My Facebook inbox is overflowing with warnings from my well meaning friends, the message is simple, beware Jayden K Smith, he is a hacker, he is out to steal all of your information, and your friends information, and their friends too. In short Jayden K Smith is a nasty piece of work, under no circumstances should you befriend him! A quick search on Snopes reveals that this is the same hoax that began circulating in 2009.
The fact that my usually sensible friends can fall so easily for this hoax and start sending it on to all of their friends is remarkable, and yet it seems to say something about our fear of being made vulnerable. The very suggestion that a hacker could steal our passwords and financial information sets us into defensive mode very quickly and so the warning is circulating, beware Jayden K Smith, he is a nasty piece of work!
Just ponder that for a moment or two, and consider how you receive other news, when the press suggests that a certain group are untrustworthy how deeply do you question that? This fear-mongering is rampant in the media, and fuels so much hatred and division. I bumped into a young Muslim mum in the supermarket the other day, and when I turned to apologise she looked really fearful, but what I saw was her beauty. I did apologise, and then remarked how beautiful her turquoise blue Hijab was, she reflected that she had been concerned about what I was going to say to her. I find that to be deeply sad, and yet I know that her fears were not unfounded. Too often the given message is beware of the Muslim community, like Jayed K Smith, they are out to get you!
The list could grow of course; beware of refugees, of Labour/ Conservative Party supporters, of Pagans/ Christians/ those who follow weird ( in our reyes) spiritualities…. beware of the rich, the poor, the disabled, the homeless, the disenfranchised…. beware of those who are gay, trans, homophobic, beware of your neighbour, of the alien or stranger in your midst; it could be that like Jayden K Smith they are out to get you!
The very fact that we can use the term “they”, to place a label upon a particular group differentiating them from “us” is both helpful and unhelpful, and we must be very careful to ask questions of our motives and honest about our fears. Fear of the other reveals our insecurities and also taps into a primal drive for survival, but that does not make it healthy. Jayden K Smith of internet fame does not exist, but I wonder if there is a Jayden K Smith out there who is a thoroughly nice guy!
So how do we move forward in a fear-filled world? My first suggestion would be to get to know the other, the individual (s) behind the label. I have written a lot about how my attitudes towards homeless people have changed dramatically following being involved in the Comfort Zone Project in Blackpool, of how people I would once have called other have become my friends and given me so much, that I cannot help but be thankful. I have been challenged in other ways too, to stop labelling LGBT friends and to celebrate our common humanity while acknowledging that sexuality is something totally unique to each of us, a bit like our fingerprints.
Again the list could go on and on, I have pagan friends, and muslim friends, I have friends from many different countries in the world, friends who are like me and friends who are not like me, friendships that take no notice of labels, many friends who unlike Jayden K Smith who are not out to get me…. but perhaps he is a thoroughly nice guy.
So maybe, just maybe it is time to take risks with those we might call other, like the members of one of the Mosques here in Sheffield who took the risk of gracing the Christian communities with gifts of chocolate cake, gifts made humbly and with a true vulnerability as these cakes were brought to worship services on a Sunday morning! Humbled by such an approach we are left stumbling over ourselves with wondering how to respond, but then perhaps to simply receive with glad thanks was enough in itself!
Maybe we need to take risks with one another, I was challenged to do so only recently when I responded to a Facebook request for a stop over in the Doncaster Sheffield area. The request was from a Facebook friend, but someone I had never met, so taking the risk that our mutual friends were people I trust I offered just that. I reflected to my daughter that my guest could have been an axe murderer, she responded but mum, for all he knew you could have been one! The result a lovely conversation and a new friendship in real life!
Taking risks in a risk averse society is counter-cultural, but surely it is a gift that we must dare to give to ourselves and to the society as a whole, if we are to respond with real compassion and grow in understanding we must be those who take risks, who dare to be open and vulnerable, who are willing to learn and even to open the door to Jayden K Smith and his friends, for in doing so we might be entertaining angels in disguise!
2 1-4 If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care— then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.
5-8 Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion.
9-11 Because of that obedience, God lifted him high and honored him far beyond anyone or anything, ever, so that all created beings in heaven and on earth—even those long ago dead and buried—will bow in worship before this Jesus Christ, and call out in praise that he is the Master of all, to the glorious honor of God the Father. (Philippians 2)