Hungry for Bishop Justin

Hungry for Bishop Justin

Sande Ramage

6 May 2012

 

Maybe the election of the new bishop of Wellington says much more about the grey heads 'hungry for Justin' than it does about the Rev'd Duckworth.  For no individual, whatever their dream or commitment to a better world has been able to significantly change an institution, and it's not for want of trying.  
 
Organisations have a life of their own, a strange combination of power and vulnerability, dreams and missions, factions that control various parts of their functioning, ways of ritualizing what's important and an overwhelming entanglement in a culture that has grown them, and to which they owe some allegiance.  It's a balancing act.
 
Caught in that fragile balance are individuals, drawn to the organisation for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is security.  Job tenure, a place to feel connected or part of something bigger, a stage, a sense of belonging, something to believe in.   Whatever it is, the pull of the system offers something that might be, on any given day, despised and loved but still holds sway.    
 
'We want you to help us change but we want you to be who you've always been,' said these same people who have been enmeshed in the church structure for much longer than Justin has.  Their long association with the church has not been able to effect the change they want so now all bets are on him; a kind of messiah like figure who wants the church to be a force for transformation in society.
 
There's something alarming familiar about this story.  In the 1st century Christian version people are marginalized and oppressed.  A young, vital man appears on the horizon.  He seems to be wondrous.  Every word that proceeds from his mouth sounds profound.  People flock to him.  They follow his teachings and believe the world will be different.
 
Before long this man is marked as a troublemaker by the organisations that keep the balance in society.  He is arrested and tried.  The tide turns.  Even those close to him make other plans.  Only a very few stay the distance as he is executed.
 
This story is repeated throughout history.  We can see elements of it in the life of Mahatma Ghandi, Martin Luther King and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.  There is no doubt that these people are special.  They have the prophetic ability to speak truth to power, something most of us struggle with.  
 
It's not surprising that we project onto them our innermost needs, almost eating them alive with our desire for change.  Despite all that energy though, the organisations and regimes we want to change rarely do, they just plough on regardless.  
 
Some prophets survive the often brutal process, many do not.  Perhaps that's why they have such enduring appeal; at heart, we know they are dispensable.  When one is tamed or destroyed by the system, another one will emerge so that what we've been unwilling or unable to change can be left at their feet.  
 
 
Video for reflection: Margot Resinger – Prelude – Heart of Compassion Part 1