My husband (Mr GLW) has asked me to host his first blog here. Hope you all find it useful!
So, this is the first blog I have ever written. I confess, I don’t read too many other blogs so I’m hoping and praying this follows any “rules of blogging” which may, or may not, exist. My wife, Mrs GLW is very good at blogging and blogs frequently. We often read and comment on each others work before it goes to press but I’ve asked Mrs GLW to only correct the spelling and any really bad grammar in this blog as I want to be as unbiased as I can.
I felt the need to write this blog as Mrs GLW and many other campaigners (I’ll define what a campaigner is very soon, just hang in there) were getting very negative feedback and comments especially from pastors. Now, to be fair, any campaigner expects a fair amount of flack, which is very unfair as they do such a good job and change the world. But a lot of pastors, specifically pastors were taking issue with Tweets and blogs and the like from campaigners. This set me thinking about why these two groups of marvellous people are at such loggerheads over important issues. And so this blog is my thoughts. Let’s go for it!
Firstly, a couple of things I’d like to say (before I say lots of other things): Not all pastors are having a go at campaigners. They are not natural enemies. I just noticed out of all the negative comments Mrs GLW and her campaigner friends get, a fair percentage were from pastors. I didn’t scientifically measure it but was there. Also, even though I’m going to, I’m not a great lover of labelling people. I think personality types have a role but I do understand that people are complex and saying “you have an X personality therefore you think like this” isn’t doing God’s varied creation any favours. I’m also not saying that people are either a pastor or a campaigner. I’m neither and again, these are only broad terms.
Also, dear reader, you may recognise yourself in this blog. If you do, that’s unintentional. I did write this blog from my real life experiences but it’s certainly, honestly not aimed at anyone in particular. Honestly.
I’m also going to talk about victims and perpetrators. Now in case you didn’t know, Mrs GLW and I campaign to end violence against women. And coming from that world (I call it the EVAW World) I do know better than to use the term “victim”. There are much better words that describe people who have suffered at the hands of all different types of perpetrators. However, if you don’t mind, I’m going to stick with victims, just this once, as I want to capture a whole host of campaigns, not just our one and victims seems to be the best word (just this once).
So what’s what? What is a campaigner and what is a pastor? Like all of us, my definition of any thing really is shaped by what I’ve experienced. In the grand scheme of things, I probably haven’t experienced a lot. Because I’m married to a campaigner and live in a world were I interact with more campaigners than pastors, I know a lot more about campaigners. So I’ll start with pastors first.
A pastor, some times called a Vicar, Minister, Preacher, Pope is basically a church leader. The stereotypical ones stand at the front and spout forth God’s word on a Sunday morning. They are very very good at loving everyone and anyone. They want their church or group to be open and welcoming to everyone. They love the victim and the perpetrator and both are welcome. Shouldn’t we all love everyone, I hear you ask? Well yes, but remember this point for later. Most of the pastors I’ve come across are very good speakers. I think it’s part of their training.
You don’t have to be spouting God’s word on a Sunday morning to be a pastor Many people I’ve met are pastors but aren’t ordained, they don’t have or go to a church. They are made to be pastors though and some may be doing God’s work in a place far from the church, like a bank or the government (only joking!). But they all have a pastor mentality – that they love everyone.
So what is a campaigner? Listen and we will hear (a little C of E joke there). A campaigner is someone who is very passionate about a particular subject or cause. They will use any opportunity to tell anyone about it. Sadly, they can sometimes come across as fanatical, always taking about that one and only subject, especially on their days off. (Though like pastors, campaigners never seem to get a day off!) They may not get many opportunities to speak because they come across as slightly mad and, let’s be honest, we all know what they’re going to speak about anyway! Sometimes, campaigners aren’t as articulate as our pastor brothers and sisters (in Jesus, obviously). This is normally due to lack of training which may not be possible due to time or finance or both. Importantly, campaigners are on the side of the victim. The immediate welfare and the restoration (big Christian word there) of victims are their primary and sometimes only focus. They can sometimes come across as hating or having no compassion or love for the perpetrator. They can appear judgemental towards one particular group, normally those they may be campaigning against.
I’ll give you a real like example. I haven’t changed any names to protect the innocent as I haven’t mention any.
I was in church the other Sunday and it was prayer time. Our minister sent up a few general prayers then asked a particular women if she would pray for a particular country way out east which is going through some problems at the moment. This women had left England some years ago to set up an orphanage in this country way out east and quite rightly she was best placed to pray for this county way…you know where.
