Saturday, October 09, 2004

What have we done??

Just been watching the BBC News, which was full of Liverpool mourning the death of Ken Bigley.. I in no way wish to belittle the horror of this whole experience, the terror he must have suffered, the agony inflicted upon his family...but I do wonder slightly about the reaction it has aroused here. Yes, he was a decent, innocent man, attempting to help in an impossible situation. Yes, we deplore any attempt to use human life as a political bargaining counter. Yes, his family need our love, prayers and support tonight....but the news footage showed the same queues of sombre citizens, lighting candles, writing in remembrance books, that we first encountered when Diana died. We watch hundreds of individuals, facing something beyond their control, deprived of a language with which to explain or contain it..........and does the Church know how to connect? Are we there, offering the only hope of transformation? Sadly, I suspect the answer is generally "No" and so we have to sit here and watch the world look elsewhere, while we believe that we have something to offer which will transform all this agony. Kyrie Eleison.

7 comments:

Rhys Morgan said...

kyrie eleison. - too good not to put in a sermon today. thanks

Humble Secretary said...

I agree. I can't help feeling manipulated by the media in this one and I have reacted with shock, horror and distress.

However, while it took 3 weeks from the start of his capture til his terrible death, I wonder how long it takes for the hungry to die of starvation, or indeed how many people have been killed by friendly bombs / fire in the Iraq war.

I would love to see the church connecting with a bit more of that.

John Davies said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
John Davies said...

We first encountered that phenomenon here after the Hillsborough disaster, 15 April 1989*. Does the Church know how to connect? Yesterday I opened the church for people wanting to be there to share the city-wide silence at midday. Put notices outside three hours earlier. Five came in. We finished off with the Lords Prayer; everyone knew it. People have the language already, just need it reaffirming.
*: http://www.johndavies.org/archives/2004_04_01_johndavies_archive.html#108204010214838317

Caroline said...

Changing the subject only a little - I'm stunned by the constant insistence of the media that the 14 year old girl appallingly and tragically shot down in Nottingham was 'innocent' and 'never in trouble' and 'not a member of a gang'. Does it really matter? Would it have been 'less tragic' if she was? She was 14! She was human isn't that enough? I can see that perhaps it is an attempt to preserve an unblemished reputation but what sort of world is it where we are assumed to assume culpability for being shot in the street? is Ken Bigleys murder 'extra bad' because he was working for reconstruction in the country? Would it be 'less bad' if he were an arms dealer or oil millionaire? What makes some deaths so much more news-worthy and worthy of the public conciousness than others to the extent that even the churches throw themselves open for a day in memory of one man while struggling with the 'right words' to describe an 'All Souls' service?

John Davies said...

This debate seems to be about media values v. pastoral practice. It's always valid to question media values (there are good journalists like John Pilger who ask those searching questions all the time).

But pastoral values must be the major concern for us as Christians. As for them, in each situation I think it comes down to an ability not so much to act on what you read in the PAPER, but to act on what you read in the PEOPLE in the community you serve.

The people of this city (Liverpool) have long responded to crises by pulling together, and to tragedy by reawakening their deep-seated religious instincts (very Irish Catholic city, this, it doesn't leave us) by taking to candle-lit prayers etc, together. To keep the churches closed when the people need them open would be anti-gospel, here. Regardless of anyone's personal opinion about possible media 'overkill': which becomes a side-issue in a time of pastoral concern.

I think you misread Kenneth Bigley's death if you think it's no more significant than any others, politically. It is the one incident in the hundreds of war crimes in Iraq over the past decade which has finally BROUGHT HOME the horror of what's happening there. The reality is - people don't take much notice of what's happening (though these things DO get reported) until they happen to ONE OF THEIR OWN.

So Kenneth Bigley's death could be pivotal in galvanising public opinion towards pressing for peaceful solutions there. Philip Bigley's anti-war statements are key to this. Sunday's prayers for victims - and leaders - on all sides, and for peace, will also have been influential. They've been widely reported too, at a rare time where media values and pastoral practice have coincided.

Kathryn said...

I've been thinking about all this as the week has gone on, and gradually losing hope of the truth of John's thought that this might be the "death too far" that actually inspires positive action. Already it feels like old news, despite freezing of assets and assorted high sounding condemnation from politicians: if only it were possible to believe that this death would really be a turning point.
However, I would heartily endorse John's words about the need to read people not papers...one of the key moments in my journey towards ordained ministry followed the death of toddler, run over outside his own home by a drunk driver in the next door village some 10 years ago now. Knowing his mother, I went up there the following day to encounter a scene reminscent of the aftermath of pit disasters in "How Green was My Valley"...At nearly every gate, women stood, needing to be together, to have some way of making sense of it all.....but this is a new village, a former RAF base with no church building...and they had nowhere to go, no holding place for their grief. So, I would never argue against a church opening its doors (the reverse...I would hate to be associated with a church whose doors were closed) and providing that holy place where experiences might be disentangled in the light of the God who makes all things new...There must be ways to engage with thatinarticulate grief which finds it outlet in flowers by waysides, entries in condolence books...some way that we can offer what we have been given, nothing less than the words of eternal life.