Philip Hutchinson | Fighting for Wonder
For three days and over two nights, I was camped out in the front quad of St. John’s College. The nights were cold and at sporadic times we would be placed on lockdown making it impossible to get fresh supplies and food into the quad. And this being Oxford I still had to find a way of completing two essays before the battery on my laptop ran out.
In one sense I was there to protest. St. John’s College invest £8.1 million in fossil fuel companies and we were there to call on the College to ditch these investments and to instead invest in assets that don’t risk the shared future of us all. Yet, in another sense, I was there for a far more radical reason.
I am after all a Christian. And Christians have this belief that this world as it is, is fundamentally broken. This is a brokenness that manifests itself through broken political systems, through a broken world able to create uncontrollable viruses and disasters, and through the broken messiness of our own individual fragile lives. Yet, because this brokenness is also present in our lives it is a brokenness that could never be fixed just by ourselves.
Yet, rather than be content with this status quo, Christianity is at its heart an invitation to rebel against such brokenness and to fight for a world in which wonder triumphs over dismay. It is an invitation we accepted from Jesus, who began his life’s ministry with the following words:
The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.
Jesus spent his life fighting this brokenness. He lived with the poor and the destitute, he gave hope to the lost and refused to conform to the institutions into which he was born. When he was unjustly killed at the hands of a broken political system, he passed on this Spirit of rebellion to his followers, who in time would become a diverse collective of people called the Church.
So, I was camped out on the front quad of St. John’s College to continue this legacy that Jesus, by his Church, had now passed on to me. I was there because I am not content to live in a broken world and because of Jesus I have hope that a better world is possible. This is also the reason that for a whole week Christians across Oxford gathered to hold a series of talks on “wonder.” It was our rallying cry to proclaim that a better world can exist; a world defined by wonder and the hope of restoration.
Following Jesus probably won’t lead you to camp on the front quad of St. John’s College. This brokenness is pervasive and must be fought against in a myriad of different ways. Neither is the Church itself immune to this brokenness. But what I know for certain is accepting the invitation of Jesus to rebel against the brokenness of the world has been the best and most exciting decision I ever made. After all, Jesus once said that you can only truly find life when it is lived out for him and the mission that he began to eradicate all brokenness. It is only when fighting for wonder that we most clearly see the wonder that exists, and it is this invitation to fight for wonder that remains open to all.