Maybe my hearing is going a bit. There seems to be a new company – some kind of holiday company – advertising on the telly (warning – very tasteful nudity of attractive young people). With my aged ears, it sounded like “Hostile World”, which doesn’t sound a great selling point if you’re appealing to young globetrotters. But, after checking, it turns out they’re Hostelworld. Which is presumably meant to be edgy – youth-hostelly, not bail-hostelly – but international enough to be attractive.
So in the ad. Bunch of attractive young things, the sort of people that Hostel World might want to attract in this their advert, are floating nudely around in a lake in a cave entrance. Two pairs of eyes lock – one young man, one young woman. They compare where they’re from.
He: “Warrington. It’s in England. You?
She: “From Argentina”
I think he’s meant to be self-deprecating. But I’m not convinced. Yes, it’s an advert in the British market. Yes, it’s intended to appeal to British people – and presumably ones from the not-quite-highest demographic, or the nude bloke would be from Marlborough or Andoverford or somewhere. But still. He gets to identify himself by his home town. She’s not so important. There’s no need to identify her so closely. So she’s from “Argentina”. There’s a suggestion that, what with them being nude and on holiday, something might happen later on. After all, he’s got all the information he needs. She’s from Argentina.
Argentina’s a big place. Much bigger than England. But according to “Hostelworld”, that’s not important. Warrington – that’s important.
I dunno why this makes me think about mission. Or, not about mission. Maybe about my preconceptions about mission. Not a weird preconception that missionaries have to swim around naked in lakes. That’d be ridiculous. And, if they were in Malaysia, they’d get arrested for upsetting the spirits of the mountains. And then it really would be a Hostile World. Sorry. Got distracted. Back to my preconceptions about mission. The idea that missionaries go “abroad” – to places where people aren’t like us. And because they’re not us, they’re all homogenously not us. They need English. They needed to believe in our conservative religion in the old days. But now so many people abroad actually do have the conservative religion of the 19th Century, we’d really rather they had our nice liberal views. Why can’t they keep up, these people from abroad? Why can’t abroad people be more like us? Why’ve they never heard of Warrington, so we have to explain it’s in England?
The people of our world are marvellously diverse. There hundreds of different languages. People, wherever they live, have their own cultures – distinguish between places a little way away in exactly the same way that people who aren’t from Warrington distinguish themselves from people from Warrington. They all, if they know Jesus, know him their own way. They each have to find their own way to faith, through faith. They follow God in their own language.
We don’t have to understand everybody in the world. That would be tricky. There’s loads of them. But we can at least understand that they’re all different. (Shout from the back of “I’m not!”) There’s not just us and everybody else. If the Church is truly catholic, God accepts everybody in their own right. People from Husborne Crawley, people from wherever you are, people from Warrington, and people from Argentina. The whole of it.
Archdruid Eileen is the leader of a cyber-coenobitic religious community for the 21st century (with added tealights!) Where creation is respected; where the divine is encountered; where trees are sung to. Where no bunny goes un-hugged.