This is our truth, tell us yours
If you have any contact with the kind of training run by and for evangelical Christians (think Steve Chalke or Sticky Faith) you will hear a lot about relational Christianity. Its pretty basic an idea, people like people, people listen to people, to their stories, their thoughts hopes and dreams. You are told to organise events which attract non Christians, fun not too religious events, and build those all important relationships.
And it works, I mean a revival might be the dream of some, but all the research shows its relationships that get people into church, keep them there and bring the next generation involved. The old fashioned idea of a Billy Graham style hell fire and damnation preacher has been replaced by cafe church, messy church, anything where they can get you through the door, a cake in your hand and actually speak to you one on one.
I see this happening all the time, far less deliberately, in another sphere completely. When I first started talking about sex work on the old interwebs there were very few of us doing so with non work accounts. (Sex workers have of course always been early adopters and probably had ads up before Tim Berners Lee finished proposing a series of linked intranets). It was talking to other women that the power of the relationship became clear. Many had read the misery memoirs and the antis had become practiced at presenting very personal testimony as fact, even while saying “you are not representative” to those who spoke out. No one is representative, thats kind of the point, but when you have talked to someone, see them as human, listened to their hopes, fears and dreams, it is much harder to support criminalizing them.
This happened in microcosm recently to me. I was going to an outcall when I laddered my stockings, the closest place to get a spare pair was a local independent sex shop. It occurred that they might be more accommodating about me getting changed in the shop, thus meaning I was not late for my booking. Which is how I ended up changing my stockings in the middle of a sex shop, chatting to the lass behind the counter. She was nice, doing me a favour, so lying seemed wrong when she asked if I had a date. We only chatted for ten minutes, and like a good geordie lass she was most concerned with if sex work paid well. In our short conversation I hope I managed to convey that it was a service job, like any other, had good and bad days, and yes, paid well, but has all the perils of being self employed.
Will it change the world? No, but it wasnt meant to, it wasn’t even planned, I do know however that the world is changing in the years since I first had these conversations.
I cannot write a post on the power of the relationship without mentioning a news story that has been quite dominant here recently. It has been hard to avoid the pictures of the rallies where Jeremy Corbyn has been speaking. Hundreds of people, many young, many who had given up on politics being attracted to hear a politician speaking. It is old fashioned, relational electioneering, of the sort that the spin doctors no doubt claim doesnt work any more. A politician is meant to sit in a studio, staring into a camera, or only talk to the great and the good. You only go outside for carefully managed photo opportunities.
Corbyn seems to intrinsically understand the power of the relationship, and its thrown his rivals, rather in the same way antis are thrown when we refuse to play by the rules of the 1980s. Whoever wins the Labour leadership election needs to learn that relationships matter, that not being a clone kitted out by spin doctors mattered, that being real matters.
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