“Ignoring isn’t the same as ignorance, you have to work at it.”
― Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale
In Matthew we read the same kind of caution of which Atwood speaks in the Handmaid’s Tale. As our American neighbours threaten to dismantle women’s hard fought for rights, many of us are thinking of the prophetic quality of Atwood’s novel. I think we all feared the possibility, even the probability of a new fascism, but we hoped we would either be dead, or a new flavour of men and women would arise to combat all the “isms” of the world. That generation hoped to see the world evolve into a kinder, more insightful civilization.
Instead, what was really happening is that the evils were hiding in plain sight. In recent times, we had started to make jokes about being too politically correct, too earnest in our convictions. In fact, we did not take our fear seriously enough. Xenophobia, the fear of difference, sexism, the fear of women’s power, classism, the fear of the poor, all these never were left behind, but masked over. And now they are being revealed again in all their ugliness and perversity.
In the midst of it all, many of us also forgot this truth so well spoken by Atwood:
“Better never means better for everyone… It always means worse, for some.” We thought we were working against the problems of our times in localized situations,; we did not realize that the problem was global.
So what are we to do with this awareness, with our anxiety, with our tarnished dreams? One solution simply is to wait it out, find places to hide if we are not safe, or ignore the maelstrom, if we can avoid it. Another solution is the Christian response. We are called to open our eyes, to be prepared, to look around us with clarity, rather than doubt.
It means we will have to be fearless in facing our own complicity, our own comfort, our own casual disregard for the teachings of Jesus. At this moment, this kairotic moment, we will stand to be counted, which means standing with our Lord, who lived and died for love. And we will have peace because we will know the ways in which we have failed and the ways in which we have prevailed. We will know peace because we will live in the confidence that we are not called to be flawless, but to be open, learning as only lovers can. We will prevail because, as every wise person knows, love prevails.