Interviewing someone once for a campus ministry position,
I posed two quotes,
and asked the candidate which of the two resonated
most deeply with them.
The person I was interviewing
recognized the quotes as being respectively from
Bruce Cockburn’s “Lovers in a Dangerous Time”
and Leonard Cohen’s “Anthem,”
and sat with the question for a few moments.
They acknowledged that both are true,
but pastorally they found more hope
in light shining through the cracks,
than in trying to kick our way through the darkness.
“Hope is being able to see that there is light
despite all of the darkness.”
Seeing light despite all of the darkness,
in the face of the darkness,
in defiance to the darkness,
and in hope of the light.
Darkness seeks to consume the light,
and so in a time of overwhelming darkness
you need to take an aggressive stance,
kicking at that darkness,
puncturing that darkness,
until it bleeds daylight.
But the fact that darkness can bleed daylight,
assures us that there is light behind that darkness,
and so Mr. Cohen’s insight that the light
shines through the cracks.
As he used to pray,
Goodness is stronger than evil.
Love is stronger than hate.
Light is stronger than darkness.
Life is stronger than death.
Victory is ours through Him who loved us.
Archbishop Tutu kicked at the darkness,
named the darkness,
shamed the darkness,
took a stance of confrontation
in the face of darkness.
But this was no heroic stance.
This was the stance of faith,
rooted in humility,
radicalized by the gospel,
sustained in sacrament.
Darkness took real form,
in laws, institutions, and violence.
Behind the walls,
behind the constructions of darkness,
in every person,
and every situation,
Tutu could see the light.
The image of God,
the abiding Presence,
the light of goodness and life,
could never be extinguished.
Darkness could never have the last word.
And so the archbishop
would be attuned to the cracks.
He would look for those places
where the machinations of darkness would stall,
where the structures of evil would begin to crack,
and there, as the light would break through,
he would place himself,
welcoming the light,
and pushing those cracks to open just a little more.
Postscript on the metaphor of darkness
While Desmond Tutu employed the binary
of light and dark in a way consistent with
biblical tradition, there is an important
voice of correction or reconsideration
that emerges from other black Christians.
I refer you to the provocative poem, “Darkness Goodness”
by the Rev. Jacqueline Daley, posted here.