Monday, August 03, 2015

Why I am not a protestant - no, not what you think.

I am not a protestant. Before anyone leaps on me to say whether I am or am not, let me make it clear that I'm not actually talking about churchmanship or belief. I'm talking about protesting.

I will admit to not being very good at protesting. What do I mean? Well, I feel very strongly about many issues that affect human beings in the world. In the past week, I have been desperately upset by the following things: the death of Cecil the Lion at the hands of a hunter; being told that because I care about the death of Cecil, I am not caring enough about the starving millions; because I care about the starving millions, I am not caring enough about the millions of aborted babies; being told that because I care about the millions of aborted babies, I am not caring enough about the needs of women in the most appalling situations; because I care about the women in the most appalling situations, I am not caring enough about climate issues and the effect on the global population; because I care about climate issues and the effect on the global population, I am not caring enough about the effects of human beings on animals, namely the death of Cecil the lion. It seems that I cannot care enough.

I often find myself presented with the most horrible pictures of aborted foetuses, or animals being put to the slaughter in inhumane ways, or the sight of men being beheaded by ISIS. Every day, I see men women, and even children holding up banners which say "Abortion kills babies". Every day, I find myself in some form of despair because, actually, I cannot care enough. I physically cannot. What can I do, become inured to protect myself, or go slowly mad by trying to care for all of these issues?

You see, I cannot just care about a baby; I have also to care about its mother too in exactly the same way. They are both human beings, so I care about both of their rights to life, liberty and love. I cannot just care about human beings. Human beings are part of God's creation. While, indeed, we can be compared with the beasts that perish, that to my mind actually raises up the dignity of animal kind because we share that same intrinsic goodness of being created by the Divine Master. For every issue, there is another issue that impacts it massively and all of these issues are intrinsically linked. To concentrate too much on one prevents a clear view of the bigger problem. Yet we must concentrate on issues.

Every day, a thousand million voices cry out demanding that I support this issue and, to make their point louder than anyone else, they resort to more and more extreme measures to be heard. Given that I subscribe to the fact that life begins at conception, every image of an aborted foetus that SPUC and its ilk promulgate, the more that I am grievously pained, but the more helpless I feel. I simply cannot do anything about it. Yet, on the flip side, the more graphic the images, the less people will listen to SPUC and so the more shrill they become and the more shrill they become, the more unpleasant they become, the more they actually begin to drive people away from listening to them, or supporting them, or even doing something about the underlying causes that lead to unwanted pregnancies in the first place. I cannot see how these types of protest actually work. They concentrate on symptoms and not on causes. To my mind, SPUC have it completely wrong: they need to concentrate on positive, edifying and generous action rather than being loud and unkind outside clinics.

If we want to eradicate abortion, human trafficking, hate crimes, global climate change, discrimination, then being confrontational on a general level of labelling and stimulus-response is simply not going to work. Confrontation breeds fear, hate, more generalisation and sectarianism. If we really want to sort out the evils in the world then we need to be silent and listen, We need to listen to the real problem. We need to listen to why people go out and kill lions rather than making a general assumption about all hunters. Above all, we need desperately to listen to God.

This is why I cannot be a protestant in this sense. I simply cannot go out holding a banner and making angry noises. I do not subscribe to the all-guns blazing approach - I will not carry a gun and yet pray that I may be someone who seeks to heal rather than to coerce. I know within myself that I get angry - so very, very angry - and yet I know that the way I would use that anger would spill over into wrath and I would do horrible things in the name of God. Too many people have had that same idea in history. Witch-hunts have only sought to damage and even lead to some form of ethnic cleansing somewhere along the line. Loud, shrill and ill-considered protests do not work, and make people ill morally and spiritually. All I can do is give my anger to God and allow Him to show me what I can do. Often, this is too little on my part. Yet, if we are asking people to trust God in difficult circumstances, are we following our own advice?

Oh dear. Methinks I do protest too much!

1 comment:

Warwickensis said...

Of course, a good test of whether I should support a campaign is to ask myself, "what does this campaign expect to do? How will it do it?" If the answers involve spending resources on propaganda rather than actually alleviating suffering, then I, personally, would not support it.