This time last year I suggested that a new world is on her way. I boldly stated, “Empire is everywhere. But I believe tomorrow will tell a different story.” Having barely scraped through 2017, I wondered on numerous occasions whether my hope was hollow and misdirected.
We have witnessed and participated in another year marked by hubris, schadenfreude and political smokescreens. We are more polarised than ever. We participated in an unnecessary, non-compulsory postal survey. We rejected the generosity of our neighbours, preferring to play politics with people’s lives. We engaged the First People’s of this nation in a lengthy consultation process and then dismissed their recommendation as swiftly as we might swat away a fly. I say ‘we’ because these are the leaders we vote for and these are the behaviours we condone.
And if we don’t condone the actions of our leaders, neighbours or people we’ve never met – then our response is predictable. Outrage. A powerful feeling of resentment or anger aroused by something perceived as an injury, insult, or injustice.1 Heck, every other person who has an opinion or comment that they feel compelled to share online is outraged about something. You’re probably outraged right now, by any number of things. I’m feeling outraged as I write this.
All aboard the outrage train!
Why? Why are we frequently upset and offended? Partly, because it is easy to be outraged. Outrage doesn’t require much of us. It doesn’t cause us to think deeply on a topic, or ask difficult questions, or consider uncomfortable answers. Instead, we feel indignant, hurl our comments, respond defensively and walk away when we’ve made our point.
Emerging theologians (and rock stars), Gang of Youths, sum it up beautifully in one of their latest offerings:
So you can join the cowards aboard the outrage train
You can stay afraid, or slip and throw the fear and be brave 2
Gang of Youths are right. Outrage is for cowards. Outrage rarely translates beyond posturing and bleating to anyone who cares to read, listen or watch. Outrage is easy.
It is much harder to take action that leads to positive change. It is much harder to allow the anger and frustration we vent at injustice to become empathy and vulnerability. It is much harder to make peace amidst violence. It is much harder to admit that our blind certainty on any number of issues may be wrong or ill-conceived. It is much harder to work in a bi-partisan manner. It is far easier to cleave to our side and hurl outrage at the opposition.
It is much harder to bring change because change requires courage. And change risks failure. In a world where most things are recorded, and nothing is forgotten there is little room for error. We dare not fail.
The late, contemporary theologian Leonard Cohen wrote (and sang):
“Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.”
The veneer of outrage covers the cracks. Outrage covers our insecurities, inadequacies and imperfections. Outrage anaesthetises us to the humanity of the people that anger and threatens us. Outrage dehumanises. But, as Brené Brown says, “we need to reject and refuse (the) dehumanisation of everyone, regardless of who they are and whether we agree with them or not.”
It’s time for the light to get in. That’s what Christmas is all about, isn’t it? We may have reduced Christmas to a sanitised, consumer-driven holiday but the first Christmas was messy, imperfect and riddled with cracks.
The first Christmas posed difficult and challenging questions.
It presented improbable concepts.
It brought out the best in some, and the worst in others.
It prompted shepherds and wise men to fall to their knees and drove an Emperor into a murderous rage.
Christmas is about believing the word of an unwed mother.
Christmas is about a family trying to find safety as refugees.
Christmas is about seeking shelter in a city where there is no room for you.
Christmas is about a child being born into poverty and teaching the world what it truly means to love.
Christmas is about God identifying with the broken, the vulnerable and the marginalised.
Christmas is about the light getting in.
Press the emergency button on the outrage train, and bring it to a screeching halt.
Be brave. Be bold. Be angry even. But, also, listen.
Be willing to consider another opinion and perspective. Be prepared to admit that nothing is simple, or as certain as we would like to think. Have a genuine, face-to-face conversation with someone whose culture, sexuality or belief is different to yours, and of which you have little concept or understanding.
Listen more, talk less. Refuse dehumanisation.
A new world is still coming, she is merely delayed by our outrage and indifference.
May 2018 be the year the light gets in.
image: Oscar Nord on Unsplash