Social Media seems to have exploded with vitriol over the last few days. Educationalists (or soi-disant educationalists) know The Way to teach poetry; Bishops know The Way – or at least a way important enough to splurge it out on Twitter – to avoid harming children; another voice (on the right) wants to resort to shaking an autistic child for her daring not to know her place; Politicos from the US are eyeing up the NHS and meeting with sharp put-downs; opposers of Trump look at our current establishment activity in anger and despair, and apparently one at least of the Brexit crew is looking to science for a cure for homosexuality. I’m not glorifying any of this with a link, and while I think my own irritation with some of this is probably all too apparent, I am not joining in bashing Twitter Education, Bishops, or anything. Not this day, anyway. Here’s a photo that might give a clue as to my stance, and that’s enough. Inclusion is a radically compassionate act – and of course sometimes it requires a stance, a line that cannot be crossed.
But this morning I want instead to think about a different way.
Chris Winson’s 365 Days of Compassion Review was kind enough to link to an earlier blog post of mine from here in which I look briefly educators “at the edge of this difficult world where a desire to be empathetic meets real children.” And this is my problem. I don’t know if it’s a problem with social media – I am minded to see a disjuncture between a US Bishop telling Catholics not to attend LGBTQ+ events and the Pope’s own meeting and discussion with Stephen K Amos; longer meetings, face to face meetings are much more productive of effective communication and at the heart of that, of understanding – or just that the world, in current uncertainties, has become a boxing ring of ideas, where putting people down is the only way to argue. Who’s in, who’s out? Whom can I trust, whom can I demonise? Philip Sheldrake (whom I quoted here in a blog post, again linking to 365 Days) warns
The pages of Christian history are strewn with marginalized people and traditions as well as forgotten or disparaged ideas…
and what has struck me has been the singular failure to enter into dialogue. One pundit is wrong because she is old and ugly; another because of his (admittedly pretty awful) track record on safeguarding… No progress is possible under these circumstances. The compassionate response, the revolutionary response is, in general, to listen rather than disparage – and from the point of view of classic roots of Christian Spirituality, to avoid judging…
…and if you can’t avoid judging (I know I can’t, so often), to remember St Benedict who warns that
the spirit of silence ought to lead us at times to refrain even from good speech.
And this blog post (which has gone on long enough) is sufficient evidence of how hard I find that. I may not be a Bishop, but I can pontificate.