Saturday, April 04, 2009

Justice And All That

I don’t know about you but I have been mad lately. Not just mad, REALLY mad. Seldom do I get irate, but this week it’s been more acute. Please permit me to tell you why.

It’s no new thing seeing images of the destitute on our screens: those affected by intense hunger or by a cataclysmic force of nature. We have, as many have stated, largely become desensitized to the plight of people in these situations. Shame on us. For some it may be because they do not have the capacity to place themselves in the ‘shoes’ of another or because they openly mock and jeer at those considered down and out. For others though, personal distancing from people in such circumstances may be because they care too much and feel over-loaded by a sense of helplessness not knowing where to start. As is usually the case, a balance between these two extremes of inactivity is the ‘sweet spot’ we can all find our home in.

We need to find those needs presented before us (which we cannot miss) AND those things that ignite our soul afire (which we cannot forget) and explore where they meet together in order to find our groove. Someone once said, your ‘calling’ (lit. vocation) is where the world’s greatest need and your greatest passion meet together. It’s in investing ourselves in this way that we’ll occasionally experience that ever-so-elusive sense of ‘I was born for this.’ However, regardless of whether our personal lifelong calling is to directly serve the ‘down and outs’, it is the call of every human being to reach out in compassion and love (seeking the best interests of another) and respond to needs when possible.

Thus, we come at last to the source of my anger this week. The above illustrations of situations of need may often (predominantly) come about because of our sins of omission. By that I mean others in the world suffer because of our indirect, self-concern (being fat and happy) through our consumption of food / goods / services and demand thereof. It’s a much different thing when others suffer because of direct disregard for the value of their life as in the case of child slavery, human trafficking and forced sex trade. These people suffer because of intentional, inexcusable sins of commission. The perpetrators know full well what they are doing, to whom they are doing it and what effect it has on those they are doing it to. Sins of omission are excusable, for a time, due to ignorance . . but sins of commission deserve an altogether different response. Oh my face is heating up . . .

This week I have read of two situations in which direct, aggressive violence has been enacted on those of unequal ability to defend themselves. This is where I melt with a righteous swell of anger that arises demanding justice. I read an article where the practice of sacrificing children is on the rise in Uganda. I fume over the abuse of children. This should NOT be and CANNOT continue. Apparently, some adults believe that by offering children (not necessarily your own) for sacrifice they will become wealthy (how they make that mental jump I know not). In many cases the children have been sold off by guardians or parents who hope to grow rich through this accursed practice. Even some of the traditional African doctors are said to believe that their ‘magic’ is made more powerful by the use of children’s body parts. How can they be so deluded? Forget the ‘civilized’ argument - what about plain old human decency or even respect for the weaker among us? I am sick with this. I’m grateful that some of the Church leaders there have spoken out against such deplorable practices, but words - as powerful as they are - are not enough. Something more is needed.

The other sickening reports I am hearing are coming from the Swat region of Pakistan where women and children are being beaten supposedly because of religious regulations (but we all know it’s because of pride in the human heart in men who have negated their role due of their abuse of power). These men make me sick. They are weak and pitiful creatures that attempt to elevate their putrid selves up by stepping on the backs of those weaker than they (or at least less cruel and dark-hearted). I cannot believe we can hear reports such as these and the governments of the world are so slow - if they do anything at all - to respond as people lose their lives by the hands of ignorant, jingoistic, fantastically diabolical aggressors. Wake up, wake up world!

This world was never meant to be built on, or for humanity to ascend on, the backs of other human beings. We MUST act. We MUST do whatever we can. If we have a voice we MUST use it. If you are a networker - pull your networks together to facilitate indiscriminate acts of outright care and kindness for others. If you are a person of resource - use whatever resources you have for the good of others. If you are a writer - write your way into the lives of others inspiring them to become catalytic agents of an ultimately redemptive nature. If you legislate - use your powers of persuasion to push something into existence that is yearning to be birthed. If you make things happen - put together a project that will work against, and ultimately overcome, discordant acts of our marred human nature. If you care for those in need by use of your hands - find outlets that not only give you permission, but encourage your efforts. We have to engage in our mandate for divine collaboration in facilitating the ‘Kingdom coming’ which we ALL dream about - no matter our culture, creed, condition or creature comforts. It takes each one of us choosing the joy of self-sacrifice (because we were made for it) over the amusement (lit. distraction) of self-absorption.

So, if you are sufficiently moved, what can we do together? What options are before us? Will you consider blogging about this issue or specifically about these (or other) news items that highlight injustices in our world? Will you chat to a friend whom you think needs to hear about these issues? Will you donate some of your time or finances to honest projects existing for the good of others? It’s true we can’t ‘save the world’ or do lasting good if we have a ‘messiah complex’ - only the Messiah can do that. But we ALL are capable of doing something. Explore what that something is for you and be about it. If you don’t know where to start or are looking for opportunities, please consider checking out the International Justice Mission. They are a highly mobilized, extremely professional and unbelievably successful international consortium of local networks acting against injustice. You can learn more, support, or get involved here: Get in the game.


K Elkin said...

I can't maintain the anger because it eats me up inside. For me, it is better to tackle some small corner of things where I can actually have an impact.I hope to be hands working in God's will changing hearts one at a time, to have hands that in God's will are helping one family at a time.

That is not to say that I don't have strong opinions: abortion is genocide, Obama is a socialist megalomaniac, Katherine Jefferts Schori has abrogated the Christian faith, for examples. I can't do anything about those overarching things, but maybe I can persuade a person, gently, by way of the scriptures and the Tradition.

Shane Tucker said...

K Elkin, thank you so very much for your comment. There is wisdom in 'tackling small corners where we have (immediate) impact' but I never want to discount the possibility of having a broader impact than expected. That works two ways: in regards to the example I personally am setting (I may not be aware of all the eyes examining my life) and of course, in my deliberate efforts to 'speak into' situations.

While I hear you on some of the issues you mentioned being outspoken about, I think the situations requiring justice I referred to are qualitatively different from the second two you mentioned.

Do I detect an Anglican / Episcopalian reference there in your final line - yes??

God's richest blessings on you and yours!