Two and a Half Minutes to Midnight

Three days ago, the Science and Security Board of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists moved the hands of the so-called doomsday clock from three to two and a half minutes to midnight, noting that ‘world leaders have failed to come to grips with humanity’s most pressing existential threats: nuclear weapons and climate change’.

They also cited Donald Trump’s disturbing comments about the use and proliferation of nuclear weapons as well as the emergence of strident nationalism worldwide.

The Board has issued a statement stressing how high the risk of global disaster is, but, for me, it’s not the risk but their concluding statement that is the most telling:

Wise public officials should act immediately, guiding humanity away from the brink.

If they do not, wise citizens must step forward and lead the way.

Wisdom, it seems, is currently in short supply.  Yesterday, the scriptures listed in the Revised Common Lectionary included Micah 6:1-8 and 1 Corinithians 1:18-31. Both questioned their original readers and these questions continue to resound today:

From the apostle, Paul: Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?

From the prophet Micah: He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

Here are some questions of my own:

How might the oft-deemed foolish message of the gospel speak to the ‘high risk of global disaster’?

How has this gospel message been reduced to the question of whether one is pro-life or pro-choice, especially in the Christian discourse coming out of the USA?

If wisdom is not forthcoming from our public officials, what will the leadership of wise citizens look like?

Surely, it will begin with justice, kindness and humility.

Love Makes A Way

bring them here(3)

This morning I participated in a public action in response to the release of the #NauruFiles last week. A few of us gathered outside the offices of Brendan O’Connor, who is the federal MP in my electorate of Gorton, to protest the Australian government’s asylum seeker policy of detaining people offshore, particularly in Nauru.

The Nauru Files show evidence of sexual assault, bullying, intimidation and worse. Detainees quoted in the Nauru Files express discouragement, hopelessness, mental and physical agony and ongoing trauma. And yet, the release of the files has barely caused a ripple in the media.

Refugee advocates including Love Makes a Way, Mums4Refugees, Grandmothers Against Detention of Refugee Children, ChilOut and People Just Like Us organised a series of actions all over Australia, all of them lawful and peaceful, ‘to draw attention to and as a symbol of each person who has suffered from abuse and trauma as detailed in the recently leaked Nauru reports‘.

These have been ongoing all week at various politician’s offices. I organised the one at Brendan O’Connor’s Caroline Springs office via facebook with a friend I really haven’t seen for years.

Nauru files signSix of us gathered, including my friend’s two young daughters. We posted paper dolls with an accompanying explanation of what they represented at the entrance to O’Connor’s office buildingBring them here and then made our way to his 2nd floor office where we were met by six Victoria Police officers. When they realised we were a small group and we intended to hold a peaceful vigil, they radioed ahead to ‘stand-down’ reinforcements who were on their way from Melton. Nevertheless, two of them stayed with us for the whole 30 minutes we were there.

We read a moving poem about leaving home, fleeing danger and seeking safety. We affirmed our faith and our intention to welcome the stranger. We finished with alternate voices quoting from Martin Luther King Jr.

This last part is what I found most moving, so I include the text here:

Reader: “The ultimate measure of a [person] is not where [he or she] stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where [he or she] stands at times of challenge and controversy.”
All: “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”
Reader: “We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for the victims of our nation, for those it calls ‘enemy.’”
All: “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”
Reader: “…we will not be satisfied until ‘justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.’”
All: “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”
Reader: “Non-cooperation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is cooperation with the good.”
All: “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”
Reader: “The time is always right to do what is right.”
All: “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.

On Sunday, the biblical text which we read and I preached from reminded us of ‘the great cloud of witnesses’; the people of faith who have gone before us and yet, in some mystical, spiritual way are still with us. The people who make up this great cloud of witnesses are not mere spectators; they cheer us on and lend us strength to continue the race of faith. Even when we feel most alone, we are never alone for they surround us and support us and urge us to persevere.


As the words of Martin Luther King Jr rang out in the hollow corridor space, and we affirmed that ‘the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice’, I felt as if he was in the corridor with us. Our six swelled to hundreds, thousands. A chorus of ‘Amen and Amen’ could almost be heard and I knew that our action, seemingly insignificant, set against the backdrop of police laughter, was bigger than we can hope and imagine.

Indeed, Love Makes A Way.

Learning Mercy

Victor Hugo’s famous story, Les Miserables, endures to this day. The point on which the whole story turns is when police apprehend a newly released convict, Jean Valjean, in possession of silver cutlery. Surely, he is a thief. But when they take Valjean back to the home of the Bishop from whence the cutlery came, the Bishop astounds everyone by pressing him to take a pair of matching candlesticks too. When Valjean later asks him why, he replies:

Jean Valjean, my brother, you no longer belong to evil, but to good. It is your soul that I buy from you; I withdraw it from black thoughts and the spirit of perdition, and I give it to God.

Jean Valjean is a man reborn because of the Bishop’s mercy and seeks to live a virtuous life from then on. But Police Inspector Javert is equally intent on pursuing him as an ex-convict. Javert lives his life by the rule of justice and towards the end, after Valjean has the opportunity to show him the same mercy he had once received, Javert simply doesn’t understand it.

Jean Valjean:

You never temper justice with mercy?

Inspector Javert:

No, we might as well understand each other… I administer the law – good, bad, or indifferent – it’s no business of mine, but the law to the letter!

This is a view Javert maintains until the end where he exclaims,

it’s a pity the rules don’t allow me to be merciful.