Friday, September 4, 2015

Pictures of the boy.

The image posted on facebook, used in the media (pixelated or with an advanced warning) of a little boy washed up on a Greek beach, has become (another similar) symbol of the crisis these people are in.

The ethics of posting these photos are varied. Some will not post them. To be transparent, I have shared some of these images. We talk about dignity, about privacy. We say we do not want to objectify or further victimize the person through use of their image. There is truth to this, but there is also a danger.

People who are fleeing war and persecution (economic or other), are people. But as they flee, they become reported as something else. First of all an internally displaced person, then we apply the term migrant. Then refugee, which unless this person has been given that status, is still an asylum seeker or a failed asylum seeker. Some become stateless.
Categories are established, and whereas we need to know what the appropriate response is to each person and their particular needs, we nonetheless categorise and pigeon hole, creating a number in a system. Faceless numbers, burdens. This is dehumanizing. We continue to objectify and marginalise them. So instead of Aylan Kurdi, we have 1 of 2400 people who have drowned crossing The Mediterranean this year. And that is not so bad is it? Out of 200 000, statically, things are ok. We’re sorry about it happening, but hey, this is life.

But a picture. An image of a human. A child. Even words cannot describe him or her. Pictures transmit more than data, they strike us to our very core, emotionally and mentally. To see young Aylan Kurdi lying on the sea’s edge, his life long gone, we re-attach humanity to him and all those who are doing everything to find safety, including perilous sea crossings. I have a 4 and a 2 year old. I never want them to be in this situation, and if I am to be human, and consistent, I do not wish to see anyone else in that same situation.  

When I was 8 years old I saw an image on TV of a starving Ethiopian woman and her child. You have probably seen similar images of the man-made famine in Ethiopia in the early 1980s. This image burned into my mind and is partly why I got involved in relief work, and why I now work in recovery work. Images have their place, and must be used wisely. Sometimes to not publish or distribute them is the wise choice, sometimes we must publish. We must avoid voyeurism.

But the following danger is the greatest: are you going to pretend you never saw this picture? Is that the state of your humanity? Would you prefer to dehumanize these problems?

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Here we are again.

There’s a lot of hysteria in some parts of Christianity right now with the gay-wedding ruling in the USA. Some are almost hysterical with joy, others, with outrage. It was always going to be a contentious decision, as the recent decades of culture wars have shown. There are predictions of doom, ongoing bashing of homosexual people and overall panic from those who resolutely hold to a certain biblical viewpoint of the topic.
It is a passionate issue (no pun intended) and people are most vitriolic when their strongly held convictions feel threatened. This is a natural response in any arena.  Couple this with a fear of God that says all will be lost if this is allowed, then we see how people can get to frothing point.

There are a few points that need to be examined, one of which I will look at in this post.

I find it at best, ignorant, and worst, hypocritical, when Christians believe that allowing homosexual marriage is the end of ‘the’ nation, America, and any other nations who have already accepted it. This fixation on homosexuality, and sexuality in general, is in need of attention. To put the homosexual issue up on a pedestal and ignoring all the actual nation-ending actions that the Bible talks about, is hypocrisy. Why? 

Because Christians, at least it seems many of them, are no-where near as vitriolic about the injustice to the poor, the injustice to those nations who have had war waged against them, the injustice of structural poverty and the like. Probably because they support these structures. These injustices are what will destroy nations, as we are witnessing right now, while Christians hide behind the LGBT veil. Maybe the LGBT is a veil to hide all the unjust institutional actions that some Christians happily follow?

A case in point is Sodom. Today, the story of Sodom is seen as a major proof text of what will happen to a town, or possibly nation, which condones homosexuality. It is a popular text, probably because it feeds the idea of God’s absolute intolerance of sin. This is a legal position and I won’t be dealing with it here. But what has been construed as God’s anger toward homosexuality, and only homosexuality, is a complete misrepresentation of the Sodom story. I hope that any of the Godly men who would come across the same situation as Lot would also throw their virgin daughters to the throbbing masses to be gang raped, so as to appease an angry God. I’m sure God would be pleased.

The clincher is this, and it is an obscure little passage (2 whole verses in the Bible), so maybe we can disregard it (?), but Sodomy is this: wanting sexual intercourse with angelic beings. A common desire back then, and seemingly a common desire now, if the growing section of dark romance novels in the bookstores are anything to go by. Sodomy being interpreted as homosexuality or sexual acts with children is a misnomer.

So the Sodomites did some horrific things, and a Godly man would happily sacrifice his daughters to the gang outside, but God says that their sin was…..? Ezekiel 16:49:

Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. They were haughty and did detestable things before me. Therefore I did away with them as you have seen.

So God did do away with them. And if you are part of an institution or organization that aids, implements and maintains a system and structure of oppression of the poor, then your days are numbered. And if you, your church, thinks that paying your tithe, or giving scraps to the poor is a get-out-of jail card, God does not play monopoly. The goats will be done away with.