Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Shuffling the deck

As we continue to hear grim reports from eastern Africa, I just can't help thinking - again and again and again - about some of the ironies of our present world. And most of all, I can't help wondering how I should think about inequalities and injustices - the obviously manmade ones and the ones that seem to be the consequence of "natural" disasters. What's going on!!!

More and more I have this surreal sense that we're operating on one plane or one reality - what we see and feel - but that the REAL world is something else altogether. I'm reminded of the movie The Matrix. What IS real? And what does it matter? Is there really some moral imperative to care about inequality and injustice? Is there something WRONG with just enjoying the hand we've been dealt, buying non-essential and luxury items when people next door or around the world live in abject poverty?

A while ago I came across a short video by Dr. Scott Todd. He's Chairman of the Board for North America’s largest network of Christian relief and development organizations and the Senior Ministry Advisor at Compassion International. And, he's also "one of the architects and leading voices of 58: Fast. Forward. The End of Poverty. Through 58:, an action-based alliance of world-class, poverty-fighting organizations have joined together to unleash the power and possibilities of the global Church to end extreme poverty." You can watch a 9 minute video - packed with stats that will make your head swim - that this organization has produced to challenge our conventional understanding of the phrase: "the poor will always be with you" (John 12:8).

You can watch the video and read more about 58 at

One of the sets of figures Scott Todd presents in this short video is this: there are 138,000,000 Christians in America who attend church regularly and SAY that there faith is VERY IMPORTANT to them; collectively they earn 2.5 trillion dollars annually; if they were a country, this collective wealth would make these Christians the seventh riches country in the world - a country with a seat at the G8!

The point is that committed Christians - in the US and in Canada - have access to tremendous resources. If we were living and working as the "body of Christ" in the world - living and working to demonstrate the kingdom of God on earth - we COULD not just make a difference - save a life here or there; we COULD really challenge some of the systemic injustices that cause and perpetuate extreme poverty. But it's a big IF. And to be completely honest, this kind of talk makes me a bit nervous. We're NOT a country and there isn't ONE political party for Christians. Christians, in my opinion, should be wary of getting behind political agendas. Being Christ's witnesses isn't fundamentally a matter of bringing about political and economic change. Bob Briner (author of Roaring Lambs and Final Roar warns us not to settle for just making this world a better place. Our GOAL, in other words, should NOT be to end poverty but to fix our eyes on Christ and follow him with singleminded determination. And in so doing, God will perhaps use our obedience to effect political and economic change. There IS a difference!

That said, I'm thankful for the Scott Todd's and for all the other leaders of all of the relief and development agencies that are encouraging and pushing us to think about injustice and inequality and to believe that the realities we see in places like eastern Africa are NOT what God intends or desires for any of his creatures. It's hard to be part of a movement that insists on re-shuffling the deck, when the cards we're holding are ones that no one in their right mind would willingly discard. Maybe that's what Jesus was getting at when he said (Luke 9:22-26) that we must deny ourselves and follow Him!

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