Wednesday, February 13, 2013

A bee in one's bonnet

Got rather irate over an email at work today. I do hope this isn't too dull for you all ...

Christian Aid Week mobilises somewhere in the region of 200,000 British and Irish volunteers to go out collecting money for the poorest communities in the developing world. They come, almost entirely, from churches: those who give them money and those who receive it are of all faiths and none.

My email informed me about a vicar in a certain Wiltshire town who has instructed his congregation to cease volunteering in this way because it is "such a bad witness to those who are not Christian when churchgoers knock on their door and ask for money."

Is this not crazy talk? There may well be valid reasons for objecting to house-to-house fundraising. But this 'bad witness' lark is surely not one of them.

It makes me cross because it assumes people who are not Christian somehow need mollycoddling.

It makes me cross because it puts the reputation of a local church ahead of the most vulnerable in the world.

It makes me cross because it is an example of a church leader abusing their power and the trust placed in them.

And most of all, it makes me cross because it makes a mockery of what church should be about. We cannot let ourselves get preoccupied with our image, popularity and survival. We need to stop caring whether the church as we know it means anything to the 'non Christian' and think about glorifying God and bringing in his kingdom on earth. A God whose glory may have nothing to do with our own; a God whose home will be characterised by justice for the poor.

Jesus didn't go around telling people to look at how great he was and keep him alive. He went around telling people to look out for signs of God's kingdom. Sitting rather lightly to his own survival.

Just saying. Tsk.

Saturday, February 02, 2013

On Why You Shouldn't Have Children, and other things

Got a bundle of feminist books for my birthday last year and am just on to reading them. (Finishing the BBCs 100 books you should read has had me distracted.....)

Ashamed to say I haven't before read The Female Eunuch or The Golden Notebook. They are yet to come. But I have just finished How To Be A Woman by Caitlin Moran.

 * Incidentally, I have made the most awful reading choices recently, in terms of how it relates to my life. Not long after a miscarriage in June, I read The Time Traveller's Wife, which is punctuated by several such tragedies. I had seen the film previously but had somehow forgotten that part. Then in early stages of pregnancy, I read We Need To Talk About Kevin. I knew it was about a high school killer but not about his mother's reluctancy to be pregnant and struggle to feel positive about his arrival. And finally, thinking I was safe, I embarked on How To Be A Woman. Best not to read the chapter on having children, pregnant ladies, I would say. But I digress. *

I expected to be guffawing away at this book, and it wasn't like that. But I did enjoy it. I think the last 4 chapters were best, possibly as these discuss the life stages closest to my own.

I like Moran's admission that we're kidding ourselves to suggest women have achieved as much as men, as we trawl out the token female scientist for our list of acclaim. Women have not. But this is to be expected: after years of being sidelined, it was always going to take years for us to get our mojo back. I also like her suggestion that we females need to stop thinking it's enough just to 'be', while letting the men 'do'. Why should we believe what we're told - that it's enough for us to look pretty, manage relationships well and be the stable force of the domestic sphere? We can also go out in the world and work hard, make a difference, get in people's faces.

I especially enjoyed the chapter Why You Shouldn't Have Children. Even though I'm about to have some, I wish women who say they don't want to were typically a) believed and b) applauded. Why do female celebrities get asked about work / baby balance when men never do? Why do we all shy away from saying pregnancy and labour and motherhood are a bit shit, for very much of the time? Why do we feel sorry for a woman who reaches 45 without children, as if her life is really now over and she hasn't done the one thing she was made for? And, most exasperatingly, why would we suggest it is selfish for a woman not to have children; an accusation it would never cross our mind to direct at a man? Hello! Apart from the fact this is patriarchal rubbish, you may have noticed that the world already has quite enough people.

Moran says: "Every woman who chooses - joyfully, thoughtfully, calmly, [...] not to have a child does womankind a massive favour in the long term". Hear, Hear! Being honest, I have often wondered to what extent societal pressure made me believe my own qualms about motherhood were invalid.

To quote Moran, when considering children, "If you're insanely talented and not at all broody, why not just go and have more fun?"