Grace to you
Arundhati Roy – author of the highly acclaimed “The God of Small Things” is in South Africa. She is here to promote her latest novel “The Ministry of Utmost Happiness”. Yet, Roy would probably say that she is here for something far more significant than book promotion. She is not moved by prize or price or praise. Perhaps this is why she is such a compelling writer. She has higher interests and deeper values. “If you ask me what is at the core of what I write, it isn’t about ‘rights’, it’s about justice. Justice is a grand, beautiful, revolutionary idea.” Roy lives for justice. In this she imitates God’s own heart.
To do justice is to name and expose and mock and defy all the reasons given by society to justify unfairness and to unpick them thread-by-thread wherever they are woven together to entrench inequality in the systems of society. Above all, Roy calls out any and all who try and legislate love into colour or caste or any other constructed category. As her caste crossing characters silently grieve: “But what was there to say? Only that there were tears. Only that Quietness and Emptiness fitted together like stacked spoons. Only that there was a snuffling in the hollows at the base of a lovely throat. Only that a hard honey-colored shoulder had a semicircle of teeth marks on it. Only that they held each other close, long after it was over. Only that what they shared that night was not happiness, but hideous grief. Only that once again they broke the Love Laws. That lay down who should be loved. And how. And how much.”
Roy knows that the easiest way to prevent someone from doing justice is to make them a beneficiary of the status quo. Roy understands that fame can tame the pen: “Years of imprisoning and beheading writers never succeeded in shutting them out. However, placing them in the heart of a market and rewarding them with a lot of commercial success, has.” For this reason Jesus pointed out we cannot serve both God and mammon – “we either love the one and hate the other”.
Knowing we can chose death, God invites us to choose life. It is a choice, not a certainty. Jesus expressed his life’s purpose as bringing “life in all its fullness”, and Roy in her own poetically urgent way encourages us to make this same choice:
“The only dream worth having is to dream that you will live while you are alive, and die only when you are dead. To love, to be loved. To never forget your own insignificance. To never get used to the unspeakable violence and vulgar disparity of the life around you. To seek joy in the saddest places. To pursue beauty to its lair. To never simplify what is complicated or complicate what is simple. To respect strength, never power. Above all to watch. To try and understand. To never look away. And never, never to forget.”
I share these thoughts as a comforting reminder that there are many who know the heart of God and who embody the teachings of Jesus without using the label Christian. Jesus never said “They will know you are my disciples by what you call yourself”. He said: “They will know you are my disciples by your love.”