Just about everybody has heard of Martin Luther King Jr's 'I have a dream speech'. But not everyone knows that, if it wasn't for Mahalia Jackson saying 'Tell them about the dream, Martin', the most famous parts of that speech may never have happened. While Martin Luther King Jr's speech is known - and rightly so - as one of the greatest speeches of the 20th Century, sometimes it is Mahalia's Jackson's words that I continue to dwell on.
'Tell them about the dream, Martin.'
So often our dreams are silenced - either by ourselves or by others. We share our dreams with nobody, convinced that nobody wants to hear them and frightened that if they did they'd laugh. Or we do tell someone and they do laugh. They tell us our dream is impractical, unrealistic, idealistic or just plain stupid. The greater the dream, often, the greater the ridicule.
Sometimes a dream is silenced so well that it stops having a voice even inside our own minds. And a dream that isn't speaking to anyone ceases to be a dream at all.
Does it matter? Maybe our dreams are impractical, unrealistic and idealistic. Maybe we're better off forgetting about them.
But it's the impractical, unrealistic and idealistic dreams we have to listen to. It's the impractical, unrealistic and idealistic dreams that have the power to change the world.
When you listen to Martin Luther King Jr's 'I have a dream' speech, it's obvious that he dreamed big. His dream wasn't something he realistically expected to happen in his lifetime. He didn't have a step-by-step process of how to get there. It was 'I have a dream' not I have an achievable goal'. But he still dreamed - and still he told others of his dream. And while not all of his dream has come to fruition even now, I think it's fair to say that his dream helped change the world.
Jesus spoke a lot about the Kingdom of God. And for the people listening to him, it must have seemed at times like an impractical, unrealistic, idealistic dream.
And maybe it was a dream. But if it was a dream, then it was God's dream. And it continues to be God's dream. And God doesn't dream achievable goals. God dreams big.
And I'm glad he does. Who wants to follow a God that has a plan for the world that doesn't aim too high? What's the point of hoping for the Kingdom of God, if it just involves hoping for things that we can realistically expect to see?
We have a big God and he has big plans. Plans that seem not only impractical, unrealistic and idealistic - but plans that often seem impossible. But because it's God, the impractical, the unrealistic, the idealistic dream he has is not just going to happen, but it's happening now.
And as Christians we are invited to enter into that dream - to imagine it with God and to participate in the ways it is already coming true.
And maybe our impractical, unrealistic and idealistic dreams are actually pointing us towards God's dream. Maybe the reason they seem so unachievable is because they're part of God's dream - and God dreams big.
So maybe it's time we stopped silencing our dreams. Maybe it's time we gave our dreams a voice. So if you do have a dream, don't hide it away, tell them about it! Because in listening to our dreams, we may just be listening to God.
Tuesday, October 8, 2013
Friday, October 4, 2013
What do you think of the term 'boat people'? Note I didn't ask what you think of refugees, but the term itself. When you see or hear the term 'boat people', what immediately comes to mind?
For me, it's boats. Makes sense really. That's the first word. People, used almost as an afterthought.
So I think of boats - not people, not faces, not names and not stories. Boats.
I don't stop with boats. The people, the faces, the names and the stories follow afterwards. But my guess is I'm not the only person whose initial thought when faced with the term 'boat people' is boats.
And I don't think that's an accident.
The Guy Sebastian song, 'Get Along' contains the lyrics, 'And it's easy when they're faceless, to hate the other side.'
It's not only easy to hate people when they're faceless, it's harder to show compassion. We humans may not seem like it at times, but we really do care about other humans - that is when we see their faces, learn their names and hear their stories. Some may show more empathy than others. But the person who can look into someone's eyes and hear their story of suffering or pain or loss and not be moved in any way is rare.
But if we generally care about individuals we're not so good about caring about strangers - particularly groups of strangers - whose names we don't know, whose faces we haven't seen and whose stories we haven't heard.
