Taking a long view in the wilderness Come: join the winning side

We live in bleak times. We are bombarded by bad news.  (Today: Unemployment at a 17 year high).   At times we may feel discouraged, hopeless and impotent in the face of an onslaught of cuts. In a bleak climate, whither do we turn?  I, for one, don’t have all the answers – but here are a few thoughts. Take them as a Lenten reflection, if you like…

Hearing the cry of the poor: A community of faith?

If we are entering a period in the Wilderness, do we need to return to our roots?  To find ways of embodying the values and beliefs that many of us hold dear?  As a Christian it is right, and our duty, to speak up for the poorest and most vulnerable  – articulating God’s bias to the poor – naming injustice as  an act of faith and discipleship.

In a society which has seemingly lost its moral compass, can we find ways (together) of being a beacon for an alternative set of values, and a community, for those who feel isolated, and (sadly) sometimes ‘outsiders’ in their own church for holding true to such beliefs?

Speaking truth to power:  A community of witness?

Secondly, are there ways we an act as a community of witness: not just ‘speaking’ out, but offering a voice to those who are, normally, voiceless and marginalised? ‘Speaking truth to power’ is avowedly counter-cultural and a chellenge to the ‘powers’ of the world. Even if no change is brought about as a result, is this ‘act of witness’ not intrinsically valuable?

Supporters of change: A community of solidarity?

But is there also a role for us as agents of change?  We know from our own work that empowering people with direct experience of poverty – equipping them with the skills and confidence to speak and act in their own right – can transform their own well-being, and lives and livelihoods are changed as a result.  More than this, through acting together are we able to bring about concrete changes in policies and institutions which affect peoples’ lives on a larger scale?

But, in the face of a Government determined to force through its agenda, it can feel like no change is possible: What happens if ‘solidarity’ appears to have no meaningful impact?

Taking the long view…

The end of slavery, the end of segregation, the end of apartheid… Each only came about as the result of a long struggle against a clear injustice (at least clear in the minds of those opposing it), a determined movement which mobilised a powerful alliance of those directly affected and ‘solidarity movements’ who were not to gain directly – but who were swayed by moral argument, a palpable rage at the injustice of the status quo, and a passionate belief that another world was possible – passionate enough to sustain them through years of struggle against derision, violence and setbacks.

Even when all appeared to be hopeless, the candle of hope burned bright and the movement survived, regrouped and came back for more.

So let us not become disheartened.  As we enter the Wilderness, let us take the long view.  Let’s hold true to our faith, be steadfast in our witness, and courageous in our acts of solidarity.

As Desmond Tutu is famously quoted, at the heart of apartheid – ‘you may have the guns, you may have all this power, but you have already lost. Come: join the winning side.’

2 thoughts on “Taking a long view in the wilderness Come: join the winning side

  1. Niall, and the whole of Church Action on Poverty team, thank you for the work you do, thank you for the encourage you give, and thank you for listening. God Bless You and Keep you and may He turn His face to shine on you.
    Your recent post: “Taking a long view in the wilderness Come: join the winning side” is an inspired ‘word in season’ – ‘Have you been reading my mail?’ Thank you for the encouragement.
    In speaking truth to power, naming injustice as an act of faith and discipleship, and sadly being an ‘outsider’ in the local church setting for holding true to our vocation it is indeed essential to return to our roots. We cannot live by bread alone we NEED the Word of God, often too often we seek to lean to our own wisdom – we all do it! And again and again we may find ourselves running out of energy, feeling overwhelmed and find ourselves once more going through our ‘Elijah moment’ (2 Kings 19: 1-12). This is the moment when we feel discouraged, we feel like giving up, or feel so alone in our actions we begin to doubt if there is any point – Is anyone Listening?
    Even when all appeared to be hopeless, we need to be still, and know that God is God. It is in the stillness, the silence, the Listening that we may hear the still small voice. After the powerful wind, the earthquake, and the fire came the gentle whisper… ‘Come join the winning side.’

    Church Action on Poverty – Thank you for the Encouragement, the Fellowship, and for all the work you do. You have play a very important role in the community of witness, I speak personally when I say that when I hit my ‘Elijah moments’, moments of doubt and discouragement it is your work, your encouragement, your example that gives me a place to be still – reflect – find restoration, and hear the still small voice. And in this echo, thank God, I find the strength to carry on.

    Adrian Wait

  2. This reminds me of 2 other profound phrases – from the biblical scholar and peace/justice activist, Ched Myers: ‘revolutionary patience’, that is, a resilient commitment to hang in there, for the long haul, in a way which is revolutionary in fleeting times, and ‘staying awake’, which is what Jesus urged his disciples to do, even as he prepared to face the very worst – a reminder that we should be awake, alert, not indifferent to the realities of life.
    Yes, some good words and ideas – the challenge is giving them flesh!

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