Just by chance I read an article on the Sojourners website about Rev. Wilkinson, the author of that shabbily constructed but wildly popular “The Prayer of Jabez.” This is apparently old news, but he went to Africa to save thousands of AIDS orphans, only to give up in disgust. I guess he found out that his pop theology doesn’t work so well in the Third World.
In fairness to the Reverend, he fell prey to a common malady that strikes affluent westerners who visit areas of crushing poverty around the world. He saw the desperate situation of millions, felt some sort of responsibility born from his relative material wealth, and undertook to do something about it. This doesn’t just impact only what we Americans consider the wealthy, even “average Joes” can feel the twinge of something approximating guilt, followed by the heady belief and vision of saving the world. Yes, it’s a messiah-complex.
The truth is more complicated. Jesus told us that we would always have the poor with us. I like to believe as much as anyone that an age is coming in which poverty will no longer exist, but I can’t believe that it will come about without divine intervention. Simple economics don’t permit it. Someone will always be at the bottom, and someone at the top. Communism and socialism are miserable failures and always will be, though the senseless and/or the corrupt will keep trying to make them work.
So, should we just ignore the plight of the miserable and afflicted? I suppose you can, if you wish. Or you can take two steps:
First, change yourself. “Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.”–Leo Tolstoy
Second, help those you can in the ways that seem most appropriate to you. I’ll admit that I’m not immune to the messiah-complex. Just a few short posts ago I wrote breathlessly about transforming Brazil. I even posted a picture of a little Brazilian niece and talked about how I felt compelled to act just by looking in her eyes. Now, my senses returning, I realize that if I want to do something because of what I believe I’ve seen in her eyes, then it is that little girl I should help. I can’t help all the children of the world, but I can take care of mine the best I’m able and then seek to lend support to my extended family.
Disgusted as I am with Christendom, but still desiring to follow Jesus (Yeshua) the emerging movement seems attractive at times. The problem is that when I look closely at it, I just see more of the same old crap. Leaders popularizing new forms and lingo, selling books and giving lectures. Followers buying, reading and parroting back what they’ve heard. This all has to happen to some extent for a movement to be cohesive and take shape, but what really bothers me about the emerging movement is how it fails to go far enough. It just looks like warmed-over evangelical Christianity to me.
My only hope for the emerging movement is that it is still dynamic. If it is, I can find a home among its adherents and carve out a niche. Perhaps the problem is in the versions of emerging I’ve seen.
In the end, it’s just people anyway….
Pretense and Apperances
This world is dust and ashes. All that you know and love today, both people and things, will eventually be gone. You yourself are here but a time…this moment you live is the only one you have, and the moment will end with your death.
“Nations” are mere ways of categorizing large groups of individuals. “Government” is a group of individuals who are recognized by a larger group of people (though not all of them) as being able to use coercion to accomplish what they (the group of people that calls themselves “government”) want. Respect is given to the “institution” as though it were something greater than people gathered for some purpose.
Churches are groups of people…that is all they are. Banks are groups of people…that is all they are. A restaurant, supermarket or other business is not anything other than people gathered in designated buildings for pay or profit with a sign hanging outside. The fact that we give something a name does not make it more than what it is…except in our own imagination.
Our imagination is a product of the mind, the mind is the composite of instincts and experiences that reside in the brain. Our individual sense of identity is worked out within the structures and functions of that organ.
There is no mystery here. There is only pretense and appearances.
“Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity”
(Ecclesiastes 1:2 KJV).