Saturday, 14 November 2009

Smash the BNP?

Today the Edinburgh Feminist Network banner went on its first ever road-trip out of edinburgh, along with me and Hilary. Our roadtrip was to take part in the Scotland United Rally in solidarity with the muslin community and all victims of racial violence. This was organised in response to plans by the Scottish Defence League's plans to protest outside Glasgow Central Mosque (which actually didn't happen in the end). Overall it was a really positive time, its always great to see huge amounts of people coming together to say that racism in all its forms is unacceptable. And yet, despite all the positives there were a few things that happened today that have left me with a bad taste in my mouth.

One of the slogans being chanted on the march was 'smash the BNP' and this was further emphasised by statements in the (many) speeches which used at times violent and dehumanising words to describe fascist groups and racist people. Much as I agreed with the anger being expressed, by far the best suggestion was made by Rev Ian Galloway, a speaker from the Church of Scotland. In his speech he made mention of the fact that in his tradition (and mine!) we are called to love our enemies.

During the march I was very tempted to counteract the 'smash the BNP' chants with 'Love your enemies - pray for those who persecute you', but when it comes down to it, I'm to much of a coward. However righteous our anger, threats of violence and hate, even when done in the name of justice, only lead to more hate and more violence. If we want to really create change, then we will have to use different tools.

Behind all the shouting, the message of Christ is a much more radical one. Its the call to love your enemies. Contrary to our many easily made slogans Nick Griffin, the BNP, the SDL and co are not actually evil, they are human. They are tragically wrong about a huge amount of things, and their hate should justly be condemned, but until we acknowledge the humanity of those we disagree with I truly don't believe we will get very far in trying to make the world better. Peoples minds aren't changed by being yelled at, they are changed when we engage with them, or even better, work to change the conditions in which hatred thrives.

You're familiar with the old written law, 'Love your friend' and its unwritten companion 'hate your enemy'. I'm challenging that. I'm telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best - the sun to warm and the rain to nourish - to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the loveable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run of the mill sinner does that.

In a word what I'm saying is Grow Up. You're kingdom subjects. Now live like it. LIve out your God created identity. Live generously and graciously towards others, the way God lives towards you.
The Message Bible Matthew 5

Feminist Blether Report

Lovely Liz has a shiny new podcast with her friend Gordon, and myself and Hilary are on it to make an exciting feminist special! So go have a look at the blether report!

Monday, 19 October 2009


We talk a lot in church about 'non-christians'. I used to just accept this phrase, and used it a lot when describing my friends who didn't go to church, were members of other religions, believed different things etc. Its only recently that I've realised how horrifying I actually find this term. I don't think anyone would actually voluntarily describe themselves as a 'non-christian' (except maybe if this was a new development and they used to be a christian). People may describe themselves as muslims, jews, atheists, pagans, non-religious, socialists, anarachists, disinterested in religion/politics or any other number of things, but people very rarely describe themselves as something that they are not, at least in my experience.

I can no longer conceive of describing one of my friends, who has opinions about spirituality, life, politics and everything else under the sun as merely 'a non-christian'. I think it shows a disctinct lack of respect for all that people are and believe to describe them in this way. I would love for more of my friends who don't know Jesus (ha! thats such an evangelical thing to say) to become christians, because I think christianity has such a huge amount of truth and beauty, my life (and my eternity) would be so much less without it. But when I engage with people I care about around issues of faith and spirituality, I want to know what they believe as well as sharing with them what I believe. I want to know how they express their spirituality as well as talking about/showing how I do. When we describe people as 'non-christians' and describe them by their LACK of belief, then we do not leave the door open for this kind of interaction. This is a sad loss for all of us.

