Julian Burnside published an opinion piece on Australian Asylum Seeker policy today in the Sydney Morning Herald. (Please read). It was clear and factual. It outlined an eminently reasonable and humane asylum policy for a country signed to to the UN Refugee Convention. And yet, on reading it I felt a deep sadness because in many ways the basic facts that Burnside outlines should be pretty obvious to us and yet the solution he outlines appears politically impossible. It suggests to me a fundamental callousness and failure of moral perception in our broader society. So I am going to get a little bit angry right now.
I am increasingly outraged that political leaders of all parties are willing to seek power through inciting our society to do further injustice against those who are already fleeing terrible injustice. Furthermore, I believe that increasingly the behaviour of our leading politians on Asylum Seeker policy strikes materially and philosophically at the political foundations of our society. A democratic society based on the rule of law cannot survive a political class who has no regard for truthful political communication and no respect for the legal system they are elected to serve. Political leaders who make claims about asylum seekers that are demonstrably false with regard to Australian and International law are either too ignorant of that law to administer it, or lack the integrity required to protect it, in either case they are not worthy of the office granted them as servants of law of the Australian people.
As a Christian, I believe that the government of every nation is ultimately in the hands of Jesus Christ, that his resurrection from death was his divine appointment to the position of ultimate political authority. Therefore every human institution of government either knowingly or unwittingly serves him, owes its legitimacy only to him, and will finally be called to account for its administration of his justice. There will be a day when those who seek asylum from the perverted justice of the rulers of the earth, will find their long awaited remedy in the government of Jesus Christ. At that point the final words of Psalm 2 verse 12 will ring out, “Blessed are all who find asylum with him”.
Therefore, you kings, be wise;
be warned, you rulers of the earth.
Serve the LORD with fear
and celebrate his rule with trembling.
Kiss his son, or he will be angry
and your way will lead to your destruction,
for his wrath can flare up in a moment.
Blessed are all who take refuge in him.
(Psalm 2:10-12 NIV11)
I have great affection for my Australian heritage and love for our democratic and egalitarian political traditions, and for that reason I beg our leaders, do not mock the justice of God.
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I have a leather satchel that’s getting a little worse for wear. It’s sitting here on the bench beside me. It goes with me.
I wear jeans most days, and most of the pairs of jeans I have outlasted in these past years have perished because the fabric on the right hand hip wore away, was rubbed out, by her. I’m sure I have a twist in my spine also. I’m growing into her. The blue dye of my jeans has stained the back panel of the bag. The leather there is highly polished, hard, like the saddle between the thighs of an old drover. But the grain on the front is soft and tender, grained and lined familiarly, like the inside of an old thigh. Hard travelling makes the world harder. Maybe polishes it to a brilliance. And maybe it makes the traveller tender.
Like age spots, the rain has stained along the spine. Leather drinks in the storms; a pardonable fault, we all have our ways of coping—except for nylon, which has no give or take. Look, I admit it, I’m sorry, what can I say? I like to walk in the rain, I don’t make things easier. And yes, I will be the death of you. I will wear you out. I grieve. Sometimes I don’t know whether I can see the life in death, or the death in life. Like the duck/rabbit. But we are reconciled when I sit down with the leather preserver (Dubbin) and a soft old rag (usually broken-in underwear) and massage the life back into her skin. Working the Dubbin into the lines and grains, seeing the colour come back, like a soul responding to caress. You can tell if something has a soul by how it responds to touch. That’s the secret of the Christian religion right there.
In the bottom of my satchel are two painted wooden blocks: a blue semi-circle with white dots, and a pink rectangle with yellow stripes; a child’s toys… my son. He put them there some months ago. Not while I was around, I discovered them later, like little eggs laid by a duck/rabbit, like the gifts of God: unlooked for but causing a lot of grinning when noticed. I looked in my bag and grinned like a true idiotes, like a man who walks in storms with the treasures of a duck/rabbit slung on his hip.
Putting things inside other things fascinates him, the congruence of objects, the fittingness of the world, the possibilities of the inner… he wouldn’t put it like that but I know what he means. It is the language of God. I learned theology so I could begin to speak to infants: “the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these”. I love watching him grow into the world: fitting it, turning things over and over, pulling apart and hiding away. I love that he hugs me back, and sometimes pats me on the back, like I do when I hug him. I love that we can make each other laugh. These are the building blocks of a man made to walk with his Creator, who can learn to love this old leather world—treat her with care and be polished tender in his travels—and find the gifts of God in her soft folds.Comment and Share
Indeed, fully reliable love can only be the resurrected life of one who has died for the beloved ones. Contemporary society speaks much of ‘unconditional’ love, and is always disappointed. If I commit myself in love, I may die of it. If I do not, my love remains uncertain; if I do, it is lost—unless I rise again. When the gospel proclaims actual unconditional love, it proclaims a specific, individual love, the love that is the actuality of the risen Jesus. No one else can love unconditionally as does the Lord; not even the church can so love her members or they one another.
—Robert W. Jenson, Systematic Theology: Volume 1, The Triune God, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997). 199.Comment and Share