Human beings long for coherent narratives. Indeed, one of the central ways in which we as a species try to make sense of overwhelmingly complex data is by imposing a story onto the world around us. This is a good and necessary thing and without such stories we would find it difficult to answer those fundamental questions that are at the core of human existence; ‘who am I?’, ‘what is a good life?’, ‘what gives life meaning?’
While this narrative-forming impulse is not bad in itself, the type of story that we work within can have drastic ramifications. At our recent PEACEtalk Dr Kate Harrison Brennan identified two stories that have shaped certain approaches to the promotion of global justice: ‘the myth of redemptive violence’ and the ‘myth of humanitarian redemption’.
The myth of redemptive violence sees the ultimate securing of global justice as being possible only through the utilisation of the right kind, or a sufficient amount, of military intervention. This, for most of us, is a straightforwardly problematic understanding of the world despite its pre-eminence in certain parts of the global community (most notably Hollywood). The myth of humanitarian redemption is far subtler as a narrative. It sees individual philanthropy and international aid as the catalysts that will bring about perpetual peace and prosperity. Unfortunately this myth can be both self-serving (turning wealthy benefactors into messiahs) and transforming the moral compromises that are part of the landscape of humanitarian aid (e.g. collaboration with immoral corporations and regimes, erosion of local culture through globalisation) into part of the creative power that will remake the world.
The Christian Gospel challenges both of these narratives. The cross of Christ shows us that the violence of the world as an ultimate means of establishing justice on earth is a futile enterprise, and the resurrection demonstrates the possibility of new life for our fallen world by the power of the spirit of God rather than (perhaps despite) our often misguided attempts to reshape the world according to our societal and cultural norms. Because of the Christian narrative we can, as we engage in the promotion of justice in our world, say with the apostle Paul that ‘our labour in the Lord is not in vain’.
Dave Taylor, Community Engagement Worker
Dr Kate Harrison Brennan is the Founder of Global & Smart, and was an advisor to former Prime Minister Julia Gillard. She is a Rhodes scholar with an M.Phil in Development Studies and a D.Phil in Politics from the University of Oxford. Her edited volume was released this week. Come to the book launch in Sydney at Gleebooks on Sunday 19 October, 3.30 for 4.00pm to reflect on how Global Institutions can work for those who need them most. Kate and her husband are part of St George’s Anglican Church in Paddington.
PEACE stands for ‘political, ethical, artistic and cultural engagement’. As such, PEACEtalks seeks to provide a context where these things can be engaged with in an open and informed way in the context of relationship and hospitality. But ‘PEACE’ is not just a clever acronym. Peace is a core conviction that we seek to embrace and embody in its deepest sense; a way of togetherness that embodies wholeness and harmony.
At the moment we run monthly events on the evening of the first Saturday of each month in the rectory of Saint George’s Anglican Church, Paddington. The rectory itself is the home an intentional Christian community (comprised of two families) who, with others, offer the relationships and hospitality that is central to PEACEtalk’s life. For more info and to keep up to date check out the PEACEtalks Facebook page.