Saturday, 17 October 2009

Esther and Vashti

The biblical character Esther gets a fair bit of attention, there is even a musical of her life. For those unfamiliar with the story, the 17th book of the bible is called Esther (of only 2 named after women, along with Ruth) and is famously the only book of the bible that doesn't mention. Esther is a Jewish woman living in Persia in the period that the Jews spent in exile. When King Xerxes needed a new wife he took all the beautiful women in the country and brought them to his palace where they spent a year being made beautiful (I know I have no idea what they can possibly have been doing in this time either!). Esther was chosen as the new Queen, but didn't tell anyone she was Jewish. When her uncle discovered that the kings official Haman had plans to have all the Jews killed, he went to Esther for help. Esther risked her life by going to see the King uninvited (this was punishable by death) where she invited the King and Haman to a banquet. During the banquet Esther told the King she was a Jew and that Haman wanted her people killed. Haman was hanged, and Esther's uncle Mordecai was honoured. The Jews then defeated in battle those who hated them, killing 500 men (and possibly unstated numbers of women and children). The Jewish festival of Purim celebrates Esther and Mordecai saving the Jewish people from genocide.

There is a lot to learn from this story. For starters we learn a bit about the place of women in Persian society at this point. There is no reason to suggest that the women in question had any choice about being taken to the palace, and it certainly appears from this story than only the most beautiful would be chosen. Esther also shows her courage in using her office to save her people from harm.

While Esther's bravery has made her famous the bravier of the Xerxes previous queen is heard much less. Vashti only features very early on in the story. Xerxes was having a banquet (which lasted 180 days!). On the 7th day after 'drinking much wine', he commanded Queen Vashti to come down and show her beauty to the important man. She refused. On top of her disobedience this was seen as dangerous as, 'All the wives of the important men of Persia and Media will hear about the Queen's actions. THen they will no longer honour their husband.' She was no longer allowed to enter the King's presence because of this (not entirely sure if this means she sent out of the palace, exiled or even executed).

Because of my total ignorance on the broader Persian culture at this point in history I can only comment on my own current perspective (but I would love it if someone else could shed a bit of light). I can only imagine how humiliated this must have been for Vashti, to be summoned down by her drunk husband to be put on display as a beautiful object for the men he was entertaining to look at. I am amazed by how much bravery it must have taken for her to refuse to go down, in the light of all she was risking. Clearly the men of the court understood how big an effect this could have on their lives, she had refused to do what her husband commanded, and they saw that this could have a direct effect on their wives behaviour.

I know that Vashti wouldn't have called herself a feminist (since the word didn't exist) but she deserves to be celebrated as the brave revolutionary she was, instead of sidelined at the start of the story. There is something to be learned from the stories of both of these brave women, from Vashti who gave up all her privilege to take a stand, to Esther who was able to use the power (however limited) that she was given to help those who were powerless.

Thursday, 2 April 2009

Bad blogger!

I very much doubt anyone reads here any more due to the distinct lack of posts, I'm clearly a terrible blogger and I'm all out of inspiration! Any thoughts on what I should blog about?

At the moment, I'm being very inspired by:
"It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery." Galations 5v1

What do you think it means to be really free?

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Message from Scottish Women's Aid

2009 marks the sixtieth anniversary of the publication of Simone de Beauvoir’s ground-breaking book ‘The Second Sex’ in which she asked the question ‘what is a woman?’. To celebrate International Women’s Day 2009 and the anniversary of the book’s publication, Scottish Women’s Aid is asking what it means to be a woman in 2009. We plan to create an interactive ‘virtual exhibition’ operated through our web-site, gathering answers from women as well as public figures.

Beauvoir drew on biology, history, philosophy and anthropology to conclude that during her own time, and previous to it, woman was ‘Other’ to the normal male human being, the second sex, discriminated against, objectified, less valued. ‘Woman’ she also decided is neither a fixed entity nor intrinsic to the female human being but created by society and is an identity that shifts with time and culture. In other words, in the words of the book’s most famous line ‘one is not born, but rather becomes, a woman’.

The book inspired and motivated a generation to agitate for change. Indeed much has changed since Beauvoir wrote: anti-discrimination legislation has been passed, there are more career and education opportunities for woman etc. But much still needs to change: the pay gap still exists and women continue to experience violence in the form of domestic abuse, rape and trafficking in large numbers.

We would be enormously pleased if you and your group were to support this by answering the question ‘what is a woman in 2009’, providing a short quote, poem or doodle and if possible a photograph to go along with this. You can email us your contributions or join our facebook page “Scottish women’s aid”

I have attached an info rmation sheet on The Second Sex for your info rmation.
Ellie Hutchinson

Administration Information Worker

Scottish Women’s Aid

2nd Floor 132 Rose Street



0131 226 6606

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