In our connected world, so focused on social media, it’s easy to become lazy about doing justice, or to use social justice issues to make ourselves look good. This is a problem. Here are the thoughts of Sarah Holden-Pizieux, Development Support Coordinator at International Justice Mission Canada, on the issue.
We have a problem. It may have started generations ago, but in our fast-paced, selfie-driven world, it’s gotten exponentially worse. And since Facebook has extended our ability to quickly react beyond a simple “like,” it is hard to see how we could turn back.
Man arrested for a crime he didn’t commit. “☹️”
Children sold into sexual slavery. “How could anyone allow this?😡 ”
Terrorist attack in France? I’ll just superimpose a flag over my profile picture to demonstrate how much I care.
Am I alone in wondering what it means to be an evangelical who stands for justice in today’s culture?
It’s been obvious for a long time that the centre of gravity in much of evangelical Christianity has shifted far to the right and has strayed a long way from the original intent of what the word evangelical meant. Those of us who believe in a truly biblically-based Gospel that is good news for everyone including the poor, used to use the word evangelical to describe ourselves with a sense of honour. So much wonderful justice-based work around the world has flowed from the compassionate heart of evangelicals who have talked about the true Jesus and then lived it out, sometimes at the cost of their own lives. Faith in action has fed the hungry, comforted the afflicted, protected the vulnerable, and spoken words of truth and eternal life that have been imbued with power because of the actions and lifestyle that back them up. Yet in recent years and particularly in the last few months, that word has been so devalued and distorted that it has come to represent something entirely different from its original meaning.
Like many others, I have been appalled at how the word evangelical has been misused by those who equate the profoundly beautiful truths Jesus embodied with a far right political philosophy that seems to endorse the pursuit of money, power and racial division. In its latest deeply distressing iteration, this has extended to the minimalizing of sexual harassment and violent behaviour towards women and even children. Some days it seems that the good news of Jesus Christ has been supplanted by a divisive and dangerous agenda as espoused by those who have the biggest mouths and most clogged filters. Now it has gone beyond the tipping point. In light of the fact that so many so-called evangelical leaders have chosen to stand with racist, misogynist, arrogant liars as the men [and it is almost always men] they choose to lead their country, it’s clear that we have moved into deeply dangerous territory. Continue reading
If you’ve been anywhere near social media since October 17th, I’m sure you’ve seen the literally millions of #metoo tweets and statuses. A flood of women sharing that they too have experienced sexual assault or harassment after yet another very public story of gender violence and abuse of power in Hollywood.
I have long thought of myself as a bit of a feminist, but despite these feminist leanings, I did not participate in the #metoo campaign. And not because I haven’t experienced sexual harassment or don’t think it’s a problem. I didn’t participate because I’m tired.
I’m tired because I don’t understand why people should have to continue to “out” themselves as victims again and again to try and see change. #Metoo is not the first campaign of its kind, and it’s not the first time a public story of sexual violence has provoked a flood of new voices that have bravely said, “me too.” I applaud those who have been courageous enough to share their truth, but another “victim count” will not create the change we are looking for. We need to move beyond framing the story around the overwhelming number of people who have experienced this injustice and towards how we, as a society, continue to enable these types of injustices to happen in the first place.
People often laugh when I tell them that I start my Christmas shopping in July. The way I see it, there is wisdom in strategically evading the raging December rush. What unfolds is a madness that can make even the most passionate shoppers cringe. While the central point of the season is celebration, we often get distracted by a society that screams at us to spend.
This shopping frenzy merely reveals an excessive culture of consumption. We consume more thinking it will somehow make our lives worth more. We fill rooms, garages, and self-storage units. We tell tales of idyllic travel and waste hours finding that online deal. We fill our days but empty our hearts.
Somehow we know there’s a better way to live. We realize we get caught up in a culture that tells us we need more to make up for the things we lack. But as we consume more, we feel emptier which leads to consuming even more. It is time to live differently. We need to consume less, because we know it steals our joy. More than that, our consumption impacts the environment, climate, and the lives of people just like us working in horrendous factory conditions. To change our consumption habits, we must not only retrain our minds, but also uncover our hearts.
