The freedom to look beyond the screen

Today we celebrate Freedom Day without the opportunity to attend a large gathering of like-minded people, without the feeling of celebrating our progress from the past together in physical presence, without the heated discussions grappling with the strong hold that the past still seems to have on us. Instead, there are live-streamed events, and perhaps we will have the possibility of an online interaction which touches on some of these topics…

Lately, I have been part of a few online conversations, where it was obvious that people are misunderstanding each other. The reasons are complex. How does the isolation of physical distancing influence the mix? In South Africa we have a history of living in our own bubbles with little awareness of what other’s reality looks like. In lock-down, with minimal exposure to others, we look through the screen of our opaque bubble and see that we are facing the same storm out there, feel that we are burdened with the same loss of freedom. Yes, we are slightly aware that there are differences in people’s experiences, but we’re all in this together, aren’t we? Let’s have a closer look.

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Dialogues virtual and face-to-face

I have tried a few times to get involved in uncomfortable discussions online or in whatsapp groups, sometimes with people I know personally, sometimes with people I have not met face-to-face. I confess that it has generally not gone very well. Even in the groups where I have known the majority of people, I have been misunderstood and have misunderstood others. The conversation has landed us in unfamiliar territory, where the expectation we have of “being known” by others, of sharing a common history of face-to-face contact, has been hollowed out. We feel unfamiliar, even to ourselves, strangers communicating with other strangers.

As a result, I tend to “listen” online more than I “speak”. Lately I have noticed some unwelcome changes in myself as I “listen”.

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Responding, not reacting

On the subject of the Grantleigh artwork, let’s think a little about the storm of activity in response to the art exhibition; perhaps we can work out something useful about how to approach similar incidents in the future. We know there will be opportunities to apply our learning 🙂 I would like to suggest using the phrase “ThinkThruTalkThru” as a bit of a motto …

Let’s think: One of the things we should be asking ourselves is why exactly are we as Christians upset? Can we name the particular reason underneath our outrage, and underneath that, until we come to the core? Can we bring it before God honestly and ask – Is this an important truth or an idol we hold dear? Are we prepared for God to change us in this uncomfortable process? Are we taking a statement about society personally? Could we be taking something at face-value when it is meant as an abstract metaphor? Is there anything we can learn or apply from this trigger – what part of the message can we affirm? What part do we disagree with?

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Restful Respect

(A poem from the book Dwelling in Dissonance)

Thinking

Recognised,

Understood,

Encouraged

 

Heart

Open,

Serving,

Pausing

Introspection,

Transferring

Attention,

Listening

Intentionally

To

You

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We often talk about offering hospitality in our homes; I believe we extend true hospitality of time and space to people when we really listen to them  in conversation with us. I have often been convicted in this area – How are my listening skills? Do I listen to understand the other person, or with a view to finding a gap to share my perceived wisdom? 

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