Standing Up For What you Believe When You Are Part of the Problem

Geez Magazine this month was brilliant. It has hit me where I feel stuck in my faith as of late. I feel stuck because “standing up for what you believe in is awkward, especially when you yourself are part of the problem” as Will Braun puts it. I have been asked to stop being so vocal in my local paper because it makes me and my local community look hypocritical because we aren’t really living out all that well the words that I am speaking. I can’t stop. So I guess I’ll have to risk being a hypocrite while I strive to actually live out the kingdom that I believe in.

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A few excellent quotes from a few excellent articles.

Violent means to peaceful ends: Computing Congo’s mineral war
by Dan Leonard
We need to own up to the fact that we are in the ironic situation of hugging our global partners with one arm and punching them with the other. It’s good that the British doctor was able to save a life via text message, but that doesn’t change the fact that for all the lives saved by cellular technology in eastern Congo, the extractive industry that cell phones require has played a role in killing millions of others. And the fossil fuels we are burning to get ourselves to these places to offer a helping hand may one day put the homes of the very people we want to assist either in parched land or under water. In many cases, we do-gooders use exploitation to work against exploitation.

So how can we do good in the world without fueling the same systems of exploitation we are trying to work against? Maybe the first step is to embrace the awkward silence created when we admit that our responses to the world’s problems are not adequate. We have no viable plan to make poverty history, stop climate change, end homelessness, or solve any of the other issues we privileged progressives speak so confidently about. The solutions we do offer are almost always tangled in problems.

Uneasy pause
So maybe what’s needed is the uneasy pause that often follows an apology, the silence of repentant people, tired of being on the wrong side of exploitation but not sure how to avoid it. We are trapped in riches every bit as much as others are trapped in poverty, and our collective liberation may just start by sharing an awkward silence. In this case it would be the uncomfortable hush of us privileged people admitting that after years of good intentions gone terribly wrong, we’re shit out of ideas.

I suspect that this quiet paralysis would create space in which the silenced and marginalized people, the ones who have been waiting so patiently and graciously in the midst of the endless noise of their oppressors, to finally speak a new word of liberation.

Dan Leonard works for an international non-profit organization and has traveled extensively in sub-Saharan Africa. He is a member of the Geez board.

Not one of those
by Brenda Melles
The troubling truth is that Christianity is the only religious language I know. And I am fluent. It is my mother tongue, seeped into me like warm spring rain in black earth. I can win a “sword drill” against the fastest Bible-verse-finding fingers in the country. Sit me down and ask me to tell you the big story, from Genesis to Revelation, and I will. Quote me the red letters, and I will say amen. But throw me into Buddhism, black magic or Islam and I would be a traveller without a map.

Like it or not, Jesus is the best way I know to understand who God might be and how God might have us live. Sure, I’ve tried some alternative terms to position me in this camp – person of faith, believer, even church-goer – but they seem so esoteric, so distant from this person of Jesus who I confess, has captivated me. And what does the term “Christian” mean if not one who acknowledges the reality of Christ?

So, Jesus, I’m with you. I’ll keep wearing your label. For now. And as for the rest of you folks that call yourselves Christians – all ye fundamentalists and liberals, emergents and evangelicals, backsliders and legalists, all ye gays and homophobes, wife-beaters and feminists, trickle-downers and socialists, the whole contradictory lot of you – I begrudgingly, painfully, hesitantly, humbly, hope-fully admit . . . we’re in this together.

Brenda Melles is a freelance writer and international development consultant based in Kingston, Ontario.

And of course, a quote we’ve used often.

Normal is getting dressed in clothes that you buy for work and driving through traffic in a car that you are still paying for – in order to get to the job you need to pay for the clothes and the car and the house you leave vacant all day so you can afford to live in it.
Ellen Goodman

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