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Archive: Nov 2013

Movember: It’s OK to be judgemental (sometimes)

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When I judge a person it never defines who they are, it defines who I am.

I have a guilty pleasure. It’s not Disney, that’s all pleasure and no guilt. Nor is it watching Lorraine Kelly on catch-up when I come home from work. It’s reading the Daily Mail showbiz pages: pleasure because I love entertainment and showbiz, guilty because it’s a paper full of scaremongering, hate and judgement. Who are they dating? Look who’s splashed out on a new car! They’re too OLD to DRESS like that!?
It’s not limited to the Daily Mail. Rarely do you read a newspaper article or interview where they don’t tell you how old the people involved are. It gives you a picture of them, a picture so you can judge if their actions are age appropriate, whether it’s Miley Cyrus twerking all over the place or David Dimbleby getting a tattoo. It doesn’t stop at celebrities either. We want to know how old the local business man is, or the thug who’s just been convicting for attacking a bystander, or the mother-of-seven on benefits.
I hate the obsession we have in society with age, that it should alone define so much about you. It’s wrong. It’s just as wrong as saying ‘she’s dumb because she’s blonde’, ‘he’s not British, he’s Muslim’ or ‘you’re gay, you must hate Christians’. They’re all snap judgements and they’re not OK.
‘Don’t bad-mouth each other, friends’
James 4:11
There’s another page in the papers where age is all important: the obituaries. My Dad was 63 when he died, ‘taken too soon’. I hate that he was one of 40,000 men that year to die because of prostate cancer, how totally and irreversibly it turns the lives of entire families upside from the second it’s diagnosed. Then there’s the 4000 people who were forced from their land in Cacarica, Colombia because of the conflict; the 30 million people who have died because of HIV/Aids; the girl shot at for going to school, the homophobic bullying that defends itself as ‘banter’. In short, I hate injustice.
‘Hate what is evil, love what is right and see that justice prevails in the courts.’
Amos 5:15
I shouldn’t go round judging celebrities (or anyone else) even if the press tell me they’re fair game, or looking at teenager with his hood up on he street and thinking I know what kind of person they must be. It’s not OK for me to judge other people. But it is OK to seek out injustice in the world and judge that as wrong. It’s more than OK, it’s my job as a human to stand up to injustice. It’s actually my day job at the moment as a Christian Aid Collective Intern to do something about global poverty. 
It is everyone’s job to be judgemental about injustices in the world, but don’t stop there: switch to fairtrade tea, write to your MP, volunteer for a local charity, stop being casually sexist, take part in a fundraiser. Be judgemental, be a hero and do something.
You can visit my Mo Space to see how my moustache has grown and donate to Movember

Movember: Memories

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This weekend I went back to Warwick, revisiting my University days. I say that as if they were 18 years ago, not 18 months. That weird sense of timelessness we all feel hit me, living memories I’d long forgotten as if they happened yesterday. They weren’t even ‘amazing’ memories, but just the happy reminders of going to the pub after choir rehearsal, baking with my bestie and Ellen constantly making tea for me. My university days weren’t crazy but all those little things made an awesome experience.

I hadn’t realised the wave of reminiscing would hit me so hard. As much as I’m happy and excited for all my buddies going out in the world and carving careers and families for themselves, it made me sad that we’re all dispersed. It made me sad I’d forgotten just how many incredible friends I had there. 
Too often we get trapped in the day to day business of living, working, shopping, cooking, washing up that we forget where we’ve already come in life. I’ve forgotten the pain of my Dad dying, being heckled at the school talent show and facing up to my sexuality. Instead I’ve absorbed it. It’s all parts of my past that I don’t recall that often or tell everyone about. That in itself is what we need to remember: we all have pasts and extraordinary experiences that we absorb. We all suffer pain and grief.
When I was home in Southend a couple of weeks ago I heard about a painful time my Dad had gone through, pain that I’d never heard about for the 18 years we were both alive. Amidst celebrating my brothers’ engagements, I had this pang of regret and guilt, that parts of my Dad’s life are unknown to me. But why would he have told me about every pain?
God calls us to live a life of compassion (Colossians 3:12). That doesn’t mean we need know what someone is going through. You can’t know what anyone else is going through, because they’ve already got a different past and different life. We just need to understand that bad experiences are exactly that. Then we can stand side by side and in solidarity with them, whether it’s with displaced people in Colombia or families who are grieving because of cancer.

Remembrance Day

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I love going to Church on Remembrance Sunday. That might sound like an odd opening sentence, but it’s become such a focal point in my year that I look forward to that moment at 11am, when we’re silent, when we stop and reflect. This year I was unprepared. Don’t get me wrong, I was there and dressed respectfully, yet I hadn’t emotionally prepared myself.

