3.02.2008

Deciding to Care

Another ramble-y post. I have a lot on my mind. Sorry.

Henry: I fear, mademoiselle, that you are a walking contradiction, and I find that rather fascinating.
Danielle: Me?
Henry: Yes, you. You spout the ideals of a Utopian society and yet you live the life of a courtier!
Danielle: And *you* own all the land there is and yet you take no pride in working it! Is that not also a contradiction? ... You have *everything*, and still the world holds no joy; and yet you insist on making fun of those who *would* see it for its possibilities.
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Henry: How do you do it?
Danielle: What?
Henry: Live each day with this kind of passion. Don't you find it exhausting?
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Last night, I had a revelation. I used to think, if I cared at all, I would have to care about everything and I'd go stark raving mad.
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I feel as if my skin is the only thing keeping me from going everywhere at once.
- Quotes from Ever After

Sometimes I feel like I'm going to burst.

Over the last probably 3 or 4 years, I've come to care. I mean, I cared before. I learned all about God and did all the right things and led bible studies and memorized the Four Spiritual Laws and the Romans Road and could engage in a gospel presentation or apologetics discussion on a whim. I cared. I cared about being a part of the "club", doing what I thought God wanted me to, and helping others do the same. I was interested in making God fun and relevant to my peers. As a high schooler in the upper-class suburbs, the point was to make the message fun and engaging so that the most number of people would want to "pray the prayer" as their ticket to Heaven.

What I didn't do was get very deep into the hard parts of Scripture. I'm not talking about "hard parts" of eschatology or soteriology or Creationism or the like, I'm talking about the hard commands God has for us. Now, I've caught a different vision. God's plan for us is more than just a "ticket to Heaven" and good moral rules. God has a heart and a plan for the world now. "The Kingdom of God is near." "Near" in Hebrew is al yad. literally, at hand. (That's something else I learned in high school: Hebrew.) Right here. Next to me. Nearby.

If the Kingdom of God is Now, then the world matters. Taking care of Creation matters. Taking care of the created, loved-by-God people matters- whether they're 'sinners' or not, whether they're 'in the club' or not. God says so over & over. So, I started caring. And now, like the movie quotes above explain, I sometimes feel like I'm going to burst. That I'm a walking contradiction. That I can't do enough, fast enough to make a difference, and that I'm doing everything wrong even though I know what I could be doing right.

This week, Meredith brought up some of the questions I've been thinking about as relating to food. Do I buy local or organic to be as gentle as possible on Creation? Do I instead spend less money on organic food and free it up to give to other Kingdom initiatives? Do I (as I'm learning from Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger) eat less meat because of the large amount of grain that goes into producing meat, taking it away from hungry people elsewhere? So many questions with seemingly contradictory solutions.

My biggest fear is to stop caring- to stop asking questions, to lose the vision. The feeling that I may explode at any moment because I'm full of questions and low on solutions is far preferable and more conscionable than to not care and to live as if none of it matters. I see people around me every day who don't care and admit it, or only give the issues a passing nod. It frustrates me, and I don't want to give up fighting, and live life oblivious and comfortable. That would be a tragedy.

We read Amos in our bible study this week, and I was shocked at the hard words God had for the Comfortable. The words could have been directed at American Christians instead of the Israelites, and it was very convicting. Read the actual book of Amos here. This is what I heard as I read it.
This is what the LORD says:
"For three sins of Rich American Christians,
even for four, I will not turn back my wrath.
They sell the righteous for silver,
and buy their designer sandals made by the needy paid an unfair wage
They ignore the poor at their doorstep
as upon the dust of the ground
and deny justice to the oppressed.
-v. 2:6-7

Hear this word, you cows of Bashan on Mount Samaria,
you soccer moms who give the needy no heed and support systemic oppression
and say to your husbands, "Bring us some drinks!"

