If you drew a picture of the world as you hoped it would be, what would it look like? Deborah Storie drew a picture as part of a presentation she made at the Australian Missiology Conference inMelbourne,Australia, in 2005. She took her inspiration from Old Testament prophets, New Testament prophets and post-Testament prophets like Martin Luther King, Jr. The title of her paper was “Dreaming Shalom: Hopeful Imagination asMissioninAustralia.” For this month’s blog, I want to share Ms. Storie’s imagination with you.
This is Ms. Storie’s description: My diagram has two pictures: a picture of injustice and a picture of shalom. The picture of injustice represents the world today. Twenty percent of the people consume 85 percent of the world’s resources. One side of the fence is barren with emaciated people squatting despondently. On the other side, things look green and beautiful. People are well-fed and amply housed. They consume a lot and pollute a lot but their rubbish mostly ends up on the other side of the fence. What is not immediately obvious is that despair, fear and hopelessness pervade both sides. You can’t hide from the harsh reality of the barren lands but life in the green places is equally desperate, they just spend more on public relations and camouflage.
The picture of shalom summarizes biblical images of the future of God. People rest beneath their own vines and fig trees. They live in houses they built themselves and eat the fruits of their own labor. Everyone has enough, no one too much. There is diversity but not division. There is no domination and no fear. Children play and their grandparents live out their days in peace. Men and women tread lightly on the earth, cherishing creation, respecting its fragility, enjoying its extravagance.
The society of shalom is a society of right relationship: harmony with God, harmony between people, harmony with creation. The diagram has two arrows. Injustice happens whenever non-love (it doesn’t have to be hate – indifference or ignorance are quite enough) uses power to maintain the boundary between “the haves” and “the have-nots.” Injustice happens whenever resources, skills and opportunities are denied to the poor and given to the rich. The tools injustice uses serve some better than others: education, information, health care, legal systems and institutions, economics, trade, aid and development projects, dreams. Injustice can be very subtle. It is often unintentional.
Shalom, on the other hand, is created by love. Shalom can never be built by coercion or domination. Shalom’s power is the power of the cross, of weakness and humility, of forgiveness and reconciliation, of truth. These rainbow pathways are creative, courageous, audacious; they encompass every hope, every dream, every hopeful act and every movement of resistance through which individuals and societies participate with God in building shalom.
[A] [h]opeful [i]magination asks: How does the way we live approach or retreat from shalom? What practical strategies might we devise to move us-with-the-world toward shalom? We are not the central focus here. It is not all about us. What a wonderful thing to be where we belong doing what we were made for!
If you are accompanying young people to the Gathering, I encourage you to ask them to draw a picture of the world as they see it before they go to the Gathering, and again after they return home. What has changed? How do they feel about not being the center of attention? Can they relate to the power of the cross being a kind of anti-power stance according to the North American value system in which we live? How can they see themselves building shalom in the communities in which they live – home and family, church, school, clubs?