“Someone always vetoes his application, thought Joseph,” wrote the quadriplegic Irish novelist, Christopher Nolan, “… someone always says no.” (Under the Eye of the Clock)
Picture the scene: the worried man facing the clerk, saying something like, “But I don’t understand it. You must have my records. I’ve lived in Nazareth for twenty years.” The clerk replies: “Well, where were you born?” The man informs him that his family comes from Bethlehem. “Ah,” says the clerk triumphantly, “then you have to go to Bethlehem to be registered.” The man protests, stammering: “But … but Bethlehem is seventy miles away, and it’s winter, and my wife’s less than a month away from giving birth. Surely there’s something you can do.” Whereupon the official replies: “There’s nothing I can do. Step aside, please. Next!”
The excuses echo through history: “You have to go to Bethlehem.” “He’s from Galilee. Herod has jurisdiction. Send him to Herod.” “I am innocent of this man’s blood.” “I was just following orders.”
How often have we encountered such individuals, “dress’d in a little, brief authority,” as Shakespeare has it? How often have we been turned away because we lacked the crucial form, the critical piece of paper, the necessary signature? Shakespeare’s “insolence of office” resides at all levels of officialdom. Never is it so clearly demonstrated as in the ability to say no. It happened in 1st century Judea; it happens today. How do we confront this power of negation, which is, after all, a minor but necessary element of structural evil?
God, who is all good, enable us to make no peace with evil, in whatever form it manifests itself, and give us the power and the will to hold officialdom to account, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.