What’s been increasingly heavy on my heart this lockdown period is the reported upswing in instances of domestic violence facilitated by the increased stress of the current situation and the increased opportunity to express anger in secret violence. I can’t imagine how trapped I’d feel if I couldn’t escape, especially with no idea how long the lockdown will last.
I dislike the term ‘domestic violence’. Somehow the word ‘domestic’ makes it sound almost homely and minimises the reality of what happens. When I worked in prison, the correct words were used: assault, grievous bodily harm, rape, murder - words that convey the reality of crimes committed against your own family, though even these terms fail to convey the shattering betrayal of the trust we all need in our closest relationships.
I’m fortunate enough never to have experienced it first-hand myself, but have heard many personal stories from friends, colleagues, relatives and prisoners, male and female, starting with my friend and work colleague Tracy, when we were young adults. She returned from a week’s sick leave supposedly due to a very heavy cold, but told me she’d had to wait at home a week to let the bruising fade away on her face sufficiently to be covered by make-up. Something done in secret, that makes the recipient feel they, too, need to keep it shamefully hidden as if they share the blame, often because they’ve been told it IS their fault: that if their personality, behaviour or body was nicer, better, prettier, the violence wouldn’t have erupted.
I don’t know if there’s something we, the Bansfield church community, could or should be doing to support those trapped in this way, in addition to caring about it and praying for them. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.
What I DO know is that the Easter message of the resurrection of Jesus Christ demonstrates that God values the whole human person, mind and body. The pattern of Jesus’ resurrection is asserted as the pattern for all human beings; and, because it was as easy then as it is now for people to suppose there’s at best a dis-embodied after-life, the resurrection stories repeatedly stress the sheer solid body of the risen Christ, complete with hands, feet and digestive system. I like the phrase in one of Peter’s speeches where he says God raised Jesus and allowed him to appear ‘to us who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead’. Sure enough, a body free from the same limitations as before, but nonetheless a real eating, drinking body (Acts 10.40-41).
This speaks to me of God not just caring about people’s psychological damage but also loving those battered, shamed, even murdered bodies of the lockdown period; not letting them be snuffed out permanently as if their bodies ultimately didn’t matter, but raising them to new, safe, life - both in this life, if the wider community has the will to ensure it, and in the resurrection life of the world to come.
Despite the seriousness of this message, I do wish you all a very Happy Easter! I do miss you an awful lot!
Rector, Bansfield Benefice