Last week, a few of us attended a workshop with speaker David Collins, a man with a compelling story and some great insight into the world of development from a spiritual perspective. Especially in light of the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty observed Tuesday, I found Collins’ teaching on the roots of poverty particularly apropos. For me, it was one of those ‘aha’ moments of clarity that really put it all in perspective.
The essential point discussed was that the deepest root of poverty, in all of its manifestations, is never an action or an issue, but a belief. Most of us look at the symptoms of poverty and can come up with a multitude of likely causes: lack of affordable housing, lack of affordable health care, poor governance, discrimination, inadequate mental health resources – the list goes on in unending layers of causation. But David Collins would argue that none of these things are the true source of poverty. We can direct our attention to any of these problems and aim our solutions there, but these responses are limited in that they can only change what is above them on the chain of causation. There are deeper roots – not policies or social issues or economic factors, but beliefs, that will be left unaddressed. So if we want to create sustainable change, we have to address the root – by changing the beliefs at the heart of it all. This is a critical reorientation of the way we look at poverty and its causation, and therefore the way we look at solutions.
Teachers. We all had them, and I’m pretty sure we all think of them with mixed feelings. When I think back to my school days, I remember some teachers with fondness… others not so much. If you are a parent with school-aged children, you probably either adore your kids’ teachers, or aren’t a huge fan of how they conduct their classrooms. However, no matter how we feel about each teacher individually, we can’t deny the truth that they played a huge role in our lives and are vital in the shaping of our children. In North America, the majority of us left school with fundamental skills that we wouldn’t have gained without patient guidance from our teachers. If you’re privileged enough to be reading this, then you can read and write, most of us can add and subtract if not solve more complex math equations, and we all have some sort of knowledge of major history events.
Unfortunately this isn’t the reality for so many people we share the planet with.
This past year has been a season of heaviness for many of us as we absorb a seemingly unceasing barrage of bad news from around the world, especially from the United States. This summer I also had the opportunity to make my second visit to the country of Rwanda, where we learned more about the history of genocide and conflict that still affects the people there. Faced with it all, I am dumbfounded. I struggle to comprehend how human beings can treat one another in this way.
Martin Luther King once summarized the state of humanity very well with these words:
“Modern man suffers from a kind of poverty of the spirit, which stands in glaring contrast to his scientific and technological abundance. We’ve learned to fly the air like birds; we’ve learned to swim the seas like fish, and yet we haven’t learned to walk the Earth as brothers and sisters”.
Like so many of you, I was horrified to see the events in Charlottesville that culminated in the deaths of three people, including Heather Heyer, who died protesting the alt-right rallies. She was murdered by a Nazi. That’s right, a Nazi. In 2017.
We have to take time to consider how this atrocious act was allowed to happen, and I need to look no further than my Facebook feed to see the roots. There were many posts from others disturbed at what they saw about the need to fight racism, often accompanied by pictures of white supremacists carrying torches to a gathering reminiscent of Hitler’s Nuremberg rallies. Others commented that the opposition protesters at Charlottesville were paid and that liberals were to blame for the violence.
In our connected world of breaking news and horrific sights witnessed almost daily, it can feel like there is no space to lament the losses we encounter. We become dull to their impact and hardened to the heartbreak. Oftentimes we prefer it that way. To be moved by every tragedy would crush us. But to refuse to be moved has even worse consequences.
If we are going to live justly in this broken world, we must allow ourselves to be impacted by what we see. Where our world pauses for only a moment, it is increasingly more important to lean into the pain and intentionally pause to lament the injustices we witness. We must give space to lament so that we are both personally changed and also moved to create change.
Minimalism has been a buzzword in our society for some time now. People have come to realize that the accumulation of “stuff” doesn’t satisfy – we just end up wanting more, and more, and more. And then some more. It never really ends. Our new state of the art iPhone becomes old and boring when the newest model is released a year or so later. Our clothes go out of fashion quicker than the seasons change. A new model of car comes out half way through the year, making our 2017 model seem dated. It’s a constant circle of want-buy-want-buy-want-buy-want. There is never a conclusion and we never really “make it.” It’s all a big sham.
In response to this revelation, many have chosen to walk the path of minimalism, getting rid of the majority of their consumer goods, releasing themselves from the cycle of discontentment, living with less clutter and owning just what they actually need.