This is the time of year when I am prepping for a day exploring social policy. One of the bits I most enjoy is exploring different theological perspectives or insights. One year I introduced Martin Luther King’s letter from a Birmingham jail which is a challenging read fifty years on. Today I read some Henri Nouwen:
This is compassion. We cannot suffer with the poor when we are unwilling to confront those persons and systems that cause poverty. We cannot set the captive free when we do not want to confront those who carry the keys. We cannot profess our solidarity with those who are oppressed when we are unwilling to confront the oppressor. Compassion without confrontation fades quickly into fruitless sentimental commiseration.
The other time it is great to be teaching social policy is the year in which there is an election when you can spend time exploring, as one of my colleagues did today, some of the issues around politics and policy – this quote helps me make decisions about how to vote.
Henri Nouwen, Donald MacNeill and Douglas Morrison. Compassion: a reflection on the Christian life. New York Doubleday, 1982, p.124.