Wednesday, January 19, 2011

All the poor and powerless

Before continuing to read, note that I have recently finished reading The Irresistable Revolution by Shane Clairborne. I suggest picking it up. The reason why I forewarn you about this post, though, is because many of my thoughts to follow stem from my reactions to ideas brought up in the book.

Injustice is running rampant in society, and it isn't that people aren't trying to do anything about it. It's that not enough people truly know what's happening. People hear lectures in school and sermons in church mentioning stuff about how free trade is good and sweatshops are bad and stuff like that, but guess what? None of that stuff hits home. It doesn't hit heart. It didn't hit heart for me, either, at least until I found myself reading firsthand descriptions of Shane Clairborne's experiences living in the streets and serving lepers and comforting Iraqi families. There is so much wrong with this world, and even though we have the power to stop it, we know it'll take effort, so we just sit back in our own world and ignore our brothers and sisters crying out on the other side of the world. Hey, they're a part of Christ's family too, you know. So stop pretending they don't exist.

God made enough stuff to go around, enough to provide each person with their "daily bread." But when people stop sharing and start becoming greedy and take more than they really need, that's when people start living in hunger and in poverty in the streets. I learned this firsthand in Costa Rica, but I had sort of forgotten as I slowly grew used to the abundance of the United States and the "more more more" society. The homes around me contain enough food to feed four or five families in Africa, and enough clothes to clothe them all as well. We have spare bedrooms and game rooms and two living rooms and two offices and several bathrooms, whereas some people can only manage to get by in a tent in an alley. In fact, not everyone in the United States lives in luxury, either; I have seen my share of homeless people begging for money on the streets of Chicago. But more often than not we just hurry by, forgetting about these men and women as soon as we pass them by.

In Jesus' time, He and His disciples wandered with just the clothes on their backs, trusting that people wouldn't just give them money to get by but would open their homes to them. And they did! We don't see this at all today, do we? We live in our own homes, opening them every once in a while for a friend or two a couple of times a month, or maybe for a family party. But letting a stranger in the home? Never! And I'm not saying we should open our homes to whoever we want. But just while we're on the subject, don't you think that if we ourselves had nothing that valuable that we would be less afraid of letting people in our homes because we would't be concerned about them stealing anything? Anyways, what I want to point out is that people don't truly live in community anymore. We live with our immediate family, and that's it. Or if we're in college, like me, we live with the people in our suites or closest to us on our floors and then poke our heads out to see our friends a couple of times a day. What happened, though, to relying on our neighbors for certain things, and being able to repay those favors with things that we can provide? That sort of give-and-take relationship fosters such relational growth and such interdependence that it becomes almost natural and easier to live in community. Imagine living with some other people unrelated to you in your same-sized home. Redo one of the offices into a bedroom, and the basement into a space for several beds. All of these people have different occupations and come from different places, but they all have something to offer to help everyone live. And they take care of each other, out of love and also because they know that these people will take care of them, too, should anything happen. It's a beautiful image... Now if only we could actually do it!

Shane Clairborne spent a lot of time in Iraq as a missionary. He came back having learned that no, the vast majority of Iraqi people are not terrorists and many Iraqis are not Muslim. And even the Muslims he met were kind to him. He was in Iraq during the period of time after 9/11 when the United States started bombing Iraq. He recalls how he kept getting asked by Iraqis why his country was bombing theirs and how he kept being told things along the lines of, "We're not related to those terrorists who flew airplanes into the towers in the U.S.! Why is your country killing our families?" He even was told something like, "If this is what it takes to make democracy in Iraq, then I don't want it."

I am going to be completely frank: I do not want to be known as a citizen of a country that takes vengeance as it did with Iraq. I love the blessing I have received by living here, that I have enough food and stuff, but I hate belonging to a nation that is deemed a superpower, that pushes other countries around and threatens with bombings. Honestly, you can't make peace through war. So stop trying, America!!! I long for relationships to transcend borders and for countries to be at peace with one another. I long for everyone to have enough, to have what they need, and to care about each other and accept each other above differences.

And I know there have been too many books and blogs written about taking action and not enough action taken, but I just can't stand it. And I am still trying to figure out what steps I can take right now, as a college student, that will make a direct difference. So I am writing first, and doing after.

To download the free song from which I got the title of this blog, go here: