Monthly Blog

May-June blog

posted 22 May 2018, 06:48 by Martyn Goss

Question for us all: who on Earth am I?

The matter of self-awareness and who we believe we are is probably the most critical, and yet frequently ignored of our lives.   Generally speaking we do not think much about our identity and for most of the time are content to go with the social labels and titles ascribed to us – neighbour, friend, parent, child, sibling, relative, colleague, and so on.

We rarely give a second thought to our roles other than the obvious, and how we relate to the wider community around us is usually determined by these narrow functions.

However, who others say we are (who do you say that I am?) is fundamental for most of our happiness and human fulfilment.  We spend an enormous amount of energy, time and money on our self-images.  We go out of our way to impress others with an unceasing barrage of fashion items, musical choices, displays of technology and cultural jargon.

Why do we do this?  Consciously or unconsciously we use other people as mirrors who reflect some kind of image of ourselves back to us.  We can only fully know who we are through others and these reflections profoundly determine how we see and feel about ourselves.

But one of the problems we have in our contemporary society is that approaches to self-identity are so individualistic.  We do not see ourselves in relation to a community as much as self-contained personalities isolated in a fragmented world.  Eventually we are pushed into asking ‘who do you say I am?’, and building our personae around those who are closer friends or family.

This lack of confidence in a broader common identity lies at the heart of our discomfort about Brexit.  We attempt to identify ourselves within smaller comfortable circles and ignore the wider history and context of our humanity.  We set ourselves up as ‘little Englanders’ or ‘parochial residents’ without reference to any larger picture.

Personally, I am happy to identify myself as a native Devonian, and a citizen of Exeter as part of the South West of England. But I am also a Brit, a European and a global human being.  None of these stands over and against the others.  Because I may be called a Christian, does not preclude me from standing alongside my sister and brother Muslims, Hindus or Humanists.   Because I was born in Exeter does not prevent me from loving Plymouth as Devon’s other city.  Because my skin colour is pale, I can still have an affinity with those who have darker complexions.   My role as a father and husband is also part of my position as an active citizen and member of local community organisations.

My own approach is both-and, not either-or.  This attempt to be more holistic extends also to my relationship with the Earth.  My humanness is sustained and developed by my living in cooperation with Nature, not working against her.  I am a part of an amazing, ongoing evolutionary process of life - not apart from it.

That which fractures, divides and fragments is unhealthy.  It is also seen as ‘sinful’ in the Christian tradition because separation and segregation are not part of the divine plan for peace and wholeness.  The God of Christianity (and other faiths) is a God of togetherness.  Walls, chasms, electric fences, even national barriers, can contradict the essentially integral message of liberation or salvation. It is only together that we can complete the task of growing into who we might become. It is only together that gifts are shared and needs met.

The real question we need to address is not who on Earth am I, but who on Earth are we? No wonder we get our priorities wrong!

 We are here to build community through caring relationships.  That is really how we can develop identities of solidarity, building up a balanced society at ease with itself, not debased by greed, but as one in a culture of communing, caring and embracing…


The more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe about us, the less taste we shall have for its destruction

Rachel Carson

April Blog

posted 5 Apr 2018, 06:43 by Martyn Goss

Greetings for Eastertide 2018!

Some people, including those of faith, say we need to care for Creation and look after the Earth.  But I am not sure that they are right! 

In reality, the environment is well able to care for itself.  The (God-given) laws of physics, chemistry, biology, etc. ensure that life evolves healthily. Where there is a wound, Nature heals it.  When there is fracture, natural processes will prompt repair.  Where there is a void, it is filled by the very nature of life.  Mother Earth looks after herself and her own. 

What we perhaps need to do more is not so much care for but care about what is happening to the whole planet.  We need to care that we are producing excessive amounts of carbon, or particulate matter, or disposable plastics.  We should care about the effects of gross consumerism on fragile economies, or poor air quality on children, or loss of species due to unsustainable farming practices. 

However, when we start caring about what’s going on, we inevitably end up needing to examine ourselves and our lifestyles.  We actually conclude by campaigning against ourselves – to reduce our insatiable greed, our uncontrolled desires, our own selfish demands.

As with tackling poverty, we not only have to start giving back charitably, we have also to stop our economic systems from taking unjustly from the poor and the environment in the first place.  It is not enough to comfortably distribute handouts.  We need to seek what is right and prevent life being broken or impoverished beforehand.

In scriptural language we are to seek kindness and mercy, but they are to be accompanied by righteousness and justice.  This is at the heart of caring about……

I would not dismiss the importance of what some call ‘stewardship’ – looking after things well. Yet in biblical terms the word ‘steward’ is applied either to someone caring for a specific plot of land (vineyard, garden or field) or, as more often, an amount of money (in Greek an ‘oikonomou’).  To simply apply the term stewardship to the entire inhabited earth is to disregard the capacity for the Earth to self-regulate and to overlook the stronger biblical emphasis on the holiness of the world.

“And God saw that it was good – and it was very good” – that off repeated sentence from Genesis 1 and 2, reads as an understatement.  That is until we realise the words ‘good’ and ‘God’ derive from the same root in English.  So as we may say “God is good”, we may equally say “the Earth is godly!”. 

Surely this has to be a fundamental reason why Christians and others should take the environment seriously – because it is a place of holiness. That is why caring about has to be at the heart of our behaviour. The planet is sacred and we should not desecrate her.  In as much as we do this unto the Creation, we also do it unto the Creator…..

 Seasonal best wishes - Martyn Goss

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