Getting to Know the Lay of the Land - John Kleinsman
The term “lay” is one I am used to. I am a lay Catholic man. I am also officially regarded as being a “lay” representative in my capacity as a member of a health-research ethics committee. I sit on that committee with a number of other “lay” persons and an equal number of health professionals. And, as a full time employee of the church who teaches theology and researches bioethics, I am often referred to as a “lay theologian”.
It strikes me that it is hard to escape the fact that the term “lay” has pejorative overtones; he or she is “just” a lay person. Consider also the following dictionary definitions: A lay-by is a portion of road widened to permit a vehicle to stop without interfering with the main flow of traffic; a lay shaft is a secondary shaft of a machine not forming part of the main system of power-transmission; a lay figure is “a jointed wooden figure for arranging drapery on etc; unimportant person, nonentity; unreal character in novel etc”. The same dictionary then defines a lay person as: a. Non-clerical, not in orders; of, done by, lay man; non-professional, not expert.
Thinking about it, I would prefer NOT to be defined by what I am not. I bring particular knowledge and experience to the ethics committee that complements – but is not overshadowed by – the specialised medical training of the health professionals. Equally, my role as a teacher of theology and researcher in bioethics reflects particular gifts and qualifications I have been able to develop. I am a professional and an expert.
In the very early Church no clear distinction was made between clergy and laity. The emphasis was on all the faithful using their diverse gifts in the different ways needed to build up the faith community and the Reign of God. The distinction we are only too familiar with developed later. It was then exacerbated when education became the exclusive privilege of a small minority; the rich and powerful and those with ecclesiastical training – the clergy. The distinction between clergy and laity created an emphasis on the former as if they alone were the real church.
The documents of the Second Vatican Council provide lay people with a mandate to define themselves in a much more positive way. We are the faithful who are fully incorporated into the church by baptism, called to take on a wide responsibility in the life of the church and the world. But how convinced are we that this is the case? To what extent are we still suffering from what might be described as a pre-Vatican II ecclesiological hangover? Perhaps our continued use of the terms ‘lay’ and ‘ordained’ maintains a boundary that is preventing us from grasping the new ecclesiological vision, stifling the work of the Holy Spirit?
I sometimes wonder what it would be like if we were to come up with a new term to describe the call that comes with baptism; a term that helped us to think about the vocation to be a lay person as a positive choice rather than as a “lay-by”? Chances are, were we to truly change the way we think about ourselves as lay persons, we would also find ourselves acting differently. Perhaps, then, the church would find itself closer to the beautiful vision that Pope Paul VI had at the end of his ministry – a place where the only boundaries are those created by grace. Would we not then be freer to live out our call to discipleship in a way that reflects the full flowering of our baptismal vocation?
If tomorrow there was a sudden upsurge in the number of ordained priests in New Zealand, would we want to abandon the many programmes we have for training and forming lay people as pastoral leaders and chaplains? I for one would hope not! To the extent that anyone might be inclined to answer ‘YES’ to that question, then I fear that he or she might still be infected with the old mindset that sees being lay as a place to be Catholic that is away from “the main flow of traffic”.
At the same time, to acknowledge the greater responsibility being taken by lay people in the New Zealand church does not mean we don’t regret there are fewer ordained ministers or that we value their wonderful contribution any less.
We who are “lay” have to stop thinking of ourselves as non-expert second-rate Christians. We also have to stop thinking of lay chaplains, lay ministers and lay pastoral workers as a backstop option brought about by an absence of priests.
Times are a-changing. We are being challenged anew to live out the Vatican II perspective on the lay of the land.
Te Whiti and Tohu - Prophets of Non-violence
Jim Consedine recounts the story of Parihaka – a black stain on British colonial history, yet a wonderful story of a Maori campaign for peace and justice
Though the lions rage, still I am for peace…Though I be killed, I yet shall live; though dead, I shall live in peace which will be the accomplishment of my aim.
Te Whiti o Rongomai (5 November 1881)
If one were to ask any group of New Zealanders to name iconic figures in their history, certain names might readily spring to mind: Edmund Hillary, Janet Frame, Ernest Rutherford, Michael Joseph Savage, Whina Cooper. Perhaps also James K. Baxter, Colin Meads, Jean Batten. Peter Snell, or Kiri Te Kanawa. How many, I wonder, would name Te Whiti o Rongomai and Tohu Kakahi?
Yet at one time, the names of Te Whiti and his compatriot Tohu were as well known in New Zealand as are the names of Jonah Lomu and Helen Clark today. For in the late 1800s, Te Whiti and Tohu co-ordinated a series of daring non-violent campaigns to halt land confiscation, catching the imagination not just of the nation but becoming widely known throughout the British Empire.
Along with the creation of our welfare state and nuclear free laws, knowledge of these remarkable men and their leadership at Parihaka should form part of the spiritual DNA of every person born in this country. Their movement of non-violent resistance to state tyranny deserves to be placed alongside the movements a century later in India and the US led by Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jnr. Indeed, there is evidence Gandhi knew of and was inspired by the resistance at Parihaka.
In the 1860s, Te Whiti and Tohu had emerged as natural leaders of their people, grounded in the spiritual traditions of Maori as well as the Christian Scriptures. “Te Whiti and Tohu... were Christian pacifists and promoters of spiritual and economic growth.”
