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Living in a broken world

Tuesday, 8 June 2021  | John Kidson

Signs of our brokenness surround us. Long before Bob Dylan sang about it, we knew. We were aware of world history, we'd witnessed federal politics, we knew of pandemics before Covid-19; and besides, weren't our own hearts squirming a bit? Broken people working with broken people to patch, to mend, ‘to tie it up with wire' – all vain attempts at healing. While Covid hopefully will be defeated by a vaccine, it seems work-place toxicity is a plague of far more intricate machinations.

Most would concur with the premise: we are a higher order. We generally agree that humanity acquiesces to a 'rule of law' concept, whereas the animal kingdom pays little respect to individual rights. Respect lies behind our desire to control 'toxic' workplaces and our rightful condemning of those who infringe on the rights of others. Yet, while rape, seduction and lewd behaviour are criticised, we still tolerate a burgeoning pornography industry. Bob Dylan laments:

              Every time you leave and go off someplace
              things fall to pieces in my face
              broken hands on broken ploughs
              broken treaties broken vows
              broken pipes broken tools
              people bending broken rules …

              Hound dog howlin’, bullfrog croakin’

              everything is broken.

              (From: Everything is Broken)

I certainly acknowledge my red-blooded broken masculinity. But the claim that 'all males share the propensity to rape' needs examining. Propensity is static; capacity is another step. 'Rape' is defined by social commentators as a crime of aggression. The rapist desires power, wishing to exert control and dominance over the victim. All males have in common the necessary body parts of a rapist - but not the capacity to rape. A warped willingness of mind and will, a distorted inclination of spirit and emotion, are only found in the minority. Most males choose not to rape!

Back in high school, there were jokes about rape, but we took the meaning of consent quite seriously. Jokes were put aside, caution urged. First: the legal must: minimum age 16. Then: one needed to ask. And then: one needed to receive the answer 'yes'. We couldn't have imagined how anyone, especially an adult, could be in any doubt! Sadly, sometimes in our broken world, even in high office people cross boundaries that cost others dearly. Our group was easily excited. We sang along to lyrics like: some girls will and some girls won't and some girls need a lot of lovin’, some girls don't. Sometimes we needed calming. Yet beyond conversations, in reality, bravado and daring were in limited supply. Then a few of us, for reasons ranging through high moral code, fear and low self-esteem, decided to wait. We decided to shelve the ‘actualisation of manhood’ until later.

Little serious thought was ever given to assisting each other to maintain our decision. Continued discussion remained frivolous, serious male-bonding was unheard of. A mixture of unbelief and jealousy greeted one student's claim: ‘My old man told me, to do what I like, just make sure I got the condoms from him first’. We were bereft of any alternative guidance or advice beyond the simplistic. So our small minority chose to preserve 'going all the way' until we had embarked on a permanent relationship. Of course the private solo substitute attracted close to universal acceptance. For me this delivered more stress than relief so I postponed any celebrating, still trusting in the one who pointed out the irrefutable link between desire and action (see Jesus' Sermon on the Mount in Matt 5.28). I have written about this teen-angst elsewhere (see Equip 27, 2015, issue 27, 7).

These days, I can only speak authoritatively about my own experience. Despite occasions best described as 'close calls', my twenties featured several months of in-service job training courses. At these I would laughingly be relegated alone to 'virgin's corner'. Sure this distressed me. But I was more than compensated by the mutual delight of the first-time experience on our wedding night.

We continue to live in this broken world. A few days ago, being now in the vulnerable age bracket, I got the jab! Side effects? Not really - jabbed at 4.16pm, freed at 4.32pm. Then an orange juice and being driven home, I lay down for 5 minutes at 6.03pm. I think the aroma of my wife's cooking woke me at 8.45pm. I don't need to be totally together, just together about my un-togetherness. Content and trusting in this temporary broken world. After all, a broken and contrite heart will never be despised (Ps 51:17).

John Kidson is a former youth worker and uni chaplain. He now ministers part time in Grafton Anglican diocese.

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