Taking Justice to Heart
Sorry for the silence during last week. I have a fair bit to write about, so this should be matched with a full compliment of posts this week, even if this is currently 27 hours late. The week culminated in a very successful demonstration on Campus here in York to end the University’s investment in the arms trade. The passion of many of the students involved was stunning, and their ability to mix political argument with real emotional engagement was inspiring.At the end of the last Christian Anarchism UK conference, I had an awkward conversation with one of the key movers amongst the conference on the way the conference stuck purely to theoretical arguments and never seemed to allow the words people spoke to simply stand.
There seemed to be a worry that if people didn’t vigorously argue about things, some hierarchy would automatically be formed before us. In practice, this means a complete rejection of the idea that Christianity is about both Head Knowledge and Heart Knowledge, or indeed that Anarchism is about both these things too.
Sometimes when we hear things, we need to respond in debate, to check the rationality of the whole arguement. But there must also be a time to simply “be still and know”; know that humanity is capable of better things, or that there is a loving God, or that through mutual aid, humanity becomes stronger.
What inspired me so much during the DISARM protest and the time leading up to it, was the extent to which the students involved both intellectualised the issues, and yet managed to focus on the emotional aspect of the issue, the connection between their educational institution in York and a person’s life in Saudi Arabia, Gaza, Indonesia. I was reminded that reason without passion is dead, and it does nothing to improve the human condition.
And so, as the protest drew to a close, I said hasty good-byes, and ran to get the bus and commence my journey to London for SoundCheck, annual gathering of the SPEAK network. SoundCheck often starts my campaigning year, confirming something of the major landmarks in the path ahead. This year would prove to be no different, and I’m sure a lot of you will hear something of this very soon! Its going to be very exciting no matter what happens.
This year’s SoundCheck had the added bonus of Ron Sider coming to speak. For those who don’t know, Ron is a man of enormous courage, speaking out on injustice and against the Church’s intransigence towards as long ago as the 1970’s and gaining the honour of a place on the CIA watch list for doing so. He could be referred to as the Grandfather of the modern Christian conscience. And it was through reading his book, “Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger” at a young age that I began the road which would explode into full scale activism at 18.
What struck me about his presentation of various bible texts on the Saturday was his angle of approach. So often I hear people “preach Christ crucified” and then mumble around the area of justice, as if we can’t be totally certain that Isaiah’s words against the rich and powerful for exploiting the poor in Isaiah 10 are as God-inspired as the words of John 3 verse 16. Ron, on the other hand, took these texts and dealt with them passionately and in a way that spoke to the heart.
I guess what I’m getting at here is that Heart Knowledge does matter, and it matters all the more when campaigning for a better world. If we can’t engage with the issues on an emotional level, why bother? Surely as the church we should still “comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable”? Or have we become concerned that such an attitude might cause us to condemn ourselves, either implicitly or explicitly?
This is certainly one of the things I find much more attractive about Anarchist politics than about Socialist politics. I find it hard to believe that some people in groups like the SWP or Socialist Action ever cry when they see the evening news, but I know plenty of Anarchists who even put much in store by this ability. The arguments for taking action to improve the lives of others are well-rehearsed, and the facts on poverty well known. How about we allow these things to speak to our hearts for once, instead of only engaging with them with our heads?