“Another world is not only possible; she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.”
– Arundhati Roy
I confess that I am writing this in a sombre mood. It is Christmas Eve 2016, at the end of a year that has been scarred by Empire. The rise of ‘Islamic State’. The decimation of Syria. The ascendancy of Trump. The institutionalisation of cruel and unusual punishment as a deterrent to people fleeing for their lives. It has been said that “no one puts their children in a boat unless the water is safer than the land.” But this simple truth is lost in a world where political point-scoring is more important than the lives of people whose faces and names we don’t care to know.
Today also marks the eve of 21 years since my Mum took her life. In the early hours of Christmas Day 1995, the woman who gave birth to me and taught me the primacy of human empathy lost her war with despair and emptiness. All these years later her absence is still profound. However, my sobriety and grief are infused with hope.
Tomorrow we will celebrate a sacred story that was birthed 2000 years ago. A story that, in its time, was no more front page news than the thousands of good news stories that are buried by shock jocks and click bait. A story of a shotgun wedding between a young pregnant woman and a man who wasn’t the father of her child. A story of a journey to the heart of an Empire where there was no care or room for this young woman to give birth. A story of a baby born in a barn in which his crib was a feeding trough and the witnesses were lowly shepherds. A seemingly unimportant story of a few people whose faces and names no-one cared to know.
Yet, it was a story that made its way to an Emperor and gave him cause for concern. It was a story that unnerved an Empire. So much so, that it prompted the mass murder of babies across the land. Ultimately, it was a story that shaped two millennia of civilisation. In this I have hope. Even though Empire is everywhere, I believe a new world is on her way.
I believe conversations can change the world. When we can cast aside diatribe and genuinely engage in our difference, new worlds are possible. The Book of Genesis shares the poetic of the world being spoken into being. Authentic conversations hold a similar power. The Gospel of John describes Jesus as the living word. This outcast baby becomes the centrepiece of creation and offers a complete paradigm shift in how we understand the nature of God and the human condition.
The binary of ‘us’ and ‘them’ is transformed by love and we are confounded by a narrative in which God is represented by ‘the other’. “Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called the children of God.” We can put our hope in an arbitrary date, close our eyes and wish that 2017 might somehow be better than the year that was. Or we can tune our ears to the small still voice, the breath of a new world.
A world in which we no longer fight fire with fire. A world in which we refuse binaries of ‘left’ and ‘right’. A world in which we are willing to share power and privilege and admit that even though it might feel like oppression, it’s called equality. A world in which we are more interested in the question and conversation than we are in being ‘right’. More willing to be humble and engage each other in our humanity rather than hurling flaming rocks of certainty at each other.
Today, Empire is everywhere. But I believe tomorrow will tell a different story.