Monday, March 18, 2013

A Confession

Those of you who know me well already know this, but it might come as a surprise to some of you to learn that I have a guilty pleasure.  And I’m going to confess it now!  I love vampire stories.  There, I said it…and the world keeps turning, although you may already have suspected as much from the way I went to see the marathon five-film premier of Twilight: Breaking Dawn 2.  I tried to pretend it was something I was doing for my daughter’s sake but really she came along as my carer!

Needless to say, this on-going fascination with the supernatural/fantasy genre has caused me much reflection: Is this right?  Can it be appropriate for someone like me to like such a thing?  Isn’t that what fourteen year old girls do?  Maybe…but I think there is something about these stories that conveys some profound ideas that interest me, and they interest me because I’m a Christian…or I’m a Christian because these ideas interest me.

My latest musing about the genre (fuelled at the moment by The Vampire Diaries!*) is on the scene that occurs in most of these stories.  It’s the scene where somebody ordinary, a ‘muggle’ to use a term from another incarnation of the genre, is suddenly faced with the reality and truth of the existence of the supernatural.  They get a letter to Hogwarts, fall in love with a vampire, discover they are actually a Shadowhunter, and suddenly they have to look at themselves and their world with new eyes.  I had an experience similar to this when I first realised that Jesus was real, and that he did love me, and that he would give up his own life to save mine.  This realisation then sent me on an epic quest, to be part of a Fellowship, to face up to the reality of the existence of the Volturi.  

Having seen the new reality I couldn’t go back and pretend it wasn’t there anymore.  When I watch Bella Swan, or Elena Gilbert, or even Bilbo Baggins as they negotiate this paradigm shift, I’m reflecting on my own journey into a new story, and that’s why it’s fascinating.

*OK for the genre-not high art but entertaining. 

Monday, March 11, 2013

What if…

I was talking with a group of youth work students the other day and we were discussing the different roles youth workers adopt when working with young people.  One of the roles we were discussing was the advocate; the youth worker speaking to others on behalf of the young people they work with.  As we were talking I started to think about the role and what it implies. 

Firstly it is a role that’s needed because the structures are such that the young people in question can’t speak for themselves.  Why is this?  What is wrong with a structure that renders a member of it voiceless?  Can that be a just and fair structure?

Secondly it suggests that power imbalances are at work.  The young people are voiceless because someone else has more power than they, and uses that power to silence them in some way.  What kind of a structure creates and then sustains this kind of power imbalance?

Thirdly it implies that the young people have some kind of deficit that disqualifies them from speaking.  What could that be?  Could it be that they don’t have enough understanding?   Is their language insufficient?  Who makes that judgement?   Why does a deficit mean that some are excluded?

I should perhaps contextualise the conversation: we were talking about the way youth workers advocate for young people in church life.  The discussion caused me to think again about how the church includes (or excludes) children and young people.  The need for an advocate says some very disturbing things about how we view the role of the child in church, but I think it also says some very disturbing things about our churches.

This led me to ask myself the question: What would our churches have to look like for there to be no need for an advocate to speak for children and young people?