We're always shocked when bad things happen to normal people. The terror attack in Sydney was an example of bad things happening to such normal people.
When the economic crisis hits the normal people we feel uncomfortable... more than that we feel this deep empathy for those who lose their boats, those who have to forego their overseas holiday, and those who are normal and should be afforded the normal privileges of life. When normal people struggle then we become scared.
I was reading a reflection on the global financial crisis and inequality, and the reflection was that millions of "normal people" were still struggling with the tolls of reduced incomes, loss of jobs, and unstable future job prospects. What interested me about this was how much of a shock to the world (white middle-class Americans) that normal people can fall victim to poverty.
The article talked of this dark time, when the "normal people" were struggling with attaining the same level of normality that they had come to expect. I believe that New Zealand and the Church in New Zealand have the same concept of normality, and I question whether this is how we should understand normal.
I question this view of normal. I question it because I don't believe that this is the way the gospels will define normal, or the way in which we as follower should view normality. I think normal is rooted in an understanding that we all contain a piece of normality through the image of God that we hold. Through the creator God creating humanity in his image, we all have normality. You do not have more or less of the image of God than anyone else within the world. But this has a problem.
The problem is that when we start with an understanding of humanity being created equal, holding a "normality" that is found within the image of God, we also then have this problem. And that problem is the problem of pain. We have the ability to look at the world, through globalization we discover an unexpected amount of pain and anguish in the world, and it surprises us.
I wonder what it would look like if what was currently happening in the west bank was happening in L.A., if what was going on in Nigeria was going on in France; if what was happening in the brothels of Thailand were happening in the brothels of New Zealand. What would be the world's response?
I believe the church in New Zealand needs to understand humanity as related through the image of God. I wonder what our response to the varying crises would be if we re-imagined this understanding. What would our response be to people who live in areas like the Gaza strip, or were sold into slavery, or even those who are living next door and are lonely? What if we believed everyone was created equal. I wonder what our response would be?
I am convinced that the people of God need to re-imagine our response to those who look different. I believe we need to respond actively and decisively to the crises that are taking place in the world as a whole, and actively be working against the pain and suffering not only for those how look like us, or believe what we believe. But understood humanity to be created equal; and for this to shape our response.
First published January 26, 2015
Tim Shallard is a part owner of a pretty cool café in Auckland City. He studies theology at Carey Baptist College, runs a poetry collective, and is passionate about coffee, community, and living the dream.
Tim Shallard's previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/tim-shallard.html