hazelnut

Ignorance is not bliss. Neither should ignorance be confused with not knowing the facts due to lack of available information.

There is plenty of information to be had about most things in this data driven age. Ignorance is more about not feeling confident when it comes to telling the difference between objective information and information which is partial, if not a downright lie.

 In the context of world politics, and in the politics of the Church, duplicity is so commonplace that it is almost impossible to tell the difference between truth and a lie. This kind of ignorance leads to the ultimate collective political suicide. It begins as political apathy. Why should the governed bother to do anything? Why imagine new and better ways of governance in politics, and why ask ourselves what it means to live and be the Body of Christ in the Church for God’s people? At the end of the day, it is so much easier to let the ‘experts’ get on with the job.

As a result of this passivity, cover-ups, the wholesale disregard of the interests of ordinary people and the self protection of the powerful, gives rise to a cartel mentality which is rife in both Church and world. But politicians, as well as those who manage the Church (rather than offering visionary and pastoral leadership), exist to serve people – God’s people. Serving people is therefore the most awe inspiring and humbling work anyone in Church or government could undertake. In the case of the Church, apathy and decline occur when management obscures this specific call to love and care for God’s people. As a result, the Church’s management system no longer knows what or who it is there for, and hence how to properly exercise its power. So it ends by loving and serving itself. This constitutes idolatry.

In the case of politics at home and abroad, when people feel that their strongly held views, even if profoundly misguided, are not heard, they will respond like pins to a magnet to those who appear to champion them, even if their champions are peddling lies. The rest will retreat into apathy, leaving the field wide open to the likes of Donald Trump and to varying degrees of neo-fascist enthusiasms dressed up as serious politics in the UK and in Europe. Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson are both extremely intelligent people, irrespective of the buffoon and pub-frequenting personas they try to project. This is what makes them dangerous.

As we approach Thursday’s generation defining referendum, all of this duplicity, and the manipulative power games which go with it, heightens the fevered mood of uncertainty and division in this country and in the EU itself. But in the midst of it all, and in the most tragic circumstance, silence prevails for a day. Parliament is recalled to honour the violent passing of a young and gifted politician who showed in her short time in government what it means to love the people she served and to do so faithfully and with integrity. Uncomplicated goodness and truth are rarely visible in politics.

Following the news of Jo Cox’s murder, there is a brief, if partial, moratorium on the referendum campaign. There is silence. It is the silence in which truth is spoken and heard. It is also the silence of peace. Silence and peace speak of God and, if allowed to, will lodge in the inner consciousness of every person.

God’s silence does not simply invite us to listen and wait for instructions as to how we should vote on Thursday. Thursday’s vote is of relatively little significance in the context of eternity. What is significant is the peace and prosperity of nations and peoples as desired by God.

The 14th century Christian solitary, Julian of Norwich, was known to have said of a hazelnut, as she held it in her hand, “It is all that is made”. If she were to do this today, she would be telling us that emptiness and silence reveal the truth and integrity of all that is made in and through the loving purposes of God. We are a small, but infinitely loved part of ‘all that is made’.

So this unexpected silence, or the memory of it, invites every person, however they conceive of the idea of God, including those who have no such concept, to enter into deep silence, and allow it to enter them, so that they can bear it into the noise and duplicity of the times in which we live.