Want reasons for the restoration of the penitential Advent? Surf to the PBS News Hour website and click on its November 23rd broadcast. Watch the segment entitled, “Iran Cracks Down on Dissidents, Human Rights Attorneys, and Journalists.” Behold the microcosm of twisted humanity – complete with perverted, wrong-is-right ethics, evil rulers who think they’re good, and imprisoned innocent mothers. Stop this world. I want to leap off and land in a universe where love is not just a word in a bar-room pick-up line.
Among other things, the story featured Nasrin Sotoudeh, a brave Iranian lawyer who defended protestors involved in her nation’s 2009 Green Movement. One of her clients was a 17-year-old boy accused of political activity against the government. He was hung at the age of 20. The regime arrested Sotoudeh for doing her job and sentenced her to 11 years in prison, which an appellate court reduced to six years. Her children can only see her through a glass on their rare permitted visits. Such harassment compelled her to launch a hunger strike in October and she’s lost 92 pounds.
It’s all so vomit-on-the-floor ugly. Any decent person knows that Sotoudeh is “good” and the regime’s thugs are “bad.” Genuine justice would swap shackles, with Iran’s leaders viewing their country’s pistachio farms through the slats in their cell widows. She’d stroll with her kids. But wrong is right and right is wrong; lies are deemed true and truth is a lie; justice is traitorous and the true traitors wear robes.
Her story forces me to see the preciousness in the quiet of the traditional Advent, originally conceived as a season of prayer and fasting in preparation for the Feast of the Nativity, or Christmas: A baby brings in Heaven’s norms, sets things straight, makes “truth” true once more, and trades power for love as our operational motif. The all-powerful being shuns coerciveness. He’s brought his reality – his Kingdom – onto the Earth.
The other universe has come to Sotoudeh and to all who long for justice. We don’t need to leap. It will all be consummated in the Second Advent when Christ comes again.
Can we be still during this Advent? Can we repent (which means to change our minds)? Can we see that we need outside help like the people of Iran need the international community (maintain those sanctions, please)? Can we see that its twisted government is an extreme form of a pervasive coerciveness throttling our species? Employers compel us to lie; congregations force their pastors to evade the Bible’s inconvenient truths; spouses pit themselves against their mates; some clergymen play power games with their people; politicians live for campaign donations and transform our nation into a plutocracy. Can we grasp how the modern Christmas season’s freneticism buries the richness of a quiet, contemplative Advent, an interlude in which we immerse ourselves in the genuine alternative universe while we prepare for the grand celebration? We don’t have to be ugly anymore. We can all be released from our prisons.
Perhaps we’ll let Sotoudeh walk out first. It’s been a long time since she’s hugged her kids.
Sotoudeh’s story is found at this url: http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/world/july-dec12/iran_11-23.html.