REV. NEIL ELLIS
Humbled for the good of all
How long, how long must we sing this song? This is the question that the band U2 asks about the Troubles in Northern Ireland, particularly the Bloody Sunday event of 1972 in Derry. An event where British soldiers shot and killed civil rights protesters and bystanders. How long, how long must we sing this song? It is a question that does not limit itself to the conflict between Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland, in the '70s and '80s.
In light of another mass killing in the Unites States, this time at a church in Texas, we might ask how long, how long must America sing this song of gun violence?
In light of First Nations people in Canada who live without potable water, we might ask how long, how long must Canada sing this song inequality?
In light of famine in war-torn South Sudan where the CBC reports 1.25 million people are facing starvation, we might ask how long, how long must the global community sing this song of apathy.
How long, how long? It is a question we can ask to a multitude of situations that exist within our own communities and across the globe. Many of these situations are simply accepted as the way things are. They are normal and represent the status quo. There is nothing that we can do about them, or is there?
Each of you reading this article is doing so from a position of comfort. You are at home, the coffee shop or some other locale which is known and familiar. You are safe and comfortable, the issues I have raised and others which are no doubt expressed in this paper are not of great concern, they are remote and far off. We have become comfortable and as a society we need the humbling that a prophet of the Old Testament provides.
In her commentary on the prophet Micah theologian Barbara Brown Taylor writes, "Part of that humbling may involve examining the ways in which we are embedded - both individually and collectively - in systems that reward us for our compliance. As long as we keep our confidentiality agreements at work, we can count on our annual bonuses. As long as our churches stay out of county politics, we can count on good relationship with our local representatives. While there is nothing inherently wrong with choosing to do either of these things, Micah suggests that there is plenty wrong with making moral decisions based on the benefits we receive from them."
We receive a benefit through our inaction. Our apathy provides us with safety and security at the expense of others. We know that people suffer, people hunger, and people die needlessly every day and the overwhelming response to it is the maintenance the status quo.
In their song Sunday Bloody Sunday U2 also sing 'We can be as one "¦ to claim the victory Jesus won.' This is where our focus needs to be, on the work of Jesus. However, we cannot do it on the sidelines and it will not happen through inaction. We must humble ourselves in order that everyone might be raised up.
Rev. Neil Ellis is the minister of St. Andrew's Presbyterian, Cobourg (standrewscobourg.org).