fairness and unemployment and gospel and competition

I’m sitting here in my study eating a bowl of unsweetened muesli and listening to ‘Thunder Road’. There is a gale brewing up outside and I’ve the blues.
I’ve spent the last few days putting some books online to sell and drawing pictures for them and now I’m trying to tackle a job application form for a job I actually would like to do and think I could do well.

Yet I know that even if I muddle my way through filling in the application from that I’m unlikely to be considered for the post due to missing some of the essential criteria.

This is work, but it’s work that is unseen and unpaid. I thought the same thing peeling some muddy clogged spuds the other night. It took me a good 15mins, unseen in the kitchen to prepare the potatoes for the dinner, then extra time to prepare dinner for the two of us and time cleaning the dishes after, all of it work and all of it unseen and unpaid.

This is the story of millions around the country at the moment, working away but counted as unemployed and in need of finding ‘work’. And this has also been the experience of many a house wife who  somehow isn’t classified as a working mum.

It’s madness when you start to thing about it. Work shouldn’t be defined as something that you get money for doing. Especially from a Christian point of view. Yes, everyone is to earn their keep but does that have to equate earning money?
I’m not sure. Perhaps I’m trying to justify my own lack of desire to go out and fight tooth and nail for a job, pitting my wits against my fellow man and out do him just so out two unit family will survive above all other families. Yes, of course I could fight and scrap for a job and then share stuff but do the means justify the ends? That has been the argument from so many sensible people I know but I don’t see how that is the case. You can’t try trample over people just so that you can then be like Jesus when you get to the top.

I see this and any application form as really a battle of wits against all my unseen competitors. And so I have to make sure that I gain an advantage by proving my worth. All those tips about what to say and what not to say to give you the best chance, all those courses and training you should go on to give yourself a better chance, the way you should dress, the impression you should give, the techniques….it’s all a very wordly way of going about things.

Can you imagine if there was a job going in Bethsaida Tesco and the disciples and Jesus really needed the job to mak ends meet?

So there’s the disciple doing good deeds, then going home (or wherever they were staying) and trying their best to sound like they would be better at the job that the other disciples on a piece of paper, then sending it off to the HR Manager?

This doesn’t see to fit in with the kingdom of God and the upside-down kingdom, the first being last and serving your fellow man.Yet this undoing your fellow man and lurching after the one job in town seems to be accepted as just the way things are….well I thought the Gospel was the way things where supposed to be?

Of course the person doing the judging may pick the person best suited to the job but it’s still this competition  to prove my worth and be the best that seems anti-Gospel. Especially when the fact is that there just aren’t enough paid jobs for people to do.


matter matters

The breath of God is only one of the divine gifts that makes us living souls; the other is the dust…Forgetting that the dust, too, is a creature of the Creator, made by the sending forth of His spirit, we have presumed to decide that dust is ‘low’. We have presumed to say that we are made of two parts: a body and a soul, the body being “low” because made of dust, and the soul” high
Wendell Berry, The Art of the Commonplace

Those words by Mr Berry have been making me think this morning on a bright and sunny morning here in Belfast.

Its such a battle to reprogram my way of seeing the world (especially as a Christian) into one in which the things outside my brain, the stuff I can see, touch and smell matters. Matter matters as NT Wright and others have said.

The thinking that on one side we have an earthly bleuuuugggghhhhhhh side that is dying and decaying and on the other a holy beautiful soul side that we must nurture and is going to float up into heaven when the earthly bit of us dies is so deeply ingrained in me that its hard to shake off.

Habits like always closing our eyes during prayer maybe doesn’t help. Its like saying the things we see or experience, our neighbours and people in church are only distractions from what really matters, namely getting in touch with God by using our thought and mind.

Yet God made the dust.
And as Wendell Berry points out later on in the essay, Christians have a responsibility to use the physical world that God gave us as a gift. Wood, stones, oil, ink, soil, everything. We are all artists as we’re reworking God’s great creation artistry.
As I type this I am watching workmen walking on scaffolding at the Central Lending library. One man is drilling a hole with a hammer drill into the wall, the noise annoying 3 men using the computers in front of me.
Another one is hammering and chipping away at brick
Some people would call them builders, which they are.
Yet they are also artists,  reworking the raw materials that God made with tools made from the raw materials that God also made.
Which means that we are all artists.
That means we have a responsibility to use all raw materials well, in a way that honours God and loves our neighbours. Which I think is exciting, but also demanding.

Plus its hard to live and remember.