As a white, British, middle class, heterosexual male many would say I am privilege to have a culture and society constructed for me. In many ways those people are right. I look at those in seats of power and authority in our society and I see humans in the same demographic. This demographic is not the majority, it is a minority but so is every other kind of concoction of identity a society of different people creates. My particular cocktail of identifiers entitles me to an ‘easy life’ but it refuses me a voice in parts of public discussions about discrimination and human rights.
I would love to give my voice to a number of disenfranchised people and ask society to give them a chance for work, respect and ultimately for peace. I do give my voice to such people; those struggling for work due to the lack of education and some bad decisions which are held against them, those people who, by the arbitrariness of biology, have different chromosomes to me, those who’s life and circumstances have shaped them and moulded them to fall in love with a person of the same gender as them and not the equally complex factors that made me fall in love with my wife. I give my voice to them and would ask society to give them a chance for work, respect and ultimately for peace.
It is for this reason I can support the decision made by the Church of England to have women ordained into a seat of Bishops. It is for this reason I will continue to work with my brothers and sisters who don’t see it the same way to build a community where both, different views are at an agreed consensus and not majority rule (which never exists anyway!) I give my voice to ensure that women and men, different for physical reasons as well the plethora of experiences, contexts, etc. that makes one person different from another, are respected as human beings with the pains, anger and frustration that comes from facing different people. I want all people, male and female to find peace and this is where my voice may be lost…
It is for the reason stated above that I want this government to think seriously about how they take money out of the public purse without considering the vacuum they are creating. My voice is given to those people who are being forced to work through their dependency on reserves and welfare, in a culture geared towards consumption whilst they look around and see the culture has not changed and there are many still dependent on others sources of finance. I give my voice, my privileged voice, to those who are confused by the mixed messages they are receiving from this government to have austerity but to keep shopping and enjoying luxury dinners because that is ‘good for the economy’. I want all people rich and poor to be given a chance to work for even pay, politician or labourer, and to give all the respect of being human with the pain of misfortune and circumstantial events and bad decisions to be forgiven and cared for. I want all people to find true peace and this is where my voice may be lost…
It is because I want to give my voice to disenfranchised people that I want to see respect given to people in same sex relationships because they are human beings shaped by the culture they are in and the lives they have led just like me, a heterosexual. I want my sister, my dear friends and the people they love respected. They should not be refused work because of their sexual preference if it has nothing to do with how well they do or would do that work. This restriction should not come into play unless it’s pertinent (I can’t think of a job where it would… there might be one but I can’t think of it.) like an Italian being chosen over an Asian to be a waiter in an Italian restaurant. I happily give my white, British, middle class, heterosexual, male voice to these various identifiable people to ensure they have a chance to work, respect and ultimately peace but in this last instance my voice begins to be lost…
My voice is heard when it is the same as those in another minority. The moment I become different I am treated as an enemy, named a bigot, misogynist, blind, cruel, pathetic. I am silenced. I am made to feel guilty because of these strange external factors that make me like those who have a seat in power in this society. All of a sudden my voice, listened to and worthy of a chance to offer opinion in one moment, taken from me when I begin to say something that is contrary to the current popular voice. That guilt is strong and I am scared to voice my dis-ease with the way in which our society is living together.
I look at our current government I see them responding to that same guilt because they are being told, like me, that we don’t understand and we will never know what it is like. They, the white, British, middle class, heterosexual men are so desperate to be liked, to share the majority voice, that they are rushing to appease division and lead us to peaceful cohabitation. They want to be seen as the voice of the people and so they try and gauge the largest opinion and go with that. They will fail.
The way these moral decisions are being worked out is on a utilitarian model of moral ethics. It reminds me of Charles Dickens’ ‘Hard Times’ where Dickens satirizes the stupidity and violence of such a system. The greatest good? We oppose the system when we are the small voice but when we are the large voice we state it as ‘fair and just’ and should be followed. More people wanted female bishops so why don’t we have it? Less people wanted this Conservative Government and yet we get it? We protest and change our approach depending on where we see ourselves; a majority or a minority.
We are all so complicated that simple solutions don’t exist. Simple changes never work. Shakespeare wrote, ‘Wisely and slow, they stumble that run fast.’ I agree and this is why I want time spent speaking in the General Synod until consensus not majority wins. It is why I want a discussion about what our society looks like and where the real changes need to be made until consensus and not majority wins. It is why I want time spent on talking through the Equal Marriage issue until consensus and not majority wins.
It is in the desire for all people, male or female, rich or poor, gay or straight to find peace that I think my voice will be lost because I am a Christian and I see communal living differently to many.
I believe in a God who is ontologically communal; i.e. trinitarian, consisting of one being, three persons, this means that God has difference held in unity as His perfect nature. Stanley Hauerwas outlines John Milbank’s view that,
the Christian faith owes no allegiance to the idea of the univocity of being, which can only uphold difference coercively and violently, but is instead moved by a trinitarian understanding of God, an absolute that is itself difference, inclusive of all difference, and thus able to affirm difference in a peaceful manner. (Stanley Hauerwas, Performing the Faith, p.87)
Creation, in my perspective, stems from a God who is pure peace and yet who has difference in His very nature. Creation, in my perspective, is ontologically an expression of that Divine nature and therefore peace is achievable without destruction of difference. When creation acts in accordance with this principle of ‘difference held by its internal harmony’ then it acts in accordance with its true nature.
Milbank suggests that non-trinitarian views of the world are different. Difference ‘enters the existing common cultural space only to compete, displace or expel’;’in the public theatre, differences arise only to fall; each new difference has a limitless ambition to obliterate all others, and therefore to cancel out difference itself.’ (John Milbank, Theology and Social Theory, p.376) We are, without an understanding of creation being ‘a positive expression of God’s limitless inclusion of all difference’, reduced to ‘secular peace… a tolerable regulation or management of conflict by one coercive means or another.’ (Performing the Faith, p.88)
I have tried, on a number of occasions, to voice my judgements on a situation be it General Synod’s vote on how we allow Women Bishops or the Equal Marriage debate and have been met with confusion and aggression. I am always wary of violent protest and aggressive fighting for rights. I am wary because it is not peace and peace never comes from violence; violence comes from violence. This opinion is always met with a loud ‘you would say that because you’re white, British, middle class, heterosexual male.’ I am judged and my voice is silenced. I want peace. Peace is a life lived as we are created to be. We are created in the image of a God who is pure difference and peace.
The manner in which we make moral and ethical decisions is what makes such decisions morally right or wrong. There does not exist a right or wrong action separate to the existence of a moral character.
I am for women bishops but I am also for the minority voice who are against because they deserve respect and peace. I am for same sex relationships but I am wary of the Equal Marriage Bill. I am for the poor, the lost and the broken and I am for us all acknowledging that this group, over all the others is not only a consensus but also the only real majority, indeed unanimous, group this world possesses.
I will end with Hauerwas,
Because the Christian multiple is not a multiple set dialectically over against the one but is instead an infinite flow of excessive charitable difference emanating from, and finally returning to, a single divine spring, differences are preserved rather than eradicated. Charity is the resource that makes the blending in God of all differences possible. (Performing the Faith, p.89)