It's like the natural inclination to care about other humans stops - perhaps because in some way we stop seeing them as humans - or at least as humans the same as us. We've been doing it for hundreds of years. We say they're not like us - not civilised like us or not Christian like us or not intelligent like us or not feeling like us. We turn them into groups with labels, rather than seeing them as individuals. We refuse to hear their stories. We refuse to learn their names. We refuse to look into their faces.
And the more removed we are from those names and those faces and those stories, the easier it is not to care.
So how much easier is it to turn away from the plight of refugees when we see 'boats' rather than people? A boat is a thing, a mode of transport, a problem, a threat. A boat deserves no compassion, no empathy.
Those boats are filled with people - but it's so hard to care about those people when their names and their faces and their stories remain hidden from us.
The Gosford Anglican Church has had some very good signs up recently. But this one I think is my favourite:
Every Asylum Seeker has a name.
We may not ever learn their names. We may bundle them altogether in one group called 'boat people' and replace images of their faces with images of boats in our head. But their names don't disappear just because we give them a number and turn them into a statistic. Their faces don't become blurry just because we label them 'boat people'. And their stories aren't erased just because we haven't heard them.
And chances are - human nature being what it is - if we learnt their names and saw their faces and heard their stories, we would care.
So let's care anyway - as if we had learnt their names and seen their faces and heard those stories. Because those names and those faces and those stories still exist - even if we do try and hide them behind the term 'boat people'.
Sunday, September 8, 2013
now has a more selfish government. That's not just my opinion. That's the
opinion I've seen stated in any number of articles, posts and tweets.
And it seems that this was the Australia Tony Abbott and the Liberal National Party were trying to get people to vote for. Their pre-election material focused a lot on jobs, the economy and roads and not at all on helping the disadvantaged or the marginalised. There was a lot of emphasis on growth and the economy and not much on justice and compassion. Their pre-election promises including cutting foreign aid, stopping the boats and ending the carbon tax.
In a recent article for the Guardian, George Monbiot said "Abbott’s policies are really about removing the social and environmental protections enjoyed by all Australians, to allow the filthy rich to become richer – and filthier." (If Abbott is elected, Australia'snatural wonders will gradually be rubbed away)
Is this the
we want? Well according to the election results, yet it is. Or at least it's
that some of us voted for.
But not everybody is happy with it. Since Saturday night, my Twitter and Facebook feeds have been filled with comments from people who are disappointed with the result. Not all of us wanted a more selfish
So what do we do now? Vent on social media, throw up our hands and start counting down to the next election? Decide that the fight for justice and compassion is over for another three years?
Now is the time that those of us who don't want a more selfish
need to fight even harder for justice and compassion. If we are to live in a
more selfish Australia,
those of us who want something different need to ensure our voices are heard.
We do need to accept the result. But we don't need to just lie back and accept the fallout.
I hope that the many people who voiced disgust at the result on social media also tell the newly elected government what they think. I hope they write letters to their MPs telling them what they want
look like. I hope they protest against every decision the LNP Government makes
that they don't like.
As Martin Luther King Jr said, 'Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.'
So let's make sure we're not silent.
But our fight for justice and compassion shouldn't end there.
The commentators who have said
Australia under a LNP-led
government would be more selfish have got it wrong in one respect - it's the
government that will be more selfish, not necessarily the country. And the
country is filled with many people who don't have to be selfish just because
our government's policies are.
Justice and compassion should never be relegated to the governmental sphere, regardless of who's leading the country. It should start in our own lives.
So now, more than ever, let us be the ones to show kindness and compassion to others. Let us to be the ones to help our neighbours in need, wherever in this world they may live. Let us be the ones to look after this earth and do all we can to protect it. Let us be the one to treat all people, regardless of country of birth or religion or sexual orientation or socio-economic status, equally and justly. Let us be the ones to help the oppressed and the marginalised and the disadvantaged. Let us be the ones to let our own lives reflect the kind of country we wish we had.