Tag Archives: liberation

Fear and other motivations…

Since our most recent blockade at the Atomic Weapons Establishment at Burghfield last week, I’ve been thinking a lot again about fear, stress, and what it is that guides and motivates us. On our way to the base, I was feeling particularly nervous – the combination of the practical things that needed to happen to make our action work well, combined with the potential legal penalties made for a rich cocktail that fed fear and nerves, and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one feeling that way! Fear can be pernicious and I’ve found one of it’s little tactics is found in the desire to ‘find a way out’ can be powerful; the little voice saying “you don’t have to do this, you don’t have to be here, it’s OK to bail out…” can sometimes be making a lot of sense, but it can also be a voice driven by fear.

On that journey, driving through the Berkshire countryside at half past six in the morning, I found myself looking for a source of motivation, of something to be guided by that wasn’t stress, fear, or even determination and desire to be effective (whose counterpoint is the fear of being ineffective) – I was looking for something that put the action we were about to take into a wholly different context, beyond the pressure of being right or wrong, beyond effectiveness and failure. I wanted my actions that day to be born out of love, and while that feels easy to type, and easy to say in comfortable, warm, safe spaces, it didn’t feel immediately easy while sat in that van!

Looking out of the windows though, we were met with a deer running across the road, beautiful rays of dawn light through big, leafy trees, gentle mists, and – as we approached the boundary fence of one of the most abhorent places in the country- a bird (a Jay, I think) flew briefly fly alongside the van. Breathing gently and purposefully – finding those little seeds of joy and love, as Thich Nhat Hanh might say – and thinking about the beauty of the creation we’re so blessed to live among, every day, became a wonderfully rich source of guidance and strength, taking me a long way from the logic of fear. As we approached the gate of the base, opened the doors and got the lock-ons out of the van, jumped into the road, and blocked the gate, I felt glad to be where I was and doing what I was doing – once we were in the road, I felt happy and content (a long way from where I’d felt a few minutes previously!) Managing to see the world with eyes of love felt like a deep moment of prayer; I felt like was able to carry my fear much more gently afterwards.

Reading back, it can seem almost trite to recall those minutes in the approach in such a way, but the experience was once again a lesson in not letting fear be the sole, overwhelming force that it can become. There are other, brighter, lighter, more gentle emotions and experiences to be guided by, and we’re surrounded by them every day. While we were locked on, we witnessed a Red Kite treat the SOCPA law – which consider anyone who dares enter designated areas as a terrorist – with a beautiful disregard for the ridiculous contractions humans have set around particular areas of land, as it flew over the base! Even when legitimate and logical, fear is paralysing and disabling; it can stop us acting with the love we hope to. Seeing the world with eyes of love, even just very briefly, is empowering and nurturing. I felt lucky to be able to take the action we did, and glad to briefly find those little seeds of joy and love that fed my spirit while lying in that road.

In peace

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The face of Christ

This week, I attended a vigil in Hackney, to remember the life and death of a local man who had been living on the streets.  For half an hour, we stood at the spot where Miro was assaulted, which left him with the injuries that he later died of.  We stood in the dark, and the rain, and remembered his life.  We remembered his wife, child and friends in Poland.  We remembered the often cruel and unforgiving economic systems that lead people into such hardship. We remembered that Miro died alone, and we remembered that we knew little about Miro, the nature of his life on our doorsteps, how far removed we all were from his experience.

During the service, we heard a reading from Matthew, chapter 25;

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick, or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me’.”

Hearing these words, in that setting, was sobering. To see – in the face of the hungry or thirsty, the lonely or sick, imprisoned, homeless, destitute, war ravaged – the face of the divine – what can that possibly mean?   For me, a tentative answer is that this passage is telling us that it is not the case that, because we work for peace and justice for – and alongside – the oppressed and marginalised, we might encounter God in some utterly distant realm beyond this life, as a ‘reward’ for our ‘good deeds’. Instead, it seems that the encounter with the oppressed and marginalised is the encounter with God, that it is there that we find eternal life.  In this parable, eternal life is built in our relationships, interactions, our work, our pursuits, and critical to that is a life lived in solidarity with the marginalised and oppressed.

This notion – of Christ being absolutely present in the midst of our world – is one that has particular resonances at Christmas.  For me, the incarnation is the move from God being utterly beyond, distant, to God being utterly present, in our midst, becoming completely vulnerable to the ways of our world.  In the story of the birth of Jesus, we find an image of the divine which forces us to stop looking beyond our own lives, away from our own world, as disconnected from our own communities, to a God we discover absolutely in our midst, as inseparable from the reality of ourselves and our sisters and brothers, as intrinsic to the very fabric of our social reality.   My encounter this week at the vigil reminded me of the essential truth of Christ – that to claim a new-born child in first century Palestine is divine means nothing nothing, unless we can also sit with a homeless man, in London, in the 21st century, and see Christ.

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We act and pray for a world without war, the absence of violence in all of its manifestations.  We put down the sword, we blockade the nuclear bases and arms fairs, we go over the fences, we withdraw our taxes, we picket the embassies.  We live in community, we refuse to use violence even if faced with violence ourselves, we refuse military service.  We resist the ‘Pax Romana’, and through our actions, we show how our governments and economies are addicts of violence and war.

But like an addict, we have to show too that the mere absence of violence doesn’t mean we have overcome the temptation to violence, to death – I cannot believe that this is all that the peace of Christ is.  Even when we are not ourselves at war, or behaving with physical violence we repeatedly, everyday, in thought and word and deed, demonstrate the power that violence and death have over us.  We swear at drivers as they narrowly miss us on our bicycles, we legitimise our ongoing participation in systems of injustice, we fail to consider the impacts of our actions on others.  The peace of Christ, to be born again, is to live a way of life, where the culture of death has no power – it cannot simply mean the absence of something (overt, active violence).  It is a way which negates not only the violence of war and global economic injustice, but also means we encounter – and renounce – our own addiction to the culture of death that feeds so much suffering in ourselves, our relationships and in our communities.

When we put ourselves in the way of the war machine, I believe we are creating a schism between the world of violence and death, and the ways of peace, love and life that we sometimes see glimpses of appear that bit more possible.  The world of violence, which normally fits around us – like a glove – so easily that we don’t even recognise it, suddenly doesn’t quite work any more.  Like a rocket choosing a new trajectory, we begin to move away, onto a different path.  As we continue on this journey, violence will continue lack the operable power over us that it once had, and we will continue to be led on our search for something more life affirming, a way of love.

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A Vision of a Persecuted Church

After reading this article – http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2013/aug/15/rowan-williams-persecuted-christians-grow-up – and chatting with a friend over the a pint, we started to imagine what Christians in the UK could to do to be considered persecuted, and wrote this little story.  Continue reading

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