On Holy Saturday of this year (April 19, 2014), more than 100 people came together for a peaceful, public, Christian prayer vigil for asylum seekers, outside (Minister for Immigration and Border Protection) Scott Morrison’s office in Cronulla Mall.
The event—organised by a group called ‘Love Makes a Way‘—included elements of lament, confession, a statement of faith, readings from the scriptures, and prayer. Below is the text of the short sermon I delivered as part of the proceedings, reflecting on what it means to stand in solidarity with asylum seekers with a ‘Holy Saturday faith’.
A few weeks ago, I was fortunate enough to attend a conference headlined by Miroslav Volf.
The man is extraordinary.
It’s not only his piercing insight and profound wisdom, but also the way he models the message that’s so impressive. The conference, in particular, was about public faith, and I have never before seen someone so fully articulate and embody the art of speaking in an ‘authentic voice’ from a faith perspective in the public domain.
Professor Volf is, I believe, one of the most important theologians of our time. His book Exclusion & Embrace, I would argue, is possibly the most important theological work in the past 100 years.
I don’t say that lightly.
In that book, Volf outlines a profound vision for true reconciliation, which he pictures as ’embrace’. I want to pick up on just a couple of aspects of that vision in this post and the next, specifically in regards to how it might be useful for Australian Christians—and, indeed, Australians in general—when thinking about the political process and specific public policy.
In this first post, I want to focus specifically on Volf’s articulation of the will to embrace, and to think about what it could look like in regards to Australian policy towards asylum seekers.
I have been genuinely struggling of late in regards to how to engage with (or respond to) Scott Morrison MP. For those who don’t know, Mr Morrison is the Liberal Party’s Federal Member for Cook, in Sydney’s South, and, with his party being elected to Government in September, is now Australia’s Minister for Immigration and Border Protection.
Mr Morrison also claims a strong Christian faith, which he has suggested plays an important role in every aspect of his life (including, obviously, his politics).
The basis of my struggle with Mr Morrison, in a nut shell, is because I think what he has done and continues to do in regards to asylum seeker policy (and public discourse on the matter) is evil (and, yes; I chose those words very carefully, in case you were wondering). It seems to me that he has deliberately been fostering an attitude that seeks to dehumanise those people who come to Australia by boat, and that this has been something of a central focus of his for some time now. I find his politics disgusting and, to be perfectly honest, it sickens me when he then claims a Christian faith.
I’m going to talk about the practicalities of debating/challenging/protesting against official asylum seeker policy in a future post, however I wanted to use this post to challenge the redefinition of the notion of ‘compassion’ that’s going on before our eyes in regards to these issues.
It seems to me that the concept of ‘compassion’ for those who are seeking asylum has been hijacked by people who understand its potency and who wish to harness the emotion that is attached to it, all the while re-inscribing the word with new meaning leaving it, ultimately, void of any real meaning.
I live in Sydney, and I attend an Anglican church. Even so – and this is no secret – I’m not a ‘Sydney Anglican’.
For those in the know, Sydney Anglicanism represents a somewhat feisty version of Reformed Evangelicalism. It’s a diocese where the works of 16th Century Swiss Reformer John Calvin are highly prized, and where issues like women in ministry or same-sex marriage are generally frowned upon (quite often with some gusto). The diocese as a whole is (I think many would agree) rather zealously ‘evangelistic’, and issues of social justice are, in general, sidelined as being, at best, tangential to the ‘real’ work of the Gospel.