Last month, I attended a wedding of a friend, up in Scotland and a very happy occasion it was. This wedding though gave me much pause for reflection as five days later I attended a funeral of a lady at my church. The contrast between the celebration of something new and the sorrow of something gone was stark.
I remember reading a blog post by a Scottish Presbyterian about how he appreciated funerals more than weddings (and it would be a Scot who said this) because there could be no idolatry at a funeral, only reality. While understanding this point, I profoundly disagree.
Weddings are a celebration of beginnings, they are full of hope and beauty and potential, often so very joyful, full of laughter, dancing and champagne. Funerals are an end, always too soon, with no hope outside of Christ and the promise of heaven to those who believe. There can be no dancing at funerals, little laughter and despite what people say there can be no "celebration" either, not in death.
My thought from attending both so quickly was how they so perfectly encapsulate life – so much blessing; so much sorrow and there is sorrow within blessing and blessing within sorrow. Perhaps all of life is lived between weddings and funerals.
Hear now, the wisdom on Boromir: "One does not simply..." And when it comes to the migrant crisis much has been said of the simple solution. Petitions for the UK to open its arms to the migrants almost outnumber the number of people signing them. I agree with the moral sentiment but find the arguments so reductive that I've written this blog post to at least force others to think about the issue more deeply.
Consider an analogy: a man lies on the road bleeding from a wound at his side. As you approach he gasps "water!" Given the choice between a) stopping the bleeding or b) providing the man with water the kind and loving thing to do is stopping the bleeding. In fact, if you gave the man a drink and didn't stop the bleeding it would turn an otherwise kind act into an act of cruelty. To look it another way: treating symptoms is only a very short term measure; in the long term the root cause of a problem has to be dealt with.
Like the glass of water, opening our borders to the migrants is a small token of kindness that does absolutely nothing to solve the migrant crisis. The more we welcome, the more will come, for what inspires these desperate people to leave their homes but hope? And the more we give, as a society, to welcome migrants in, the more will be demanded of us.
Please, don't mistake me, this is not saying we shouldn't open our borders. But we need to do so fully aware of what a pathetic response it is, given the magnitude of the crisis.
The other day, on a fine and glorious morning, I checked my privilege. Wallowing in an ivory bath of goat’s milk, sipping the curdled blood of cute puppies from a cup carved from the skull of a child labourer from some forsaken eastern country, as the dancing girls fanned me with rare feathers and the latest stock news blared out over the radio, I found my privilege to be of greater worth than the many bricks of gold stored in my Swiss vault.
Hello, my name is Ben and I am a Tory. According to the BBC, the Guardian and George Monbiot I am a climate change denying hound from the depths of a dark and terrible hell, a barbarian and cultural philistine and a throwback to an age best forgotten. The latest research suggests that 85% of my Facebook friends will read the opening paragraph and think it based on a real event.
Privilege is something that is a thing, and the latest fad among the left is to check it on a regular basis, as though it were a medical condition. The purpose of checking ones privilege is self-censorship, for what else does the middle class left love to do but constrain and restrain debate? As a white, heterosexual male my privilege is so exceedingly great that I can express no opinion on women, racism or sexual equality. Which is exactly the kind of repression that women, racial groups and sexual minority groups have fought against. Oh blessed irony!
For all my scorn there is an element of truth in this ridiculous fad: I live a privileged life. My income (which is below the UK average) puts me in the top 3% of world population, I am richer than 6.3 billion people. I am 58x times richer than a billion people. And with this larger income comes a lower proportion spent on food (20% compared to over 50%), an education level that also puts me in the top few percent of the world and twenty four years of peace, living in a country with a good justice system, a working democracy and large levels of infrastructure investment.
All this leaves us with a pertinent and difficult question: why is life so unfair and what can be done about it? By the providence of God I was born into a prosperous life with over 6 billion people around me who are less well off. Having no control over so many aspects of my life, I have privilege that is indeed beyond measure.