This is a kind of follow on from yesterday’s post – at least it is in my mind!
I have posted before concerning this decade and how it relates to two dreams from the beginning of the decade. In this post I will recount the one that highlighted how by resorting to the familiar we close down the time of exposure and change. In that dream I went into a town square and was standing one one side of the square looking at all the buildings on the other side. Somehow I was aware that each of the buildings represented an institution that had shaped the pubic life: the health, education, commerce, entertainment, media, the church were certainly all represented there. At a precise moment the fronts of all the buildings moved forward then up, as if they were on hinges. One could see right inside the buildings to what was taking place behind the façades.
My initial reaction was that buildings like are totally unstable and are in danger of collapsing, so I thought I needed to shout a warning to those on that side of the square to get away from the buildings. However, while contemplating the warning I realised that the buildings were not actually collapsing, they remained stable on their foundations. To my left someone began to sing quietly a worship song, and as there were obviously a few people in the square who were believers a second person added their voice, then a third and so on. What started quietly slowly increased in volume. It never dominated the square but it was there to be heard. Once the volume increased to a certain level the buildings all at the same time shut back down, the façades returning to where they were before.
Then to my right I heard an audible voice that said, ‘It is the familiar that restores the status quo, that brings things back to where they were.’ Now I knew what the issue really was. The warning to be shouted out was not with regard to the instability of the buildings, but the danger of resorting to the familiar. The acuteness of the danger being illustrated by it even being a worship song that could do the damage.
So I cleared my throat and got ready. I shouted, ‘It is the familiar…’ I got those four words out and at that point a person stood right in my face to intimidate me. I stepped to the side, cleared my throat again. Once again I got those four words out and the scene repeated. On the fourth occasion I got my four words out, ‘It is the familiar…’ and the person finished the sentence with the words, ‘…that brings things back to normal.’
Two similar statements with radically different meanings:
- It is the familiar that brings things back to normal.
- It is the familiar that restores the status quo and brings things back to where they were.
If the body of Christ carries a weight spiritually and our contribution is to be in the public square, not institutionally but spiritually, then what we do and how we respond, and in particular times more so than in others, is very critical. There seems to be a concensus of the current time as a very critical time. The Brexit referendum, the shift in leadership in parliament (UK), the rise of the right wing parties fuelling an anti-immigration feeling all, within the European context, point in that direction.
There will always be differences of opinion over the right way to go on a referendum such as we have had, but I think at a time of change we have to be thinking about change at much deeper levels than Brussels is big, Westminster smaller so the first must be more imperial. The issues are much deeper than that. We must be careful about pulling along personal interest lines (and I write this as an immigrant in Spain).
While we have been asleep, or maybe we were awake and approved, the whole economic system has shifted to come behind that based on a neo-liberal basis. This has shifted the West to a kind of capitalism that was unknown before the 1970s. Resorting to national boundaries with an appeal to ‘sovereignty’ will not counter what we are up against. If sovereignty outworks as being able to establish, and then dictate, a rule we have to look beyond that of nationalism. (And I write as one who is not nationalistic, and with a perspective that the nation-state is a new idea, considerably beyond the use of the term ‘nation’ in Scripture.)
The trans-national corporations are exerting a new kind of sovereignty that is not subject to the supposed national boundaries within which they operate. They dictate the level of taxation, they reward those who serve and they live from a bio-power resource. It opens up the way for trade agreements that at the surface might be between nations (the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) for example) but are beyond intra-national agreement, and are carving out a path that will, if left unchecked fro example, reduce health care to money over people. (With all the strains on the NHS consider the level of GDP that goes into it in the UK and the level of cover provided, compared to the greater level of GDP that goes into health care across the pond and the numbers left without health care.)
I am not trained to understand many of the issues, even the ones I refer to above, and I am not about to write about how wrong the Brexit was, my plea is let us make sure we are going deeper. We can be fooled at a time when there can be many exposures, many façades being revealed, by resorting to the familiar. A Brexit does not deal with Imperial issues and it was ironic that when Cameron made his visit to Brussels that the concession he was proud to declare was with regard to the city of London. The square mile that already had exceptions was to be safeguarded!! ‘Who runs Britain’ (Peston) might now be a few years old but remains a good read to realise that the critique of Revelation still stands. Economic trade (beast) with a false prophet (the identity of which can be very fluid) continually needs to be exposed. A Brexit might weaken it, though I doubt that. A Brexit, or a non-Brexit, with the church continuing to sing will simply bring things back to where they were, restoring the status quo. What is termed ‘normality’ deifies as always the market. Neo-liberalism, operating in the IMF, the EU, Westminster, Wall Street etc., will continue to march on, and if we think we can stop it by establishing artificial national boundaries we are sadly missing it. We have to push deeper.
I write the above as a non-expert – polite way of saying one who knows almost nothing. That is not an issue to me. When I look at the fruit, the growing divide between rich and poor I know something is wrong. When Spain with all its economic pressures has more millionaires now than before the 08 crisis, when it ‘borrows’ from the pension fund to pay debts, when it has given state aid to help fund football clubs, etc. there is something wrong.
Just for a while I need to stop singing the song. I cannot join in. I have seen the façades open up. I have to warn again and again – beware of the familiar in all its forms. I do not expect to be an expert in the issues of trans-national globalism and its devouring of people as fuel. I do though need to pray and stand for those who will rise up with an understanding and a different voice. I don’t expect to hear them from within the church – that is not our task (to become the highest mountain!). We are here for the world. I expect to hear the prophets rise from within the world. And sadly I expect that many of them will lose their lives. I just hope we are not the new-Nero’s, singing our songs while the city burns. Oh and Nero’s name converted to numbers came out at 666, a number that allowed the person to continue to trade.