Rotherham shown within England (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The daily news out of the UK has been quite alarming for me. And quite jarring. I come from the USA, which in many ways is a country that some perceive as naive in the ways of the world. In the course of history America is still in its adolescence and some of us look to other countries, like the UK for instance, as sort of grandfatherly figures that have seen more of the world than we have. We are rebellious toward our ancestor, but most of us hold a modicum of respect for the monarchy and great respect for the wisdom that is evident in its halls of academe and journalism.
Yet, I find myself sickened by the deep, deep culture of misogyny that I’ve found here. Grown women are often still referred to as ‘girls’, newspapers publish topless photos, and women torture themselves into the most grotesque fashions to attract attention. It’s not surprising then to see a culture that simultaneously infantalizes women while insisting their girls be adults at the age of 16! The abuse that women and girls suffer at the hands of men like Jimmy Saville and now the reports coming out of Rotherham has not only angered me, but filled me with despair at how deep and systemic the human rot has been allowed to penetrate. The levels of corruption run as deep as the police department, the Rotherham Council, and even beyond. I have no doubt in my mind that with the full cooperation of men in power, and the women who support them, this has been going on for decades. (see rochdale, oxford, etc.) This is a sick and twisted mindset that sees vulnerable girls as useless fodder for their sexual deviance and, let’s face it, greed and profit. Yet there it is and no one in power seems to care. They are busy passing off responsibility down the line to others. Don’t get me wrong, America has its own problems with violence, but this issue hits particularly close to home.
Usually when faced with these things I see in the news, I react as a person first and a religious person second. I am not saintly enough nor disciplined enough that my first response isn’t one of retaliation and invective. I admit it. Usually, when it comes to religious or spiritual principles, I have to butt up against the real world to test the kind of idea I’m being sold; my experience, education, and intuition being the first things I turn to to tell me of and idea or principle’s Truth. This is all we have, really, first. So when I read the headlines I was livid. I know what it’s like to be ignored when such things go on behind the scenes. And because these girls were from troubled and poor homes, they were not given consideration or believed.
After consulting myself and finding no answer for a situation or question, I then move to what others have said, written, experienced about an issue. How has a situation been addressed in the past, or has it even been addressed? This is where the Scriptures of other faiths come in as well as books like Quaker Faith and Practice. An ardent evangelical Christian would go to the Scriptures of their faith FIRST because they believe the Christian bible to be God’s direct word to mankind but I tend to agree with Thomas Paine:
No one will deny or dispute the power of the Almighty to make such a communication if he pleases. But admitting, for the sake of a case, that something has been revealed to a certain person, and not revealed to any other person, it is revelation to that person only. When he tells it to a second person, a second to a third, a third to a fourth, and so on, it ceases to be a revelation to all those persons. It is revelation to the first person only, and hearsay to every other, and, consequently, they are not obliged to believe it. (The Age of Reason, part I)
It’s at this point that I can either accept or reject the advice I read from other sources. After all ancient writings do NOT have the answer to all things, especially modern day problems. This is where the Light, Holy Spirit, Spirit of God, Cosmic Truth, or whatever we want to call it, comes into play. If it is true, as I believe, that the God of the universe provides a consistent and true message to humankind throughout the history of the world then I have to find the consistent and true message and reject all corruptions of that message.
This is also where I accept or reject the purely humanistic and non-spiritual attempts to solve a situation. How do humanistic ideologies hope to solve a problem that I believe is a deep seated spiritual one? Do I support what non-spiritual humans have to offer the situation? Does it work? What are they hoping to achieve? Is it merely a bandaging of wounds already inflicted or how can it be stopped at the source? How can I work in tandem with those who offer purely political solutions?
After all the searching, I naturally gravitate toward an answer for me that provides comfort and hope and insight into how to tackle the spiritual problem first. After exhausting other ideologies and politics, for me, the last refuge always seems to be the Christian scriptures and its message of changing hearts before minds. Only in it do I find the spiritual sustenance that the world and all its depravities cannot answer. I believe that when we change our hearts we can change our minds and the bible is full of changed hearts and a yearning God who wants to help us change them. I believe change comes from the inside and cannot be legislated or imposed judiciously. You can try to keep order that way, but I don’t hold out hope that more laws are the answer.
Unlike those who take their scriptures too far, I don’t seek to find ‘God’s commands’ in order to impose them on others to fit my narrow view of society. I don’t insist that others believe what I believe or they will die. I don’t use the scriptures to justify my raping and pillaging towns and cities after killing people for no other reason than that they were born in a different place. Ancient ways have to give way for modern enlightened views after all.
No, in all the mess that men have recorded in their scriptures, I look for the poetry and the hope that surely HAS to leak out eventually from hearts trying to aim for God. Everyone has their own method for seeking Light. Everyone believes differently about the solutions they feel are correct. In the end, it’s down to me and what I’m going to do about it. So after a long explanatory process about what usually happens over the course of a few days, I come to bedtime and last night’s reading of Psalm 37, all of which is worthy of quoting, but a couple things stood out for me:
8 Cease from anger, and forsake wrath: fret not thyself in any wise to do evil.
9 For evildoers shall be cut off: but those that wait upon the Lord, they shall inherit the earth.
10 For yet a little while, and the wicked shall not be: yea, thou shalt diligently consider his place, and it shall not be.
11 But the meek shall inherit the earth; and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace.
And in the Light of God’s reassurance that someone was in control and I didn’t have to be, for now, I went to sleep.