catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 8, Num 21 :: 2009.10.30 — 2009.11.12


Telling the truth

A manifesto is provocative to people, I think, because it is such a spare, bold type of writing.  This genre rarely bothers with plot development, persuasive argumentation, concrete imagery, or citation of research-those rhetorical tools which are usually required for effective human communication.  A manifesto trusts that a powerful response will come from simply announcing an interpretation of reality.  The writer is insisting, “It is what it is, and naming it is enough.” 

A manifesto, when drafted by a person who is closely attentive to the spirit of the group she represents, has a particular power to mobilize that group into political action or revolution.  This power is not created out of nothing by the manifesto or its author, but released because the manifesto has helped the group visualize and respond to conflicts that are causing them to chafe and churn in a state of unrest.  

Even if the unfolding of history reveals a manifesto to be out of sync with a particular process or system of the created world and human society, it may still be worthwhile to treat any manifesto seriously for having this important characteristic: it translates an actual “spirit of the times” into the flesh and blood realm by way of the visible human word. 

However, I think some of the attributes that make a manifesto so appealing can also make it sort of dangerous.  It gets right to the point without wasting time on chit-chat and ice-breaker games, but it tends to neglect nuance and paradox, which require an honored place in wise truth-telling.  Groups of people may be roused to impassioned action at the manifesto’s urging, but there is little value given to flexibility and humor, two practical tools in any pursuit of justice and peace.  An unflinching manifesto and its subscribers may kick butt for a while, but the patient meandering of a story, or an eye-opening turn of phrase in a poem may be best suited to lead us all over the long haul.

My writing folder contains two short pieces that might fit the description of a manifesto.   I have personally utilized them in the way a group manifesto would be used by its followers-to energize a focused course of action. The first one is a manifesto of positive affirmation, more particularly a confession or creed.  I signed off on my first draft of this document by labeling it A-Work-In-Progress, because any confession needs to be open to revision as time reveals more about reality.  I have it taped up in my home and read it occasionally as a concise reminder of a few principles that guide my daily choices and actions.  The second manifesto is more negative, with an undercurrent of indictment or revolt.  I felt like I was going to get in trouble when I wrote it, so that is a clue that I hit a nerve somewhere in the atmosphere.   I re-read this one on occasion to stay wary of the invisible principalities and powers which may be opposing me as I spend most hours of each day as a caregiver to my son and foster children.


BECAUSE God created the world and us, saying in delight, “It is good,” . . . this world and our bodies ARE our home.

BECAUSE God became a human in Immanuel-God with Us . . . the process of becoming more fully human is still our goal and God’s plan for us.  It never was and is not now supposed to be about transcendence, immaterial existence, detachment or misanthropy. 

BECAUSE God is self-relational and inter-personal in the Trinity . . . our image-bearing is well carried out if we seek healthy relationships with ourselves and all others, based on the recognition of Jesus Christ and his ministry of reconciliation.

BECAUSE God has redeemed us and his creation from bondage to death . . . we live out our hope with our bodies, our tasks and our environment.  Our preserving and tending ways do not save our bodies and environment, do not elude death, do not undermine the efficacy of Christ’s work.  Instead, they announce our hope that because of Jesus’ resurrection, decay is not the final word for God’s creation and the creatures that fill it.

BECAUSE God’s mercy and compassion is justice-seeking . . . the idea of justice is only a threat to humans who refuse to face the end of themselves.  They avoid human limitations by hoarding wealth, power, pride and license in ever-growing measure. Their dread of the day that will clearly reveal their poverty, helplessness, brokenness and slavery is a continual source of unrest, trembling, even terror. The anticipation of God’s Day of Justice is a comfort to those who are hindered from their fair share of resources, influence, dignity and freedom.  The poor, the weak, the shattered and the oppressed have found relief in recognizing the truth about their painful condition, and are free to trust in the Lord as their protector and advocate.

A-Work-In-Progress, June 2004

Attention, Caregivers!

If a family system, church, social agency or economic system puts power and wealth before people, these are the unwritten rules that are in operation:

This system is not structured for meeting the needs of people, especially children and their caregivers.

Children with unmet needs are wired to express them using vocalization, body language and actions.  They will use increasingly distressing or disturbing behaviors if they are not receiving a response when they communicate needs.  

Caregivers are expected by the system to use varying tactics of force, abandonment and shame to teach a child to be less needy.   Some children do not take to this teaching well, and do not respond to the tactics.

If a caregiver fails to gain compliance from a child, or escalates the tactics of force, abandonment and shame in such a way that harms the child, the caregiver is blamed and shamed.

When a caregiver refuses to use tactics of force, abandonment, or shame on a child, there is recognition that the caregiver will need significant help and support to be able to meet the needs of the child and continue to meet her own needs.

If a caregiver recognizes and asks for extra help and support, she is blamed and shamed for being demanding, selfish, annoying, and overly needy.  She is reminded to stop spoiling and coddling the child.

The bottom line:  This system requires that caregivers and their children deny and minimize their own needs, accept and learn to perpetuate a role of greater compliance and self-sufficiency.  Be warned that the system is prepared to punish or abandon those caregivers and children who persist in communicating their needs or escalate their methods of asking for help.  Be warned that anyone who names or resists the above rules is engaging with a powerful force that will do what it takes to silence or squash non-compliant persons.

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