I find myself reflecting this evening on the contributions of two different people. The first, David Russell, lauded for ‘taking a brave stand on many thorny issues to ensure that South Africa became a democratic society’ (you can find more about him here). David suffered banning, house arrest and imprisonment for his action during the apartheid era.
I knew of him when studying in Grahamstown (its hard to forget the Anglican bishop who has a wife who is practicing Roman Catholic!!), but it is only in the last few years that I have got to know David personally. My experience of him was profoundly positive. A reflective, prayerful and kind man. But, for the purposes of this post, clearly a man willing to take a stand for justice. He did so in the apartheid era and continued to take clear positions against all forms of prejudice well into his retirement. He was a man of principle.
The second person I find myself thinking about is Elizabeth Johnson. She is a world class theologian and religious sister. Following the publication of her book ‘Quest for the Living God’, she has found herself at odds with the local Bishop’s conference. It appears that their objections to her work are largely unfounded. The Leadership Conference for Women’s Religious in the United States (themselves struggling with a conflict with the Vatican) awarded Elizabeth Johnson their annual Leadership Award a few days ago.
The combination of this group awarding this particular theologian this award has ruffled some feathers in hierarchy. In her address (which can be found here), it is clear her own path has not been one unfettered by struggle.
I am not trying to equate the lives of these two people, they are just two that have stumbled across my radar in the space of a couple of hours. And the confluence precipitates the question: where are the heroes of my own generation? Where are the people who are truly striving for a better, more just world?
How many of us are too busy looking for comfort? Planning the next holiday; focusing on the next purchase; obsessing over daily minutiae? Perhaps it is that we are desperately trying to distract ourselves from looking up, because the bigger picture is too daunting, too overwhelming, too bleak.
Where are the heroes of my generation?
The response comes almost immediately ‘Stop looking around and step up!’
But I know that too may be a red herring, there is no sense in picking a fight if there is another way. I have no answers, just a dull sense of unease that far to few of us will be willing to get off couch when it counts.