This week, in a lesson about finance (more an unlearning than learning) one of the presenters Joy Anderson, Criterion Institute, shared a quote familiar to me, from a USA theologian, Walter Brueggemann. I have appreciated his work on prophets, and given my propensity to be future facing, have found his work helpful. My theological stance has tended to be in the vision and dreams space, coupled with my love for science fiction, I find I am usually leaning into possibilities, the what ifs, they why nots, and the what’s getting in the way. More than once I have made accusations, that it is, mostly, a lack of imagination that holds us back, closely followed by fear and people pleasing. I felt encouraged and affirmed by the Bruggemann reference in a SheEO learning track. I also took it as another sign of integration, more threads of my life weaving new cloth.
The prophet makes something invisible, visible. The calling forth of the possible through insights and wisdom is the job of the prophet. The job description includes speaking truth to power and usually results in being a fringe dweller in their own territory. Their words are considered dangerous by those who are benefiting from the power based the prophet names to disrupt, and heralded as a gift and call to action, for those who hear the words as truth, and the welcome mat to a new dawn. The words of the prophets may well be written on the “subway walls and tenement halls” but they are not the sounds of silence. They are imaginative possibilities made visible by their words, actions and sounds that invite risk, daring, and danger. Often a prophet will cause anxiety in those holding institutional power, those power brokers reacting as if the prophet is a loose cannon. They are not. They usually have held consistent and complete unwavering positions on what is just. Think Rosie Batty, Grace Tame, Brittany Higgins, Christine Holgate. If you experience bullying tactics, consider the possibility of that being evidence, of your prophetic nature. The bully can come in all shapes and sizes, even from the highest office in the land. The prophet might be you.
Perhaps you’ve had an experience of being asked to quieten, work around someone else’s behaviour, hold your nose and look away? What were you making visible? What were you blowing the whistle on? If you have taken a stand and for those who have also resigned and walked away – you have enacted a prophetic act.
This is holy and sacred work. It is imaginative, creative work. It is the work that will get us to a just future. Our radical imagination, even with a shaky voice, maybe your gift to a fantastic future, today. If you can’t see visions, imagine them, and bring what is invisible to others into the clear light of day. I have some more prophetic moments ahead of me. I am building a runway and confidence, evidence, impactful words and action. Being prophetic comes at a cost. In the past I have lost friends who wanted me to be invisible, or not cause embarrassment. I have also found new friends who found courage to take their own steps into unchartered waters.
I feel like it is time to write a new job description for myself. How about this? I am a minister of imagination, ordained by the Future, to bring forth possibilities, in the company of extraordinary dreamers, seers and prophets. As I’ve said many times, I am not into palliative care, I am more in the midwifery business. I am calling out and calling forth new ways of living justly, loving tenderly and walking humbly (to paraphrase one of my favourite prophets, Micah). And I would add, disarm artistically, with poetry, song and dance.
“The prophet engages in futuring fantasy. The prophet does not ask if the vision can be implemented, for questions of implementation are of no consequence until the vision can be imagined. The imagination must come before the implementation. Our culture is competent to implement almost anything and to imagine almost nothing. The same royal consciousness that make it possible to implement anything and everything is the one that shrinks imagination because imagination is a danger. Thus every totalitarian regime is frightened of the artist. It is the vocation of the prophet to keep alive the ministry of imagination, to keep on conjuring and proposing futures alternative to the single one the king wants to urge as the only thinkable one.” Walter Brueggemann