Friday, January 25, 2013

The desire to be heard

I've just listened to the BBC documentary Voices from the Ghetto, in which Polish Jews describe their daily lives in the Warsaw ghetto during World War II.  It's a sad account of what people can do to other people, but also a striking example of the strength of the human desire to be heard: to know that others know that you exist.

The texts read by actors in the documentary are a tiny fraction of the systematic records left by Jews of ghetto: recorded by individuals, copied in triplicate by a typing pool and periodically buried in metal cans to (hopefully) be found by posterity.  Such committment to the telling of their story!

In a funny way, it reminds me of Facebook.*  Why else do people record the minutiae of their lives (or, indeed, post increasingly outrageous pictures of themselves) if not from a longing to be seen and heard?  They may not have such a terrible or important story to tell but still, I hear echoes between the two in that common desire to be seen, heard and known.

* or, at least, Facebook as stereotypically used by teenagers...

The greatest commandment

A recent post on Paul Windsor's blog referred back to his 2008 reflections on David Kinnaman's book Unchurched.  According to research from The Barna Group, non-church-going American 16-29 year-olds perceive the Church as:
  1.  too hypocritical;
  2.  too focused on getting converts (outsiders 'feel like targets rather than people' p29);
  3. too antihomosexual (for a staggering 91% of respondents - as 'hostility towards gays has become virtually synonymous with Christian faith' p92);
  4. too sheltered ('Christians seem aloof and insulated', p124);
  5. too political ('a movement that was bursting with energy to spread good news to people 20 years ago - has been exchanged for an aggressive political strategy that demonises segments of society', p153);
  6. too judgmental. 
The thing that strikes me about Paul's list?  When outsiders look at us, they feel our hate.*

It reminds me of my Saturday morning walks to my local Farmers Market when I lived in Pittsburgh.  En route, I passed by an abortion clinic.  A Christian group regularly picketed that clinic and aggressively accosted anyone they suspected might be trying to get to it.  I so hated the intimidating manner of the people who accosted me that sometimes I walked a much longer way around just to avoid them.  In no way did I get the impression that these were people who cared about me or my (possible!) unborn child: I just felt that they wanted to obstruct and oppose me and I wanted to get away.

It makes me really sad.

* see points 3., 6., probably 5. and, to an extent, 2.