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Soapbox Preacher

Updated: May 27

by Rev Shelley Griffiths

AKA Pastor Shells

23rd July 2022

Having had a lifetime of being told I am preachy I have decided to embrace the description and define myself by it. Looking back over previous blogs and the odd published rant in magazines, it’s become clear that writing is my soapbox and I am a preacher.

Acceptance is a powerful thing, especially when it involves recognising your midlife crisis is actually rather welcome. No longer owned by rage-softening oestrogen hormones that used to tug at my psyche with the waxing and waning of the moon, I find I like this new ‘clean’ version of me. Like an addict finally in recovery, I feel sober in my menopause and can see things much more clearly now.

I’m counting each hot flush as a power-surge as I step into my ‘cronedom’ like it’s a superpower. My growing intolerance to societal untruths and encounters with disingenuous people has become a marvellous motivator to preach honesty. It keeps me trying to reach people that need shaking out of this apathetic malaise that is stealing their abilities to empathise or apply logic to problems we can’t shy away from anymore.

Perhaps I have always been ‘Pastor Shells’, the soapbox preacher? I certainly have some important messages for everyone, and consider myself somewhat like a virtual clapperboard man hailing that the end is nigh; but I’m rather more positive in my outlook as I believe the end of this era is nigh. If I wasn’t so introverted, I would get myself an actual soapbox and a loud speaker and take to the streets to get my message out there.

Instead, I have a poster app and a blog and that’s my current loudspeaker, shouting out ‘CHOOSE KINDNESS’ whenever I can. With pretty flowers as embellishments because the next era is going to be beautiful.

Even if it’s too late for our civilisation, there will be an era of peace and unity when we all wake up and try to reverse the damage we have done to our planet and each other. It’s happening. The ripples are widening and reaching even the most sceptical critics. I’m watching the cultural shift. I’ve been saying for years that the sociopaths will get too greedy, too unkind and too cocky to stay in power and that the pendulum will swing sharply towards kindness. But that it would need to get a whole lot worse first.

Well, here we are and I feel the precipice. I feel the shift, Don’t you? Haven’t you too had enough of the lies? Isn’t it time we lived in supportive communities where we focus on growing together instead of allowing the powers to divide us further with fear-based propaganda designed to keep us apart. To keep arguing about vaccines or refugees or how inconvenient protests are. Turn off the telly. Stop reading papers owned by billionaires and get out there and grow some veg with your neighbours.

In a nanny state where ordinary people are totally reliant on systems that make rich people richer, growing your own food is a rebellious act. Be a rebel.

I try to encourage people to be the best version of themselves that they can be. To choose love. To choose kindness. To consider the consequences of their actions. To challenge the toxic narratives that we, as a society have chosen to live by without question. I question it and you should be questioning it too. Or have you switched off to what’s going on around you? You must know the planet is burning, right? That our current way of life is entirely unsustainable. So, let me ask you this: what are YOU doing about it?

I suppose that unless you are actively trying to do better then I could be an unwelcome voice - like a bellow puffing air into the fire of your cognitive dissonance. Wouldn’t it be great if we all became so aware of the angry red flags highlighting the disparity between our core ethics and our actions that we thanked the preacher for highlighting what needs working on instead of transferring all that acrimony onto the messenger? Vegans are hated for a reason and it isn’t because we’re smug. That’s the excuse. The transferred blame. We’re in the right and that’s hard to consider for some people who don’t want to make changes or acknowledge their choices are poor. Some people don’t even realise there are choices and prefer to just keep things as they are and not be challenged. Not be held accountable.

It’s rather sad that we live in a society where preaching kindness is seen as a bad thing; that it’s patronising and unwelcome. I have finally reached an age where it’s more important that the message is spread and the pleas to change are spoken than fearing what certain people think of me. We must, must, must be having conversations about how we can evolve as humans and do better. Be better. The planet is dying and hundreds upon thousands of species (including our own) depend on us lowering our carbon footprint and acknowledging our current way of life is simply unsustainable. It’s way past time the age of stupid* came to an end.

Because we plan to host the occasional small mindful celebration, handfasting and wedding at Cwm Caredig, it made sense to offer the ministerial services of a celebrant or officiator, so after doing some research and seeing what resonated most with Edenist philosophy, I am now delighted to announce that I am an ordained minister with a non-denominational church where members are encouraged to make their spiritual journey their own. There is no ‘religious doctrine’ which is also central theme in Edenist philosophy.

If you want to know more about Edenist principles, there is a full manifesto under the ‘About’ section here

We are all free to follow whatever spiritual or non-spiritual journey we choose.

I believe that we are all equal and that no-one is more ‘holy’ than the next person and that we should all be free to make our own decisions on who we can marry regardless of gender or religion. We should be able to choose how, where and who we marry without being told you will go to hell and burn for eternity for choosing to love someone who has been married before or happens to be the same gender as you.

The Quakers share a similar belief in matters of religious doctrine; that your faith is personal and you are free to believe in God, or not. I prefer the notion that you have either experienced God or you haven’t. The word ‘God’ can be emotive, so if the term offends, you can substitute it with love, or light. Or truth. It’s all the same to me, but words can be so powerful in connecting or disconnecting us I will come back to this later in this blog (sermon?).

