The violence of looking away…

Advent, day fourteen.

There was an article in The Guardian yesterday, describing some of the work of the UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, following him on his fact-finding mission to examine the inequality and poverty that exists in the USA, the richest nation in the world. If you can bear to read it- you should.

It is a description of what happens when a nation declares war on the poor, at the same time as giving tax cuts to the already super-wealthy. Open sewers. Hookworm and other diseases normally only seen in the slums of the poorest parts of the world. People living in tents for decades with no benefits and no hope of better alternative.

Let’s not kid ourselves that this is only relevant to people living in the US. Our cultures are intertwined. Ideas that are pervasive in the US shape us too. They become ‘common sense’. In the US, the American Dream imposes a logic that suggest that everyone can succeed, if they are willing to work hard. Therefore, government spending that uses public money to assist the poor is seen as iniquitous,. The poor only have themselves to blame. Consider then, how this idea sits within our own welfare system, in a time of austerity.

In the article, someone uses the term ‘the violence of looking away’. We should take it on board, as if it was an antidote to the American Dream, or the British ‘skivers versus strivers’ equivalence.

There is hope to be found in the fact that there is a resistance. In the US, as described in the article, this sometimes comes from within the church.

I make no apology for bringing us down with a subject like this on our advent journey. Today’s poem celebrates the fact that Christmas is ultimately about the coming of our God to be amongst the poorest and weakest of us.

It is about a God who rejects the violence of looking away, replacing it instead with incarnation.

homeless people, church


Open the sky


Open the sky and let some light in

Let this night be night no longer

Let stars shine down in shafts of love

Illuminating the ordinary things

All down with dirt and common use

Let donkeys laugh out loud

For now the basest things

Are all silvered up in grace

Lubricated with kindness

For he is coming


Not to penthouses, or to plump our cushions of comfort

Or to stroke the fragile ego of celebrity

Not to strengthen the armies of the powerful

Or to expand their empty empires

Not to shape a new cathedral from seductive certainty

Or to doctor our old doctrines


He is not coming to the exclusive religious few

But to you;

The mess of you

All your brokenness

All your failure

He comes in the certain knowledge that

You will fail again


So open the sky and

let some light in


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