Before you write to the Bishop, let me explain .... Voyeurism can also refer to 'an obsessive observance of sensational subjects'!
I have been thinking about the notion of 'witness' recently, not least of all because it seems to have cropped up in the scripture readings that have featured large in recent weeks. We don't hear of people 'seeing' or 'looking', or 'watching', 'peering', 'staring', 'glaring', 'noticing' or 'overseeing'. No, the term used is 'witness', and this is important, to me at least.
It strikes me that the term 'witness' is used almost exclusively in the context of the law and its processes. A witness is a person who can demonstrate by their experience of the events in question that those events took place in the ways described, or not. After forensic evidence, a stable witness statement carried much weight in a court. A case against someone that lacks a witness statement is often weakened, even terminally. After a crime has been committed, the police expend much time and effort in seeking witnesses. Witnesses see the event from one perspective, so many witnesses provide many perspectives - and a fuller image is taken from the one to the multi-dimensional. The witness becomes the authority on the event, whatever their circumstance. An aristocrat or a vagrant - both are equal in the 'witness box'. The other aspect of the legal acceptance of the 'witness statement' is that is asks simply for the facts, not for interpretation from the witness. The law holds that a witness is only qualified to say what they saw, but not what it means or its implications after the fact. Those who are qualified to interpret the events are asked to do so, and not the witness. I wonder if the effort of interpretation could potentially cloud the memory of events, but I can only guess ...
So, I have been wondering how it is that this loaded and complicated term has come to be so crucial in the context of the life of Christ and the Church. From the Disciples and beyond, right up to 11.48am in Aylesbury this day, we are witnessing to the events and effects of the Gospel. I am not one with a particular appetite for Christian Testimony, as it as almost exclusively owned by one section the church, and almost exclusively characterized by 'when I gave my life to Jesus .... ' (which us cradle Christians never needed to do), but none the less, a witness statement is part of the life-blood of our Christian existence. If I don't say what I see, in church and out, to those around me, then the case for Christ is weakened.
The reason that I called this post 'Pious Voyeurism' (apart from grabbing your attention which, if you have reached this part, I succeeded in) was because I think it is important for all Disciples of Jesus Christ to watch obsessively upon this sensational subject, not just in the decent and public places, but in the dark and less savoury places in our world - through the proverbial keyhole. The work of God is happening all over the place at all times of the day and night, and without witnesses, those moments are at risk of being thrown out - no case to answer, insufficient evidence.