By 1860, the number of European settlers matched the number of Maori and the government felt obliged to supply land to new settlers. They made it clear they were willing to use force to colonise the North Island if other means failed. The New Zealand Settlers Act (1863) made it possible to confiscate land if Maori refused to co-operate in its purchase. They were deemed to be in rebellion. Although warned by the judiciary that such confiscations were illegal, the government confiscated three million acres (1.2 million hectares), much of it in Taranaki where Te Whiti and Tohu lived with their people at Parihaka.
With a further inflow of settlers in the 1870s, the government set its sights on acquiring further large land blocks including Parihaka. Te Whiti had observed at close quarters the land wars in the 1860s in Waitara and elsewhere, where Maori had taken up arms to defend their land and lost both their lives and the land. He saw violence as counterproductive.
By early 1879, it was clear that government greed for land knew no bounds. A new strategy was required by Maori. On 26 May 1879 a campaign led by Te Whiti and Tohu was launched whereby across Taranaki a disciplined corps of ploughmen started to plough settler’s land using either horse or oxen-drawn ploughs. Te Whiti’s instructions were clear:
Go, put your hands to the plough. Look not back. If any come with guns and swords, be not afraid. If they smite you, smite not in return. If they rend you, be not discouraged. Another will take up the good work.
If evil thoughts fill the minds of the settlers and they flee from their farms to the town, as in the war of old, enter not… into their houses, touch not their goods nor their cattle. My eye is over all. I will detect the thief, and the punishment will be like that which fell upon Ananias.
The first modern planned campaign of non-violent resistance to state tyranny was under way. As the inevitable arrests occurred and ploughmen were imprisoned, others took their place. The plough protests started at Oakura, spread to Pukearehu and then to Hawera. It was a province-wide campaign. Te Whiti maintained that that he was not targeting the settlers “but ploughing the belly of the government”.
The government’s response was drastic. By August 1879, about 200 had been taken into custody. In all, about 420 were to be imprisoned. Of these, only 40 were ever sent for trial. These were eventually held for 12 months in prison in New Plymouth. The remaining ploughmen were imprisoned without trial and sent to prisons in Dunedin, Hokitika, Lyttelton and Ripapa Island. In effect, the rule of law had been suspended.
The government then expanded its push for land. A force of 600 armed constabulary started to build roads right through some of the most fertile land in Taranaki. Without consultation, the constabulary pulled down cultivation fences around gardens to allow for roadways. Properly fenced gardens were essential to Maori health and economic well-being. They had huge acreage planted and stock to feed the several thousand who lived there. By June 1880, the new roads had reached the outskirts of Parihaka.
The resisters changed tack. As soon as the fences were pulled down, Maori rebuilt them. Inevitably the surveyors’ pegs were removed. Again the government moved to arrest the ‘fencers’ as they came to be called. In all, 216 were taken into custody. None ever appeared in court. They were simply shipped to prisons in the South Island. This was illegal.
News of these imprisonments was widely reported in England, and pressure was brought to bear on the government to act more justly. Ignoring recommendations from the West Coast Commission, a pro-government tribunal set up to investigate ways of dealing with the land issue, the government decided to take all the remaining land it wanted including the Parihaka block which the Commission had set aside as a reserve. New legislation pushed through in parliament allowed for imprisonment without trial with up to two years hard labour. The scene was set for the final confrontation.
On 5 November 1881, an armed military force of 1589 armed constabulary and volunteer militia invaded and occupied the unprotected Parihaka. Native Affairs Minister John Bryce himself, mounted on a white charger, with sabre and in military uniform, led the assault. On the marae, 2500 unarmed adults sat waiting with Te Whiti and Tohu in their midst. The soldiers were made to walk past rows of children playing with tops and dancing and singing, past rows of women to where the men waited. The two leaders along with several others were arrested and led away. They did not resist.
In the days that followed, 1600 people were forcibly dispersed, while 600 were allowed to remain. Houses and crops were destroyed, animals slaughtered. After Parihaka was destroyed, the constabulary fanned out over the countryside to wreak more extensive damage. Still there was no violent resistance. Not one shot was fired, not one life lost. The spirit of non-violence prevailed.
Te Whiti and Tohu were charged with sedition. Te Whiti told the judge: “It is not my wish that evil should come to the two races, My wish is for the whole of us to live peaceably and happily on the land.” Both were sent to Addington Prison in the South Island where they served 16 months. Upon release, both returned to Parihaka, which in the mid-1880s rejuvenated but to nothing like its previous status. Te Whiti continued to preach non-violence and promote harmony with the settlers and was imprisoned twice more over land issues. Both Te Whiti and Tohu died in 1907. Remarkably, only two weeks separated their deaths.
The ongoing spiritual legacy of Parihaka is one of living in harmony with the land and humanity. It is also a legacy of non-violent resistance and a belief in the peaceful and respectful coexistence of Maori and Pakeha. Given the impact of these two men on historic events and given the almost universal disquiet at levels of violence in contemporary society, one wonders why neither Te Whiti nor Tohu have gained the status of iconic New Zealanders along with Ed Hillary and the rest. Surely they are role models for what most want our society to become – just, fair, peace- loving, non-violent.
Why isn’t their story and the story of Parihaka as well known as the Gallipoli story? Why isn’t the Christian-led non-violent Parihaka resistance a compulsory part of Religious Education programmes in our schools? And finally, why is 5th November still known as Guy Fawkes Day when it could be Parihaka Day???