I smiled as her prayer turned in to a mini sermon about the needs of the people she was serving. She stumbled her way through a list of what needed changing in that country (mostly the government of a bigger country next door) and what her centre needed to survive. I also, disappointingly, noticed a few people sighing and rolling their eyes to heaven. A good reason to always pray with your eyes closed. She was a true campaigner being given a rare opportunity to share her God given passion.
That Sunday’s prayer time (it’s not really called that in our church) brought home to me how sometimes campaigners are perceived: The passion perceived as rambling on about that same subject for far too long, given half a chance. The wants and needs of the cause being seen as perhaps something else to donate to. The way she was ranting at a government (aren’t all governments allowed by God? Even UKIP?) And yes, she wasn’t the most eloquent speaker in town, especially compared with the pastor. I suppose it was that Sunday that was a light bulb moment for me. It really helped me connect the dots on why these clashes between pastors and campaigners occur.
(Just so you know, there was no clash between our pastor and campaigner-woman. I’m sure our pastor knew what was going to happen when he asked her to pray and I salute him for letting her do so.)
And so here’s where the clash occurs: love. Not to trivialise but to explain, (and this is a well known story for many in Campaigning World) most of Mrs GLW’s clashes go like this: a Christian organisation or a well know individual makes a comment which does not help the EVAW cause. Mrs GLW nicely (she can do nice, normally on only Mondays and Wednesdays for some odd reason) informs the person or organisation why their comment is problematic. Sometimes they come back “I’m really sorry, I didn’t realise. Thanks for the advice.” and life’s merry (at least for a few hours). Other times a Twitter mini riot ensues and many people will accuse Mrs GLW and other campaigners of basically not being loving, either towards other Christians or those poor perpetrators (sarcasm intended). And perhaps oddly, or not if you’ve read the above, many pastors are in the “You’re not being loving!” brigade.
So here’s the whole crux of this blog: I think that a lot of pastor type people think that campaigner type people don’t love perpetrators. Not true. I know many courageous people who have been seriously harmed in many ways by a perpetrator and have whole heartedly forgiven them. I also know that the vast majority of campaigners are very aware of the principalities and powers of this word that encourage bad behaviour. They just don’t condone the behaviour and want it to stop.
A cute example: Smaller GLW (our youngest child if you’re not into Twitter speak) sometimes has a paddy and throws things and himself around. I love him deeply but I still tell him to stop this bad behaviour because he may hurt himself, or more likely, someone else. I’m not judgemental towards him as I’m aware of his age, his immaturity (compared with an adult. Well, most adults) and why certain situations set him off (normally Small GLW, his sister). I think I’m right in saying this a very typical parent’s way of thinking.
So is it as simple as that? Pastors are designed (by God) to love everyone and they expect campaigners (and others too) to love everyone and never say a bad word against anybody?
Well for starters, most campaigners I’ve come across do love “the other side”. It may not be the “Let’s all be bestest friends!” sort of love. In most cases of past abuse, that wouldn’t be appropriate or helpful. But there are a lot of people who once experienced horrific abuse who now forgive the abuser. They may never want to interact with the abuser again but that act of forgiveness is still love.
I believe that campaigners are made to see what and who needs changing in the world. Pastors are made to love and welcome everybody. They were both made this way by God to complement the Kingdom. Jesus, who I believe contained every personality type as he was 100% God and we were made in God’s image, displays both pastor and campaigner (and many other) traits from what we read about Him in the Bible.
So what’s the way forward? Once we really recognise and properly appreciate our different jobs and roles in The Kingdom, this should lessen the pressure on ourselves when we see a brother or sister (in Jesus) doing something we don’t agree with. Perhaps our first question shouldn’t be “Should they be doing that?” it should be “Are they being called to do that?”
At this present time, with the current setup in our churches, pastors are gatekeepers a lot more of the time than campaigners. They have more power to decide who preaches and who doesn’t. And because pastors are, well, pastors, you’re always get a pastor’s perspective in a Sunday sermon. I’ve noticed we’re all drawn to parts of the Bible that fit comfortably with our personality type or our calling. Therefore it figures that pastors will always bring a pastor’s perspective to any preach. Now, a few notes about what I’ve just said: Yes I know we have PCCs, Elders, Deacons etc. but in most churches pastors do have a big say. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing. Also “power” is sometimes a dirty word. A lot of people won’t acknowledge they have power and therefore won’t use it appropriately and that in itself is not helpful. Mrs GLW went on a course about this and is much more qualified to talk about this than I am. Suffice to say, recognise the power you do have (and we all do) and use it for His work.
Anyway, to get back on track, pastors – please recognise those campaigners in your mist and allow them to speak. Recognise that historically most campaigners were shunned and ridiculed by the establishment. Don’t be the establishment!