Dear Friends,

As we move through the Advent season, we are reminded how it is that in the Old Testament we have recorded the words of the prophets foretelling the coming of the Messiah. And of course, the Christian tradition believes that such prophecies have found their fulfilment in the birth of Jesus the Christ. But there is also a less well-known prophecy which declares that before Messiah shall come, Elijah shall return. Elijah, a prophet in his own right who we are told did not die, but was assumed directly into heaven riding a chariot of fire. It is often thought that John the Baptist is the embodiment of a ‘returning’ Elijah. Why? Because each in their own way made it their business to ‘speak truth to power.’ And of course, this was ultimately to cost John his life, being executed on the whim of Salome after he had denounced the adultery of Herod and his brother’s wife, Herodias…It might be thought that the need to ‘speak truth to power’ was never more necessary or urgent than it is now. It is concerning to say the least that the word ‘corruption’ is presently being bandied about with regard to the present Govt. and yet the response of many is a mixture of pragmatism and cynicism, as if to say that this is the price we have to pay – very oftener quite literally – in order to ensure that what is promised is able to be delivered…And when we refer to ’speaking truth to power’ it is not necessarily directed at those who are ‘in power’ presently, the ‘powerful’ people themselves; rather it is directed at the nature of the institutions that have grown up over time as the means of exercising power…It was often thought that the Press – the so-called 4th Estate, the other being the 3 ‘estates of Government: the clergy, the nobility, the commoners – would be the means by which ‘truth could be spoken to power’. Sadly, in recent times, an increasingly partisan press, particularly the print media, has seen itself become as compromised if not as corrupt in itself. Of course, there have been ‘honourable’ exceptions – Julian Assange, Edwin Snowdon, for example – but by and large, press reporting tends to be exactly that, reporting what is said…And so, maybe there is a need for a latter-day John the Baptist. A way having to be found by which what needs to be said can be said; and said in such a way that it can cut through the ‘smoke and mirrors’ that presently characterises much of our political discourse. It was hoped that the Christian community would take up that responsibility but sadly, over the centuries, the church became institutionalised; and thereby compromised and corrupted to such a degree that it found itself marginalised, ignored, satirised, ridiculed, rejected by so many…It is often said that ‘politics is the art of the possible’, and many, including those who speak for the church have been seduced by such a view…Conveniently forgetting may be, that it was Jesus Himself who said that ‘nothing is impossible with God.’ And so, as Advent unfolds, spare a thought for, and say a prayer for John the Baptist, ‘speaker of truth to power’.

Speak truth to power