"Go to Las Vegas and sin;
go to Cancun and sin yet more.
Attend church regularly
And drop something in the offering periodically

Say a blessing before dinner
and brag about your gift to the building campaigns
boast about them, you Israelites,
for this is what you love to do,"
declares the Sovereign LORD.
-v. 4:1, 4-5

You trample on the poor
and force him to give you grain.
Therefore, though you have built stone mansions,
you will not live in them;
though you have planted landscaped lawns
you will not drink their wine.

Woe to you who are complacent in Carmel and Fishers,
and to you who feel secure in Noblesville and Westfield,
you notable men of the foremost nation America,
to whom the people of Israel come!

You lie on beds with designer sheets
and lounge on your leather couches.
You dine on choice lambs
and sirloin steak.

You waste your time on TV
and YouTube

You drink wine by the bowlful
and use the finest lotions,
but you do not grieve over the ruin of Darfur or Iraq.

Therefore you will be among the first to go into exile;
your feasting and lounging will end.
v. 6:1,4-7

And the hardest part of all of this? This week's sermon was on "Cheap Talk"- talking about all of this is worthless if I'm not doing anything. Even if we do believe things ought to change and we should care deeply about the things God does, talk is cheap. I can't just claim to believe these things. I have to act.As my pastor put it, we need to be "Activist Christians". And, to not waste any time, after the sermon, we all went to work making baby blankets for the CPC in Indianapolis. Talk into Action.

6 comments:

Kacie said...

This is so profound!

Marie said...

I appreciate a heart for the poor and believe it to be very Christlike.
Your comment "as I'm learning from Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger) eat less meat because of the large amount of grain that goes into producing meat, taking it away from hungry people elsewhere"

spoke to me (I recommended Productive Christians in an Age of Guilt Manipulators, sorry for the kinda snarky title, I didn't write it) because the problem with this approach to charity is:

it reduces productivity.

Should you eat less meat, there will be less demand for meat, which means less grain will be grown, actually.

It may seem, at first glance, that if you eat less meat, then there will be fewer animals to feed, so there will be more grain. However, if the money is in selling animal feed, and the demand drops, the farmer grows less OR ups the price. Either choice actually hurts the poor.

That's why I was hoping you'd give Productive Christians a read. "Rich Christians" is rather socialist in perspective and sadly, socialist systems have been historically proven to fail whenever they are tried.

Perhaps if you read "Productive Christians" you may find some flaws there, too, and it has been ten years since I've read it, so for all I know there are some.

Corinne said...

I sometimes wish that we lived in a less global society; a hundred years ago they only had vague ideas about what was happening in other parts of the world. We have so much access to information now, it gets overwhelming. There are too many causes, too many people in need of help, we have a better picture of the world and it makes us feel even tinier and inadequate. No matter what we do, there's always something more.

BTW, I totally disagree with marie's viewpoint on meat. In my opinion there is no downside to eating less meat, for the environment, economy or oneself. (Have you read "The Omnivores Dilemma"? It seems like something you'd be interested in.)

Anonymous said...

God gives us things to enjoy and to share. He doesn't want them to be a burden to us. We need to pray and ask God's guidance in using his resources in the best way. I don't think He wants us to feel guilty because some of us have more and some of us have less. We have to manage what portion God gives us. Pray and believe He will teach and show us the right thing to do.

Joanna said...

marie- I'll definitely keep my eye out for the book you've mentioned. I'd be interested in hearing other solutions to the problems brought up in the book. I know there must be other takes on it. I'd also like to hear the biblical argument for "productivity". That's not one I've heard before.

Corinne - I'd LOVE to read The Omnivore's Dilemma. It's been on my wish list for a while :) The author has a new book out too, In Defense of Food that also looks worthwhile. And, I agree with you about the fact that we're more aware of the world in modern times than ever before- so the burden to do something is greater and seemingly overwhelming.

Anonymous- I don't think we ought to feel guilty for having things- but I think it is imperative that we be aware of the issues in the world and have a soft heart towards them- rather than living life oblivious or uncaring. As you said, we need to be ready to use the resources we have in a wise and effective way.

Marie said...

I'm eager to hear your thoughts on "Productive Christians" if you ever do get to read it.

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