“What will you do after the bullets miss you?” Brian Bowman asked during TEDxManitoba (now TEDxWinnipeg) in 2014. Watching the video again reminded me how striking his sharing and vulnerability were two years ago. As he described his experience of violence during an internship in Mexico, I felt a clear connexion with my position writing from a faith-based context. What was further challenging and hopeful was what he did with his experience: he framed it as an opportunity for each of us present. He explicitly asked how we might find ways to collaboratively respond to the changes that we see that are needed in Winnipeg.
Much has changed since that presentation. Brian Bowman is now the Mayor of Winnipeg; the city has been labelled the most racist city in Canada. There has been a refugee crisis resulting from the ongoing conflict in Syria and we are now entering a time intended to be a Year of Reconciliation in Winnipeg.
Two years, and the world has changed.
Two years, and the questions and challenges remain.
- In the moments that awaken you to the hurting in the world, how might you respond to heal it and be healed?
- What choices arise when your eyes are opened to the harm of stereotyping?
- What possibilities emerge when we hear and listen to those crying out from the shadows?
In Bowman’s presentation, what Brian refers to as the ‘bullet moment’ might best be paralleled – from a faith-based Christian perspective – as the moment in which one is born again or a time of epiphany or revelation. And, true to the experience in which the bullet moment inspired Brian, unfortunately it is often in crisis or violence when such awakening occurs.
It is not (often) in places of comfort or privilege, which are afforded by many church contexts, that one recognises ways to be the change. Rather, it is often in places of vulnerability and/or solidarity when new choices are revealed, when unexpected doors are opened. It is frequently in those places and spaces where those of us who are accustomed to control are shaken to our core that we realise the fragility of the narrative we tell of ourselves about what is safety.
As we confront these illusions, the moorings become loosened and, in the face of the unknown, we often stand trembling. Our bodies are hard-wired to respond to threats with adrenaline, which leads to the instinctive responses of flight or fight. But there is a gift in such moments, often arising with reflection and discernment, but that luxury is not always possible. So – if in moments in which death is present – we but take a breath, the gift of centring ourselves in such instability, it is possible that people of faith and the church might hear a very old invitation. This invitation is perhaps is easy to forget in the lulling temptation of comfort, asking us: “what will you do if you are saved?”