* Used with permission. Originally published in the Dominion Post, Wellington, New Zealand, June 30, 2006, and appearing in the Otago Daily Times, Dunedin, the same day.
* Chris Trotter is a political commentator and editor of The New Zealand Political Review. What follows is one of his recent articles published in several New Zealand newspapers. It is rare indeed that the so-called secular world speaks with such passion, insight and conviction about social justice issues; in fact, Christian preachers would do well to study this provocative and prophetic piece as a hard-hitting model for a sermon.
Blame—It’s a slippery thing, hard to keep in one place. You can pour buckets of the stuff over people's heads, and for some reason it just won't stick. Macsyne King and her young husband, Chris Kahui. You would think that after weeks of being blamed for the deaths of Chris and Cru, their tiny sons, they'd be ready to give police the names of the persons responsible. Somehow, though, the blame heaped upon them has fallen off and flowed away, trickling into the gutters of those mean South Auckland streets, swallowed up by its sewers.
The French have a saying: ‘tout comprendre, c'est tout pardoner — to understand all is to forgive all’. But who would be bold enough to claim that they understand everything? Surely, only God Himself could make such a boast? Isn't that what St Thomas Aquinas said? That God is everywhere—past, present and future. That everything which has happened, is happening, and will happen is known to Him. That nothing in all the universe wields more power. Omnipresent. Omniscient. Omnipotent. A tidy triune definition for the Angelic Doctor's triune God.
But would this Christian God, who understands everything, be willing to forgive the Kahuis for what they have done—or not done? What would He say to them? If the police could somehow bring God in for questioning, who would He blame? Being present at every moment of this nation's history, God would recall a time when politicians and journalists referred to Maori as ‘Niggers’. He'd have watched as unscrupulous land speculators bled the tribes dry, and rapacious shopkeepers saddled them with debts they could never repay. When cheap whisky and syphilis, and the despair born of squalor and defeat carried off the Kahuis' ancestors in their tens of thousands, God was there.
He was present, too, when the 28th Maori Battalion came home
from the war. Anguished men who had seen too much, done too much, and who
now drank too much so they could forget. He saw the state house ghettos going
up in Otara and Mangere and Porirua: raw clay sections, hard grey asphalt,
and all those vast dark factories swallowing up a people who had lived in
sunshine and walked on sand. The booze barns went up, too—following
the second great Maori migration like so many hungry sharks.
Omnipresent, God would have shared a sofa with a clutch of sullen South Auckland teenagers; breathing in the fat-laden vapours of their hot fried chicken and the acrid tang of their marijuana reefers, as they watched a television set in the corner of the room. Seeing them absorb the advertisers' images of success and plenty, happiness and beauty; a world that was everywhere and always White, White, White. Did He wonder at their hatred, their envy, their self-loathing rage? Did He condemn them for emulating the culture of the black American underclass which provided them with a soundtrack to their impoverished lives? With all its hiphop solipsism and gangsta fury; its malignant role models of Crips and Bloods; its obsession with celebrity and bling; and its sexist dehumanisation of young black women; did it not, at least, speak to them in a language they could understand? ‘Yo, bro! You—my brother! Who the victim, who the slayer?—Speak!’
With his memory reaching into every dimension, God relives the Cabinet meetings where the decisions were made to ‘restructure’ the economy. He recalls the editorial meetings, where it was decided that Rogernomics was a ‘good thing’ and not to be disparaged. He overhears the Treasury boffins exchanging jokes about TINA, and how that year's ‘natural’ rate of unemployment would have to be ‘adjusted upwards’.
He is familiar, too, with the cold eyes and thin-lipped smiles of the WINZ workers. Understands perfectly the brutal realities of a six-month ‘stand-down’ from the benefit. Has witnessed the fierce joy a young unemployed man feels after pulling off his first burglary. Recognises that staunch expression on the young prisoner's' face; his unshakeable determination to remain silent, and never to grass up his mates.
What would God say to the police if they could take Him in for questioning? Who would He put in the frame for Chris and Cru Kahui's deaths? The men who stole their great, great, great grandparents' land? The gang-member who sold their father's friends the P? The Pakeha talkback host who identifies ‘trash people’ by their ‘trash names'?
Or would He whisper, softly: ‘Judge not, that ye be not judged’. Blame - it's a slippery thing.