PERSONAL SOUL SEARCHING ON THIS TWELFTH WEEKEND
ADDICTED TO KISS HER (She Punched Me In The Summer)

LOYALIST VIOLENCE? CONDEMNATION OR GRACE - Stocki Surmises

Belfast 12th



One of the many things that the deplorable violence on the streets of Belfast in these last few evenings should waken us up to is that there is a difference between analgesic and cure! Fifteen years on from the Good Friday agreement things are so much better in so many ways in Northern Ireland. However, when we experience the kind of civil disobedience that we have in the past few days, over a band parade down a few hundred yards of street, we realise that all is still not well in with our soul. We might have erased the pain, and life might be more comfortable as a result, but there is a disease lurking deep within us that has not been dealt with. In fact the removal of the pain might actually have caused us, over these last fifteen years, to become so complacent that we might be causing continued damage where it really matters.

Power sharing, or conferences about shared futures for all, seem to be lacking in many things. Important ideas like compromise, reconciliation, forgiveness and hope are words that need to be opened up. Societal discussion needs to be had in a grace drenched space. We need real pragmatic decision making. We need imaginative vision that creates new ways of seeing the other. We need courageous leadership willing to take risks that reach out to everyone and not just their own. It might be easier to take a pill, washed down with a cup of water, than it is to face open heart surgery without anaesthetic but our sickness cannot be allowed to perpetuate the events of this last week.

AND... when I say the events of the last week I do not want to single out the loyalist community. Their actions are deplorable and a lose/lose scenario for everyone including every cause they claim to be standing for. BUT... we also need to diagnose that the events of our inglorious Twelfth have been caused by a lack of compromise on all sides of our community and a difficult decision that had to be made by the Parades Commission. The analgesic allowed this current crisis. Dealing with the disease will be the only way to end it! We will need to face the pain that we will need to endure to be healthy.

It is also important to make sure that the analgesic option is not used on the loyalist violence. Yes, it needs to stop immediately but when it does we should not see the problem solved but make sure that as soon as it stops we get to work on the causes. On Sunday evening in Fitzroy our assistant minister, Jonathan Abernethy-Barkley, was doing a meditative evening using the thoughts of eccentric but perceptive Irish spiritual philosopher John O’Donohue. It was very personal reflection but I couldn’t help, being aware of petrol bombs being hurled at the police just a mile or two away, to be struck by one reading about belonging: -

“Merely to be excluded or sense rejection hurts. When we become isolated, we are prone to being damaged; our minds lose their flexibility and natural kindness. We become vulnerable to fear and negativity. A sense of belonging, however, suggests warmth, understanding and embrace.”

It didn’t take long for me to be thinking about a community in our society that feels isolated. Loyalist communities are feeling cut off and adrift. They have watched their belonging in Northern Ireland become precarious. They feel they are being left behind and that they have lost their voice. It would be easy to have a discussion about whether they are right or wrong but when it comes to belonging it is not about debate. It is about feeling. If we really want to find the cure for our critical illness then we can’t dismiss this symptom. It is time to not just condemn the mindless and horrendous violence but to address the underlying causes. This is where our political and community leaders need to concentrate their vocations. This is where I need to reassess how I feel about those on the streets.

As a Church leader I have been challenged in the past week to shift my energies from condemnation to beginning to ask what to do constructively. What would Jesus be doing about our current situation? Would he stand at a safe distance in self righteous judgement? Or would he have a deep concern for those whose sense of isolation has caused them to lose their “flexibility and natural kindness”? Would he be directing his grace towards building up or further pulling down? Would he be reaching out to bring a sense of purpose, hope and belonging to the loyalists on the streets? Would he be asking some piercing questions of my own prejudices, sectarianism and lack of love? How has my impatience, lack of empathy, snobbish self righteousness added to the feeling of isolation in my fellow citizens? What can I do and say to raise their sense of belonging and make them feel a valued part of our shared future?

So, that is what I am surmising? I am yearning to get to the heart of our illness. The President of The Methodist Church, Rev Heather Morris, has Facebooked some very practical ideas about what we might start doing. I am keen that in the work I am involved in, across the city and the divide, to begin to ask more serious questions of what we do. One of Heather’s suggestions is that we write to our politicians and tell them we want peace. Again, perhaps instead of ranting at the failings of our political leaders we need to give them encouragement and a population swell of support to be brave and risk taking. Whatever, I need to reassess in my own soul whether I am part of the cure or just a contributor to the sickness.

Comments

Tim Higgins

From what I know of our Lord Jesus, I agree wholeheartedly that he would feel for those who are feeling isolated or let down. His empathy is perfect. But so is his anger: he would utterly denounce self-righteousness in any religious leader, he would cry out against any hint of hypocrisy, and he would verbally address those politicians who continue to show partisan sympathies just to bolster their own vote. Although he did tend to avoid political comment as such. He mainly addressed sin in religious people.

I too condemned believers who joined in the partisan rantings in my own blog but failed to stop to consider my own place of inaction and 'righteous' condemnation of such things that still plague our society. Lord help me to reexamine my motives. Thanks, Stocki.

Smyth Harper

Rev Stockman has fully summed up how a number of Worshippers in the Congregations feel, we were initially indignant about the restrictions put on Orange Lodges on returning home from the Belfast Twelfth Demonstration...then the mist cleared, and fundamental Christian principals kick-in, the Gospel Message is one of Love, Understanding, Acceptance of All, without compromise of one's Christian Faith...that message is writ large in our Scriptures and without that fundamental acceptance of the basic tenet of our Faith, we are grasping and being guided by human frailty.
I sincerely and respectfully trust that our Moderator is having dialogue with the Methodist President...and possibly...Rev Steve Stockman.

The Slicer

Grace toward repentance and transformation, for all of us. That's a lot different from condoning that which shouldn't be condoned, or tolerated. We all, regardless of class, bear responsibility for our actions, and inactions, and self-interest.

joe kelly

the signs and symptoms of isolation is something which has been experienced by many around the world and is not the sole preserve of any single group or community, the greatest enemy is fear which feeds anxiety and undermines hope, personally I prefer to draw my comfort from the source of all hope my identity is certified by the highest authority yet this was not always so, we are indeed a product of the sum of all our experiences, we are born into traditions and cultures we do not bring them into the world they are acquired, we feel at ease with familiar ideas values and symbols, we breath the same air drink the same water and eat the same food we share the same city and the desire to have peace for our families , we have much in common but could still have so much more. The work that goes on to unite our young people will produce results we need to continue to build our shared future and bury the ghosts of the past that baggage weighs us down and holds us back, it is up to all of us to build the better future for our children .
hope springs eternal

ramadan 2013 prayer schedule

That is a really good tip especially to those fresh to the blogosphere. Brief but very accurate info… Thanks for sharing this one. A must read article!

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