I come from a Christian background. I attended a high Anglican church throughout childhood, then more charismatic evangelical churches as an adult. Disillusioned by the blind following of fear-based narratives that we should be good for judgement purposes and not because our souls yearn to be bathed in light and love is why I can’t be a dogmatic Christian minister. I found the reciting of creeds that demand we all believe the same thing rather cult-like and it denied me the freedom to explore what resonated with me personally. I dared to question the belief that my wanting to marry again after divorcing an abusive man would make me an adulteress and I would go to hell for all eternity for choosing love. Even the concept of hell seems a control-based fear tactic, especially as it was not what Jesus preached at all. I reject the premise that choosing love makes you evil. I left the church, but I haven’t lost my faith and my relationship with God/love/light is stronger than ever, but as it is my personal spiritual journey and not yours, I will not try to bend you to my will and ask you to believe the same as me.

You need to make your own decisions on your experiences, but I will occasionally refer to various scriptures as there is still wisdom to be found in the Bible, just as there is in other religious literature. Aesop’s Fables, Buddhist philosophy, the poetry of Kahlil Gibran and so many other sources that contain truths are all relevant. We should seek wisdom in all its forms. And reject dogma where it doesn’t resonate. There’s enough division in the world; let’s find what connects us.

I reject the premise that choosing love makes you evil.

Whilst pieces of paper that declare someone certified to undertake services of some kind does not necessarily mean they are fit for the task or competent, I am nonetheless glad to have those certificates saying I am this or that. Whether it's degrees, a certificate of ordination, an official autism diagnosis, or even a printed mug, there is something powerful about seeing these affirmations in print. ‘Minister’. ‘Masters Degree’. ‘BCPAB Acredited’. ‘Best Mum in the World’. ‘Autistic’. They provide labels which can be useful. They are signposts that give us information but as words used as labels can equally be destructive as they can be useful, it’s important to not allow triggering vocabulary to prevent you from connecting with the truth. If a narrative resonates but there’s a word that jars you, substitute the word. Don’t reject the lesson because of semantics.

The thing about preaching is to consider who the preacher is trying to reach. The expression ‘preaching to the converted’ is often used to convey wasted energy but the way I see it, if preaching love and kindness and challenging toxic narratives resonates and reinforces resolutions to choose kindness and evolve then it’s not wasted energy. I write my blog; stand on my soapbox and am always delighted when people tell me they resonate with what I say. But if I am honest, I do not write with them in mind. I’m after waking people up, not acquiring followers.

It's preaching to the ‘unconverted’ that sets the basis of my rants. I want to challenge the way society is organised and shine a light on the issues that need addressing. The first one, ironically, is the idea that preaching is bad. Listening to a sermon or podcast, or reading a book or a blog with an open mind and a heart willing to be more loving and become the best version of yourself means letting go of narratives that no longer serve you or society well. Sometimes it means facing uncomfortable truths. Of unlearning. Of freeing yourself of the brainwashing that told you how to be or what to think. You have a choice to follow the crowd and do what had always been done because it’s always been done that way, or you can choose a new way. Just dropping a narrative long enough to consider your ego may well be lying to you with the cognitive dissonance of someone not ready to be challenged is a huge step. Can you entertain the idea that you might not be right about a few things? If you can, you’re a whole lot wiser than those that are so resolute in their convictions they can no longer evolve.

Being willing to change your mind and see a change of heart as evolving, and not losing who you are is a powerful way to become a better person. If your core being is tied up in a belief structure that cannot be challenged, you will always feel terribly insecure when it’s challenged. If you believe all the same things you believed in your twenties when you reach old age, then that is a life wasted. Be prepared to let some narratives go. Be prepared to be preached to. To be taught. Shown the way. You can decide if it feels like the right path and adjust your course if it stops resonating. Meet yourself where you are and recognise what needs working on. If you feel angry with the person preaching, ask yourself why. Perhaps it feels like unsolicited advice which can be irritating when you have already learned the lesson being preached or it could be that you aren’t ready to have that narrative challenged.

Meet yourself where you are and recognise what needs working on.

I keep seeing memes on Facebook that try to reinforce this idea that all that matters is yourself. That it’s not selfish to put yourself first; despite the fact that the very definition of selfishness is to put yourself first! The idea that we don’t need to examine the consequences of our actions or consider how our choices impact those around us is pretty dark. It’s a narrative that isn’t serving us well. Whilst I agree wholeheartedly that you have to first put your own oxygen mask on in order to help others with theirs, it’s wrong to believe your role ends with only looking after yourself. It’s a toxic narrative that divides us. Instead I would urge everyone to consider it their moral duty to do more than just help yourself. I am not advocating selflessness, but rather a balance where you work on yourself to make sure your personal needs are met so you are able to prioritise the needs of others when their needs are greater than your own.

As a society, we have grown so used to untruths that lying has become normalised. My honest disposition is considered radical. It shouldn’t be radical at all and highlights that it’s time we normalised honest discourse. We need to start sharing our struggles and not just the glossy virtual lives we reveal on social media that make it look like we’re all perfect little social butterflies that have joyful abundance with no time ‘for negativity’. It’s great to be positive of course, but let’s also be real. Talk about your struggles and not just your successes. Share you journey and how you came to arrive at your decisions, because others are watching you. They are learning from you, so set an example that‘s inspirational. Don’t wait for things to change. Be the change.



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