The fierce urgency of now

By Brian Draper
April 1, 2009

Part of me fancies getting out there on the streets, with the G20 protests in London. The closet adventurer inside is intrigued to see first-hand what unfolds. But also, I feel (along with much of the country, it seems) angry at something - as though I want to be out there and march or have a tea-party and show that I’m not going to stand for this any longer.

The question of course, is, what ‘this’ is, precisely. Bankers’ bonuses? The war? Climate change? You show me your banner, and I’ll show you mine…

There is a lot of angry energy out there, waiting, perhaps, to be channelled positively. But if we won’t stand for “this” any longer, whatever “this” is, we should surely discover what we will stand for, instead.

What is the higher cause – at this time, of all times – that you are prepared to serve? How may I demonstrate mine through a life lived with integrity in this corner of the global village?

If I can no longer stand war, I should stand up for peace. And that requires engaging in a tougher battle: to love my enemies, as Jesus taught.

If I can no longer stand injustice, I should put others first, love my neighbour as myself, live and trade justly and be willing to concede more to those who have less.

If I can no longer stand the prospect of climate change, I should stand up and stand out with a whole new way of life.

It would certainly help to give the leaders of the G20 permission to act in our name with more selfless conviction if closet adventurers like me began to live like that.

As they bunker down for business, those leaders may or may not hear angry voices from the streets, but I hope they will sense the stirring presence of millions in the room with them. They need our help, just as we need theirs, to stand together for something, with our lives, in our lifetime.

Gordon Brown offered a useful challenge recently from Martin Luther King. In a speech at St Paul’s Cathedral, the Prime Minister recounted: “When Martin Luther King talked about the fierce urgency of now, he asked us to awaken to a tide in human history which if missed, means you can end up being literally too late for that history.”

The religious leaders and their communities to whom he was speaking, called on the G20 to turn the world around by putting the lowest highest on the list: those poorest millions who will fall further into poverty through recession.

The last will be first, after all, as Jesus once said. Which may not sit well with the economic values we have collectively bought into, and to which we have sold out; but perhaps the fierce urgency of now demands another Way: that those of us with, should stand most firmly today for those without a prayer.


© Brian Draper is a writer, broadcaster and speaker who engages with business leaders who truly want to be part of the solution, not the problem. He is the author of Searching 4 Faith (Lion), works with MCA, a business consultancy in Winchester, and is an an associate lecturer in culture at the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity. His latest venture is Echosounder, which nurtures ‘spiritual intelligence’.

This article is adapted with kind acknowledgements from a BBC Radio 4 Thought for the Day.

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