It is easy to forget the world’s grief and brokenness during an Olympic games. For there is so much that entertains: The iron smelted Olympic rings of the opening ceremony; the strange gate-crasher dressed in bright red who gaily led the Indian team’s procession during the opening ceremony. There is much of beauty and much to celebrate. It is satisfying to me that despite Australia’s disappointing medal tally we are still well clear of those Canadians – Aussie, Aussie, Aussie!
Yet during these games I have come across a reference to the Olympics by a first nation activist. This woman was interviewed in Taiaiake Alfred’s highly regarded book, ‘Peace, Power, Righteousness’. The woman was asked whether she valued her citizenship.
You see all the things like the Olympics, the Commonwealth Games, all those things that people get excited about it. For what? These people are going to go off to – where is it, Bosnia? – and the government is going to give them $15 million. Somebody just died on one of our reserves this week – someone died on every reserve this week – of malnutrition or infection, because of poor conditions. Oh yeah, we’re citizens.
The point is well made. Frequent death through malnutrition on first nation reserves makes obsession with the Olympic games look ignorant and callous – does it not?
The quote reorientates us. During the Olympics we mustn’t ‘take our eyes off the ball’, so to speak. We must keep our eye on the brokenness of the world as well as its achievements. We grieve as well as celebrate. Christians are called always to offer the world twin postures of celebration and grief. In light of the brokenness of the world and in light of Christ’s fierce commitment to it, this strange blend of emotions is our uncomfortable reality. Those who know that Christ has secured the world’s future in his resurrection offer the celebration of the new creation to our communities. But the tension of this era demands grief as well – ‘Jesus wept’.