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The weight of things

I sit and write this welcome as we come to the turning of the year.

An unusually heavy time brings the weight of the world before us everywhere we turn our heads.  Clouds portending Winter and Spring peril for energy vital for 21 st century life are adding to an inflation many of us have not seen since the 1970’s. The grim life of the Covid-era and more was supposed to have come to an end!

The contemporary world reels from a series of crises. Hot on the heels of the Covid-19 pandemic and climate crisis, inflation and the cost of living crisis, and housing crisis combine with the war in Ukraine, Syria and elsewhere, millions of displaced people, growing inequalities and pushbacks on democratic rights and equal rights.

These situations which bring the weight of things on the world and leave so many burdened are fundamentally crises of value:
i) Economic value – as evidenced by inflation and runway prices
ii) Ecological value – only those who are ideologically committed would question that something weird is happening to our weather.
iii) Societal and community value – contrasted with systemic erosion of people what with de-personalisation of contemporary life and racialised violence
iv) The value of human life – as trashed and desecrated most clearly at present in the Ukraine

To their eternal shame, leaders of the Russian Orthodox church continue to bless their troops whose main playbook is to pound cities and people to rubble. Have we learnt nothing from the tragic tales of tribal deities who used to masquerade as the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ?

In these pages, ‘The Red Stain of Cain’ is available. This is about violence and the cross. How is it that those who espouse a high view of the cross (‘Jesus died for my sins’) can so easily collude with violence? Where on earth were theological antibodies to this blindness?

Plus the ‘The Seven Songs’, a take on how navigate the whole order of things after a shock of simply staggering proportions to how we once performed our existence. It shows why a Christian view of life is the most compelling and joined up there is. It is on Amazon etc and publicised in formats such
as https://www.facebook.com/ChrisSteed.author as well as Great Reads.

May I also draw attention to the only novel I am likely to write: ‘Letters from a Shuttered Country’ which depicts a group of old friends wrestling with their existence during lockdown and a haunting secret that threads their lives together.

A thread running through the body of work generally is that humans seems to function according to the value placed upon them – whether under the weight of social scripts or inter-personal life. Erode this and all sorts of malign effects arise. The theory provides a partial explanation for such things as deaths of despair (witness the current opioid epidemic in the US), feelings of worthlessness and helplessness in the face of heavy anxieties. Such matters will be addressed at various conferences this year.

A book has been in gestation about how therapy and theology hang together. There is need for a new conversation in this field that can also take on board the ways that race and gender have re-shaped society and which so often surface in the therapeutic space. At London School of Theology we are thinking hard about how we can align all this more effectively. ‘Finding the Valuable Person’ will be published this year (courtesy of Pickwick Press) and endeavours to re-site the value and worth of people as belonging to fundamental drives, not just ethics. It re-charges the REMA model of counselling that is encapsulated both in a degree training course and in a low-cost counselling service.

This approach to therapy begs the question of how ‘valuable personhood’ presents a challenge to a naturalistic philosophy that sees our worth as essentially the interaction of quarks and leptons. Join me as these are profound questions about our existence we must all wrestle with.

“Come to me, all you that are heavy laden and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11v28)