclusion that it needed to be at ‘Toros de Guisando’. Whoever said it first, the other said – that’s what I have had in my thinking for a few days… Anyway this is what we did at that place.

We first cut the flag up into 17 pieces, one for each of the governmental communidades of Spain. We did not burn the flag but symbolically cut it up, buried it soaked in oil in the ground where the treaty was made, calling for a Spain to rise up that will be a true reflection of convivencia (co-habiting of space that allows for diversity, difference, dialogue in the spirit of fraternity – which we see as the heart of Paul’s Gospel).

Part of the key response Gayle had to make in respect of the wild boars has been to hold her position and not give way to patriarchal closing down of space. This seems key at this time. There is a spirit of intimidation loosed… time to hold our ground.

How do you spell that?

Misogyny

One of those difficult words to spell but a very important word at this time. We can learn a lot as to what is on the agenda by looking at what rises in the world – both the good and the bad… and of course the mixed. God is at work in the whole world, not simply in the church, and I also consider that answers to prayer often take place in the world and we miss them because we have been looking for the manifestation in the church. We are here for the world, so it should not surprise us what rises there – and we should not be expecting some level of perfection either.

I appreciated the comments on the previous post which somehow has seemed to hit a resonance for many. I was interested that I had highlighted as one of the three aspects being exposed the sin of misogyny which has made me think a little since writing. When we track sin as outlined in the Fall we can see that a root and a manifestation is greed and consumerism – ‘I saw, I desired and I consumed…’ The classic gender war Scripture flows from there – ‘your desire will be for your husband but he will rule over you’ – and the patriarchal nature of society certainly bears witness to the accuracy of that statement. And from there we can read what follows as resulting in an increased protectionism and separation, with Empire building being the aspect that draws people together – we will make a name for ourselves. (Gen 3-11.)

The issue of male and female is not a side issue to the Gospel. It is the most fundamental of the ‘other’ relationships. Male and female together made in the image of the Tri-une God (who is neither male nor female but both feminine and masculine). Two in the image of God and not a triad of humans? In the right relationship to the other something is created that is distinct from the two yet dependent on those two. I am not talking about a third gender but of something intangible yet very real. Love for the other is created. Only when that organic and spirit to spirit unity is expressed can we say the image of God is present – that image is not defined by physicality but relationally. If misogyny is present a whole raft of demonising the other will arise. Jesus, the one truly human in the image of God, spelt out what is at the core of God’s being when he called us to love the enemy. The enemy, the one who is opposed to us, who sets out to intimidate, control, manipulate and put us to death. The enemy is beyond the one I create from my fear, and imagine to be my enemy. We will have to move beyond the fear of the immigration wave! It was this seed that Jesus was planting in us through his death on the cross ‘while we were yet enemies’.

If we cannot get the fundamental, and first base relationship, of male and female expressed in egalitarian ways we will really struggle to move forward to any real substance of shalom.

The lid has come off (façades?) in many situations. It does not mean that everything expressed is totally accurate (why do we expect perfection?) but there is something happening. The culture of sexual abuse and intimidation, unjust salary differences… The lid is not going back down. In the body of Christ we will need to example something clearly. If not then we can only expect to see an increase of language and action that demonises the other.

In the scheme of calling for big changes there is always something so simple, so small right at hand that we can respond with. We often miss it as it seems irrelevant. But the small and the at hand is the leverage point to shift something bigger. What can be shifted that seems so immovable if we go deeper and allow ourselves to be delivered (men) from the misogynist culture? What can shift when women faithfully inhabit their space even to the discomfort of those who resist?

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