encouragement as justice (i)

by Christine Sine
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By Kate Kennington Steer

Back at Easter, I was wondering what on earth I had to contribute to the Godspace blog’s next theme: ‘Living as Christ lived: towards justice, love and peace for all creation’. What do I contribute towards?  Do I even remember I am supposed to be living as Christ lived – in any concrete, detailed, particular sense – to the betterment of our world, to the building of the Kingdom of God?  

As a writer, poet, blogger, contemplative photographer and visual artist who lives with chronic illness, who is often house and/or bed-bound, of course I hope I increase the amount of love in the world; of course I hope I pray for, and act for, peace.  Yet what do I contribute towards justice: towards making my immediate neighbourhood, or the various local/national/global communities I tangentially touch, less unjust?  Do I even understand what ‘justice’ might be needed by the people I live amongst?

Part of the work of justice, it seems to me, is making openings for those who are marginalised – unseen or unrecognised by dominant cultural narratives – to tell their own story in any way they choose. Not just so that the voice of an individual, a group, or a nation can be physically heard; but so that within the act of telling healing might begin. Healing which will lead to grief, pain, anger, poverty and all the other consequences and emotional reactions to trauma of any kind, anywhere, being transfigured so that lives can be lived and released each according to their calling.  

This makes telling an integral part of Justice, making it about recognition and release, celebration and gratitude.  Each telling is unique: God’s created world and peoples are infinitely, wondrously varied.  If the stories of trees and stones are revelatory gospels where Spirit can be read, how much more so might the Spirit pour out in loud acclamation from the stories of precious people who currently do not know how to make their voice, their story, their gospel, be heard?

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“the only way to seek justice is through the power of stories”

Leslie Marmon Silko

… It is now Autumn.  That piece for the summer theme was never finished due to brain-fog. I could think of nothing I had to say.  The current theme on the Godspace blog is ‘Gratitude as Guests of the world’, so I am trying to work out how to finish what I wanted to say!  The link is about stories.

This year, extremely tentatively, I have begun sharing my own story using the medium of my ‘digital one-finger paintings’.  As I explained in Godspace’s Artful Julybilee a few months ago, these paintings are made whilst I am experiencing seizures which (at the moment) are a daily occurrence of the Functional Neurological Disorder (FND) with which I live. In so many ways these seizures are unwelcome ‘guests’.  

Those are the bare bones of the story I have to tell. And I’m beginning to get the message that I do have to tell it! Anyone might be helped, for whatever reason, if they are given the means to express themselves. In this case the means are an iPad or similar and a £10 to buy the app.  It sounds simple – and it should be – but for tech poverty and financial poverty: both of these might be holding back someone from telling us a story, releasing a testimony which might change the world.

My art is not political in any conventional sense of the word, though I suspect that everything we do has seen or unseen political ramifications somewhere. In this case, my art is political by the very means by which it is produced. Not only am I privileged enough to have been able to afford the tech (secondhand), although I may often feel socially isolated, I am fortunate enough to have a thoughtful friend who had given me an app store voucher for Christmas (which exactly covered the cost of the ArtSet 4 app I use).  Yet, for all that this technology has freed me to tell my story, at what price does that telling come?  What about the impact this tech has on the planet?  Suddenly my art is part of a discussion about rare-earth minerals and who mines them, controls access to them, and what happens when they run out. These are all political hot-potatoes. They are justice issues too – for people and for the planet.  Who decides if the resources necessary to release a person’s story so that healing may begin, so that Kingdom may be built, are ‘worth’ the cost?  I wonder, are there different ways I can tell my story which are more responsible and more responsive to the needs of other peoples and our planet?

Suddenly my little digital finger paintings are looking highly political!  All too often, the Gospels tell that when Jesus encounters individuals the personal is political.  Jesus rapidly makes it apparent that to flourish as a beloved child of God we should challenge every single received opinion and lifestyle choice we have ever made or will ever make.

And so, before I jump ahead to the complex question of resources, I find myself asking this question: Is offering encouragement to others, urging them to tell their story, an act of justice?  Is that small invitation, “tell me about it, show me how it is for you”, only applicable in the end for those with the means (financial, social, educational, emotional, physical, technical etc) to provide themselves with a way to connect to that ultimate citizen-broadcast medium: the world-wide-web?  Surely not.  

(‘encouragement as justice ii’ will follow…)

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