In many ways we could be forgiven for feeling that the world is in a constant state of flux right now — not just with the pandemic and how that has deeply affected us all, but also in terms of our economy, politics and, in a lesser-known arena possibly, the religious world too. While Messianic Judaism is not a direct by-product of the recent turbulence in the world today, the interest shown in it most certainly is. During the lockdown, the huge numbers of texts, calls and emails we received bore testimony to the exponential growth in interest in this modern (and not so modern) form of Judaism. Some fourteen years ago now, Time Magazine ran an article about an emerging idea that they suggested would go on to fundamentally change the world: that Yeshua was a Jew and nothing else.
Tonight, at the Estadio do Dragao in Porto, Chelsea play Manchester City in what is set to be a mouthwatering finale to this year’s UEFA Champions League. The only sporting competition I know the theme tune for, I’ve hardly missed a final since that famous night in 2005 when Steven Gerrard’s Liverpool hauled themselves back against Carlo Ancelotti’s inimitable AC Milan.
Media outlets are once again decrying the “conflict” between Israel and Palestine, framing Hamas actions as “terrorism”, whilst conversely describing Israel’s as “military action”. At the time of writing, Hamas rockets had killed eight in Israel, while Israeli aerial bombardment of Gaza had killed 122 Palestinians (including 31 children) and injured 830 others. The imbalance in power, resources and media discourse is beyond belief.
In the foreground, an Israeli military bulldozer is broken in half due to impact of a map of Palestine. Pieces of the Israeli bulldozer lay scattered around. The Palestinian map is overlaid with Palestinian flag. The military bulldozer represents Israeli annexation of Palestinian land and the Palestinian map represents Palestinian resistance. In the background text reads: ‘Resist Israel’s Annexation Plan’ and ‘Freedom For Palestine’.
The longest period I spent completely alone during this pandemic was one week. I spent the week reading the increasingly distressing news on my phone, desperately wanting to do something, to be a small part of some collective action against the tightening authoritarian grip of the Tory government. Instead, I sat alone in my rented room, waiting, worrying and reading.
A few years ago, a friend bought me The Desert Fathers: Sayings of the Early Christian Monks. When I picked up the book, I drew no connecting line between these 4th Century monks sitting in their cells in the Egyptian desert, waiting for the world to end, and myself, sitting, in the 21st Century, in my room in South East London. Perhaps with good reason; these monks spent decades in near or complete isolation, barely eating, sleeping or drinking – I spent a week scrolling on my phone and eating takeaway pizzas. But eventually I did begin to ask a question that connected my experience with theirs: What am I doing in here by myself, when terrible things are happening to us out there?
A group of left-wing Norfolk Labour activists have re-founded the Norfolk branch of the socialist pressure group Momentum. Originally they were affiliated with the pro-reform Forward Momentum faction, which argued that the group needed to change in a post-Corbyn era. Following the victory of Forward Momentum candidates in the Labour Party’s internal National Coordinating Group (NCG) elections, at the expense of the Momentum Renewal slate associated with Momentum founder Jon Lansman, they hope that the group can be revived locally.
From the first Red Scare in the US, terms like ‘communism’, ‘socialism’, and ‘anarchism’ have been subject to suspicion and scrutiny. Despite describing common views, they are considered subversive, chaotic and threatening, and cause others to be wary. Many of society’s role models, however, have been communists – especially those most associated with struggles against oppression, imperialism and bigotry. Forgetting this is no accident: when centrists and the right-wing express a shared sense of pride for achievements in activism, they place history under a rose-tinted lens, carefully side-stepping mention of their role in enforcing the barriers which required lifting in the first place.
The call came and I was told that my second period of furlough had ended. I would return to the workshop for three twelve and a half hour shifts per week, 7am to 7.30pm. The week my boss called, I’d been rereading Gravity and Grace by Simone Weil (1909-1943). Weil was a philosopher who worked in temporary teaching jobs, often being run out of town for her trade union-organising and activism. By the time of her death, Weil had built up a body of idiosyncratic, unorthodox, mystically-inclined theological writing, posthumously collected in Gravity and Grace. I read the final section, ‘The Mysticism of Work’, the day before my return to the workshop. After sitting in my room for three months, going back to such long days would be hard physically, which made it hard mentally; I didn’t want to do it, but I had no choice. At least I’d be able to search for Weil’s mysticism of work.