Every Saturday, after some exercise, I meet a friend for coffee and we get exercised about the evils and injustices of the world. Clearly we will never, ever run out of things to get angry about. Even a supposedly un-eventful news week gives us bombs in Syria, more child abuse, avoidable deaths from flooding and, if this isn’t enough, press corruption.
My friend gets pretty worked up about things: ‘How can they get away with it? They should fine them; they should put them away; they should execute them.’ And sometimes, when he runs out of people to blame or events to get cross about, he might get angry at the non-intervention of a God who lets these terrible things happen in the first place.
Of course, some of this anger is motivated by a genuine compassion and sympathy, and by a desire for justice to be done. But it’s interesting how quickly two men, claiming a hope for a better world, degenerate into lashing out punitively or, frustrated at their powerlessness to do anything about it, give up trying. When our protests don’t reach beyond the level of angry reaction our righteous anger soon becomes self-righteous.
So what is a creative response to the litany of bad news presented to us on a daily basis? How can we remain open to all these human tragedies without becoming mentally paralysed or depressed? If a misanthropic withdrawal from the world isn’t the answer, and blaming people or God gets nothing done, what are we to do?
Perhaps the answer starts with us making a connection between the nature of events and the true nature of our hearts. Is the deception revealed by a Leveson Inquiry, or the violence of a Syria, or the lust and prurience driving so much cultural gossip so far from what’s going on inside us? It seems dishonest – maybe even deluded – to think so. The theologian, Henri Nouwen, wrote that ‘the cruel reality of the world is the cruel reality of the human heart, our own included.’
But making this connection requires some form of individual confession, and that doesn’t come easily – even between the best of friends. We don’t often think of our personal confession as having a wider effect, but two people in a café admitting to their own anger, mistakes or lusts can bring a liberation that connects them with the bigger picture. As it says in the letter of James: ‘confess your sins to each other so that you may be healed’.
It’s easier, even preferable, to rant about the world’s problems, but if we can find a way to confess our own involvement in the mess of humanity then we should be able to find the remedy for our ills as well as the justice we seek for others.
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Rhidian Brook – England – (1964-)
Brook. R (2012) Radio 4 Today Programme - Thought for the day. London: BBC. Page Number 29/11/2012. BBC - R4 - Today - Thought for the Day - Rhidian Brook - 29/11/2012