Last month I came back from Colombia, where I learnt about the work Christian Aid support in a country where conflict has continued for 50 years. We travelled into Cacarica, in the midst of the rainforest. We heard how whole communities were forced from their patches of paradise to live with 4000 other people in a sports centre. We saw the ‘Hill of Terror’. When I was in Colombia, I heard these stories, took them in, processed them as best I could. Only now, sitting in my cosy church in sunny Southend, did I understand the scale of pain and suffering and struggle they went through.

That personal experience gave a depth to Remembrance Day I’ve never realised. ‘Lest we forget’ is a call to let the memory of servicemen live on, to vow the horrors of the World Wars will never return and simultaneously to recognise there are nations and militaries at war today, and ordinary people who get caught in the crossfires of conflict and the instability it inflicts on their lives. In Colombia, I met Father Alberto. He personally receives death threats for helping displaced people back onto their land. We asked him why he did such risky work, when he could display his Christian love in simpler ways, like feeding the homeless in his city. He replied:

The puzzle is when there’s so much conflict in the world, how can I not do something…
To not act would be treason to my faith


We can and must all act to end conflict, and I’m so grateful we don’t need to risk our lives to do so. Peace and justice are twin words, they have to come together. Without peace, there’s injustice and without justice, there’s conflict. I was really challenged by our Remembrance Sunday service, as our Vicar emphasised standing for peace and justice is not a light-hearted commitment. It means looking at the world, all its problems and deciding how I can personally relieve them. That might be not using ‘banter’ as an excuse for bullying, boycotting Amazon because of their aggressive tax evasion policies or praying and standing in solidarity with the people of the Philippines. I, a Christian Aid intern, have shied away from the news in recent days, trying to block out the devastation that’s happened. Then I heard Father Alberto’s voice again.
‘And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.’
Micah 5:8
This Remembrance Day for me, the penny dropped. ‘Lest we forget’ goes far beyond a passive act of reflection on the past. It is a call for use to be peace and justice bearers in the present, and look to the future hope that is promised through Jesus.

Movember: Mr Men

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I love Mr Men books: the block colour illustrations, the quirky characters and the punchline on the last page of every book. Over the years my favourite has shifted. Looking back on my well-loved collection, I found a simple question in the back of one copy. ‘Who’s your favourite Mr. Men?’ I wrote Mr. Worry. That’s pretty worrying in itself that he was my favourite as a child. Of course, Mr Happy is now up there too. Unlike my Disney sleepwear, my Mr Happy pajamas don’t have my name sewn on the front on them, so let’s hope I never lose them. But recently a new favourite has come into my life, Mr. Nobody. I really can’t recommend it enough and the power lesson of self-esteem it teaches….

Here’s the spoiler alert (for anyone who doesn’t like their Mr. Men reading ruined).

Mr Nobody learns he’s not a nobody, he’s a somebody and I’m a somebody. He has dignity, and I have dignity. He matters, and I matter. I really believe we need to live in a world where everyone understands that, embraces the parable of the Good Samaritan not as ‘just doing my good deed for the day’, but as helping even helping your worst enemy, because gentlemen and gentlewomen help. As I learnt from Colombia last month, helping can be as simple as standing in solidarity with someone, listening and sharing their story. Throughout Movember, I stand in solidarity with men with prostate or testicular cancer, with their families, with my family.

There’s a new Mr Men in town: Mr. Mo, published especially for Movember and available on Kindle. I gave it a 5 star rating.

The Clergyman and the Mo

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Last week at work I led a youth session on the theme of ‘Heroes’. I love superheros and convinced myself everyone else does too. It went well, less well when they decided a superhero would beat up playground bullies, but by the end we’d learnt about some heros of social justice and found the common denominator: heroes do something. It might be organising a mass march on Washington and and delivering arguably the most famous speech in American history, or it might be not using the word ‘gay’ to mean anything but someone’s sexuality. Whatever the scale of impact, heroes do something.

On Wednesday I met a hero at Liverpool Cathedral, a clergyman aged who is about to retire. He told me about the different parishes he worked in before coming to the Cathedral, where he noticed an anomaly. Liverpool Cathedral is an incredible building that draws many vistors in, yet there was no-one with a dog collar ready to welcome them. So he began ‘working the floor’ as a clear religious presence, should anyone want to talk to him. People did talk, he listened and he helped them.

This hero was recently diagnosed with prostate cancer but he’s not ready to call it a day yet. It makes me so frustrated and angry and sad and a mesh of all kinds of emotions that cancer comes along and does this, zapping people of energy, just as kryptonite zaps Superman. That’s why this Movember, I’m  going to do something and grow a moustache. I might raise a bit of money from it – great. I might make my friends more aware of health issues and cancer checkes – awesome. I will tell people the story of heroes like the clergyman and my Dad.

Day one: perhaps I should invest in some selfie lessons? You can track my progress throughout Movember at mobro.co/JoeyKnock