Michaela made a piece of art the other day…
We have been thinking about the shocking ‘othering’ that has typified our nation’s response to the world wide refugee crisis. There are of course many beautiful exceptions, but by and large here in the UK, we do not make the outsiders welcome. Rather we fear them, label them and export them even if they manage to climb over our high walls. How can we, insignificant and insulated as we are, respond? How can we express our outrage in a way that is meaningful? How can we look deeper? How can we invest in the hope of change and the progression towards something better?
There are lots of active ways of course- getting involved in protest or seeking to offer some kind of direct support to those in need, be it financial or physical. These things are a vital part of any change process.
But there is another component. How do you shift the zeitgeist? How do you start to change wider opinions? For this, we need to engage in the ‘theatre of the spirit’. Here we need our artists. We need our theopoets.
Michaela is one of these, but she would look at me very impatiently if I suggested it to her. She does not waste time on theological ponderings, being too busy with other things.
She took a poem I wrote, extracted her own truth from it, and made this;
It features a woman wearing a head scarf with one foot in Syria, planting a young shoot in the UK.
She is mounted on a plinth with a large map.
The poem I mentioned is this one;
Sometimes I fear that we were given only empty promises
by a far-away-god who casts knowing glances while
We wind towards inevitable destruction like unregulated clocks.
The god of love, who will watch most of us burn.
The god of grace whose good folk gorge whilst others starve.
The god whose justice is skewed and whose faithfulness is unreliable
The god made entirely in my own image, and
Both of us are broken.
But sometimes, just beyond the spectrum of visible light
I glimpse the afterglow of a different god
Who is in all things, but is not enclosed
Who is in everything, but in not exclusive
Who is above all things, but never aloof.
Who is below all things, but never debased
Who centres himself everywhere
but lacks circumference.
Who confounds all those who seek to constrain
Where she might be recognised.
(In the whorl of every new born finger and
every uncurling leaf.
Deep in each fossil hiding in the old stones
Used to build mosques or cathedrals
The god who waits in Aleppo dust like ancient seed
The god knows the weight of the ocean
But measures it in love.
On being confronted by this piece, our reaction is not intellectual alone, it is also physical and spiritual. This is the nature of art. This is the nature of theopoesis.
(And I am very proud of my wife!)