What we don’t want to seeJuly 26, 2013
Apparently this ad was banned on australian TV.
Which is rather ironic, as the ad itself is about being able to face reality. Being able to look fully square at ourselves in truth. The presence of the child in each vignette provides a ‘lens’ through which we are invited to reasses adult behaviour. So it is ironic, but perhaps also predictable that the ad was somehow judged to be inappropriate viewing. While these behaviours can be seen commonly in the public spaces of our cities, it offends us to be ‘shown’ ourselves alongside the formation of a child. The child here does not judge. The child doesn’t do anything other than imitate us, as they reflexively do. There is nothing new or radical or previously unknown in this 90 seconds.
And yet, there is no doubt that the presence of the child brings a moral conscience, brings judgement, prophetically calls for repentance and change.
But all without a word.
The power of the gospel is like this. Children are understood, at least legally, not to be fully moral agents – and yet see how they silently invoke a moral conscience when it is lacking in adults.
Children often ‘lack judgement’ – characteristically open to influence from all sides – and yet their presence speaks a judgement upon us.
Children do not need to speak to exercise a prophetic mandate for us to turn back from our paths of (self-)destruction.
Children don’t need to be wise themselves to make us wiser adults.
“Jesus called a child and stood it in their midst.” (Matthew 18)
Jesus doesn’t ask the child to speak – but the presence of the child is eloquent in critiquing the pretensions to power of the adults in Jesus’ company.
Jesus himself practices a parallel silence when placed in the midst of the halls of Roman imperial power, his presence on the cross as a humiliated, battered, conquered traitor exposes the power hungry, violent, oppressive collusion between empire and local ‘protectors’.
This is also the kind of thing we can’t bear to see. The icon of the bloodied Christ is too much for us as well.
But it speaks truth. And perhaps in a way that we don’t recognise it also speaks gracious judgement.
Judgement is not ‘you are damned!’ but ‘this is wrong-time to change!’.
The Christian tradition of prophetic judgement is not from a fiery throne of power terminating wretched souls (see other religions or hollywood movies for this if it’s your cup of tea), but the judgement that says ‘No more of this – turn around and change’.
The response to what is wrong in the world, in ourselves, is not more destruction, but change.
May we have the courage as communities, local, national and global to see ourselves in truth – through the lenses of the moral, judicial and prophetic eyes of our children, who are called and placed in our midst by the God who expects us to pay attention to them, and in doing so, see a vision of the kingdom of God.