We are having a clean-up at home, for those that know me this is a revolutionary thing, as I have trouble throwing anything away. Actually its more than just a clean-up, we are rearranging rooms, and finally I am going to have my own study, rather than sharing with Matt!
In this process, which is ongoing, I found a DVD of Joni Mitchell (thanks Marion), and was reminded of her incredible talent. I do have quite a few of her songs on my phone, and listen to them now and then, but to see her perform is something else.
For those who don’t know her or haven’t watched “Love Actually” she is a fantastic folk singer, social justice activist, and writer from the sixties. She is still singing and performing but rarely puts out albums. When asked about this some years ago she said something which is very relevant for today. She said “I spent the last couple of years pissed off, I was mad at America, mad at the government, mad at the people for not doing something about it. All that loss of freedom and everybody just kind of oblivious.” She was referring to the Bush years, but they could equally be applied to America today.
After the events of the past week, but really the events of the last decade, Joni Mitchell made me ponder our own governments, both liberal and labour. Whether they have been visionary and uplifting or narrow and self-defeating? Whether they have made all lives better or just a few, at the expense of many? Have they made us more fearful, or more open and compassionate. Have they been global in outlook or nationalistic in focus, leading us to ignore what is happening around the world and to the world?
We will have an election next year, if not sooner, and the words of Joni Mitchell stress the need for everyone, Christian and non-Christian alike to get involved, to be more than spectators in the process.
However, as people with faith in a divine presence at the core of life, that seeks love and justice for all people, and for those who are followers of Jesus who lived out this inclusive message in the world, it is essential for us to take it further. Not that those with no faith or a different faith do not have this same responsibility, for I believe the spirit works everywhere, but it seems to me that faith is often used to justify certain measures as though it automatically makes them right.
As Jim Wallis, Editor of Sojourners, a magazine and organisation, with a by-line, “Faith in Action for Social Justice” has said previously, “we hear politicians who love to say how religious they are but utterly fail to apply the values of faith to their public leadership and political policies.” Remember if politicians start talking about God and the Church and then want to lock up people who are seeking refuge, remove safety nets for the poorest in society, want to follow policies that entrench stereotypes of racism, or behave like vindictive, power seeking individuals, as has been the case here in Australia, we may have a problem.
We really need to test whether the policies put forward by our governments match what we know will bring about a compassionate, caring and just society and world. Christians are called not just to participate in political debate but to apply what we believe is a faithful response to God and Jesus.
I believe the principal we are after is something called the “Common Good”. A radical proposition these days. We want policies that do not just focus on the rich, so that they can get richer, or big business so they can become more powerful, or the first world so they can use more of the worlds resources or jobs and growth, so that we decimate the environment further, but rather ones that take into account what makes for a fulfilling life for all. Where food, shelter and education are basic rights, community is promoted and encouraged and where we embrace the challenges and responsibilities of being global citizens. Where the common good is the focus.
While I do not in any way want to be a moral compass, because it is not about labour or liberal, perhaps some simple guidelines will help when we are engaging ourselves in this process.
What we need and want are policies that promote compassion, economic justice and equity, community, peace and environmental responsibility. And maybe even policies that both parties agree on.
Here are some examples put forward by Sojourners for the US elections.
- Policies whereby working people earn enough to support their families and those that don’t work are supported with dignity.
- Policies where public education, health and housing are sustained at a level needed to give all people long and fulfilling lives.
- Policies that address poverty not only in Australia but also in the wider world, with a commitment to overseas aid and projects.
- Policies that attempt to reduce global conflict, protect the victims of these conflicts but see war as the very last option.
- Policies which attempt to reduce our societies division along racial and financial lines, often seen in sentencing and incarceration rates, health and education accessibility, and particularly in relation to aboriginal people.
- Policies that support compassionate and just immigration laws, and conform to international treaties we are signatories to.
- Policies that promote religious tolerance, defend the rights of women and LGBTIQ people, fight torture worldwide and contribute to programs and measures that improve the health and wellbeing of people in developing countries.
- Policies that protect the weak and marginalised from violence, either within families or outside.
- Policies that attempt to restore integrity to our civic and business practises and transform our culture of violence, materialism and consumption.
- Policies that help to reverse global climate change, prioritise clean air and water and develop clean and renewable energy.
Now I know these will be regarded as almost “pie in the sky” ideals, wishful thinking to a cynical public, particularly after the events in Canberra, but also what has emerged from the banking Royal Commission and what is happening to refugees who seek our protection.
But as followers of Jesus, a man who challenged the Roman Empire, lets us not be too afraid. We live in a democracy, and our role is to image the future, and then call it into being by our actions. We are to live with hope and faith, that change can and will occur.
So let’s start by expecting more from our politicians and our government and then holding them accountable by entering the debate.
I want to do a short post for a change. Nothing spectacular, nothing that might change the world. But might get one person to stop and think, maybe.
I went to the movies the other day with a friend. We wanted to see Edie, a beautifully photographed film about an elderly woman, who after years of caring for a sick husband, sets out to climb a mountain in Scotland. One she wanted to climb a long time ago with her father, but through circumstance, and through her inability to really seize the day, well any day actually, she hadn’t done. Until now. The years in between were lived in a bit of a half life, for everyone else except herself, particularly for her domineering husband. She is helped to climb it by a young man, on the edge of life, and who has to make decisions of his own, about how he will live his life.
It’s a movie, about love and loss, about new beginnings, and about friendship. And about life, the only one we have.
It reminded me of a poem by Mary Oliver, who has become like a friend to me. Speaking things that may go unsaid if not for her quiet and perceptive observations.
The poem is called,
“When Death Comes”
When death comes
like the hungry bear in autumn;
when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse
to buy me, and snaps the purse shut;
when death comes
like the measle-pox;
when death comes
like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,
I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering:
what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?
And therefore I look upon everything
as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,
and I look upon time as no more than an idea,
and I consider eternity as another possibility,
and I think of each life as a flower, as common
as a field daisy, and as singular,
and each name a comfortable music in the mouth,
tending, as all music does, toward silence,
and each body a lion of courage, and something
precious to the earth.
When it’s over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.
When it’s over, I don’t want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.
I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.
Perhaps a lesson for us all! It is never to late, just ask Edie.