Avoiding The News
I have a confession to make – I’m avoiding the news. All of last year I was an avid watcher of Newsnight and reader of Guardian online (a cliché I know!). The slightest reference to developments on Brexit from Twitter would immediately send me to checking the news headlines and reading articles. But since the election and our finally leaving the EU, I have to admit a reticence to engaging with what’s going on.
The main issue for me, has been the lack of hope. The news feels so bleak right now. And it’s mournful, almost apocalyptic tone even in Lent is really quite hard work, I suspect, for many of us. Lent may traditionally focus on sin and judgement but of course that’s not the whole picture. Lent’s focus on sin is only because sin has been vanquished. To dwell on death and sacrifice without knowing the hope of resurrection, is to be lost in hopelessness.
Over half term we went on holiday and I made the most of the opportunity to catch up on some reading by the pool. One of the books I read was ‘What I’m no longer talking to white people about race’ by Reni Eddo-Lodge. It offers a clear-sighted indictment of British society, chiefly focusing on the post Windrush years, but also with reference to not forgetting our past complicity in slavery. It was instructive to learn in more detail about the riots, particularly in the 80s, though I thought the critique of the male propensity for violence in the face of frustration, somewhat lacking. We cannot challenge white cis-het patriarchy without also challenging narratives of the necessity of violence. Nonetheless, what kept leaping out for me was how so many phrases could also be lifted and slightly rephrased so easily either to express the experience or frustrations or hurt of the LGBTI+ community, and/or of women. This is intersectionality.
For me, responding to the cries of intersectionality is at the heart of the gospel. It is the heart of the clarion call of Mary in the Magnificat, and the manifesto for the Kingdom, expressed by Jesus in the Beatitudes. Lent is not just a time to reflect on our need to repent our sins, but also to lament systemic injustice, war and violence, discrimination and exploitation. The gospel rallying cry to lift up the lowly, to declare God’s blessing on the poor, the suffering and disempowered, is the promise to all who hope that the reign of God, inaugurated through the cross and resurrection, is one that creates a new world order that is dramatically different to the entrenched, patriarchal one which intersectionality confronts.
One quote that really stood out to me Eddo-Lodge’s book was this:
‘There is a difference between saying “we want to be included” and saying “we want to reconstruct your exclusive system”.’ (p.184-5).
It’s easy and understandable to just want to have a seat at the table, but we need to remember that God’s table is organised on grounds antithetical to the world’s narrative of power and importance. It is my prayer this Lent, that the sick, the poor, those with disabilities, the LGBTI+ community, BAME people, women, all those suffering, hurt, maligned, and discriminated against, can have hope. That they will know there is a light at the end of the tunnel. We are one in Christ, and when we look into each other’s’ face, we see the face of another family member. So that as we repent and lament this Lenten season, we also remember that we can work together to build this vision of a different way of being community, inspired and held by the certain hope of Christ’s resurrection, in which we are all called to participate.
Jo Winn-Smith, Trustee