I am leaving for Kenya and London on Thursday night. I can’t sleep, my mind is sort of spinning.
With the impending
trip to Africa and the Congo Prayer Conference our church is hosting in May, I spent time Friday reading news
I could find online about Democratic
Republic of Congo and Kenya.
I have been trying to keep up with
the news about the famine in East Africa, seeing pictures of lines of women in bright Masai tribal dress lined up with water cans, seeing children with sunken cheeks and bloated bellies, and animal carcasses lying on the dusty, cracked earth.
I also came upon a heart-wrenching photo journalistic essay about two girls who were kidnapped by soldiers in the DRC and
suffered months of repeated rapes from any soldier
in wanting to sleep with them.
This has put me in sort of a dismal mood, to say the least. Then, yesterday on the Today show I saw more disturbing things. It was an experiment--a reinactiment of an abduction on a suburban
New York street by a man and a seven year old girl to see who responded to the situaion and how.
The hidden camera captured their several
person walked by, pretending not to see or
hear the scary
right before their
It was broad daylight, and the man had the little girl roughly by the arm and she flailed and screamed (acting, but acting convincingly enough to be upsetting): “You’re not my dad! You’re not my dad!”
The majority of people captured on the videos appeared completely unfazed. They walked past, ignoring the crime and taking virtually no notice of a seven year old victim four feet from them on the sidewalk. Finally, two young Rastafari guys were the first ones to respond and come after the man who was holding the girl.
Katie Couric and the crime dude discussed it afterward in an interview. I guess there’s a technical term for the way people responded, or I should say didn’t respond, to the situation. It’s called “bystander mentality”—the idea that someone else will respond, so it is not your responsibility, and you don’t need to get involved.
I guess I can’t sleep tonight because my heart is burdened. I think we want to shut our ears to these overwhelming situations, want to go on living our lives pretending that a safe, controlled and affluent reality in which we function from day is what the rest of the world also experiences.
We want to believe we are not the kind of people who would walk by if an abduction were taking place, that we wouldn’t be so hard hearted as to ignore the needs of a child whose arms and legs are stick thin from constant diarrhea, water-bourne diseases and starvation; that in general, we are generous and good, that we love our enemies, that we do “enough” for the least of these.
But the truth is, I do sit by and watch every day. AIDS and majority world poverty are have claimed how many more victims than the Holocaust? The truth is, I do make the famine in Africa some distant problem, like it occurred in 1982, like it is someone else’s responsibility. I do see pictures of victims of brutal civil wars, people dying in hospital beds in the last stages of death, and shut off my heart.
There is the choice to see and to hear. But the question is, when we do see, and when we do hear about the brokenness and suffering, how do we respond? Do we look at the choices we make? Do we try to come up with our own solutions on paper, and when they prove absurdly expensive and/or ridiculously unrealistic, do we decide that we’re just one person and there’s nothing we can do? Do we give ourselves over to powerlessness and hopelessness, start functioning in self-protective “every man for himself” survival? Do we choose to try to forget, to live as if pleasure--the absence of pain (Mill)--is the ultimate goal of our lives?
Do we choose to have our hearts broken? Do we cry out to God? Do we respond as if we have an unfailing and living hope in Jesus Christ to overcome evil and death?
I am ashamed to say that much of the time, I do all of the things I’m not supposed to do. I live as if my life is my own, my decisions only affect me, my resources are mine for the enjoying, and not the Lord’s.
My desire, and I think it is God’s desire for all of us—is to break free from the “bystander mentality", to stop seeing the problems that seem so foreboding and insurmountable as signs that the world is going to hell in a handbasket….and start believing that my God is big enough to bring his salvation, healing, redemption, and light to the places seemingly overcome by death and sin, starting with my own heart. He is an awesome God.
It does not rest on me to save this dying world. But it does rest on me, if I actually believe it, to proclaim a living hope, an eternal Kingdom of justice and righteousness, of perfect shalom. And this will surely mean taking up a cross to follow him, dying to myself, being uncomfortable, and going to places that are dark so that his light can shine. It will mean crying embarrassing tears, it will mean being humbled and possibly even humiliated. I don’t like it during the process, but see that there is no other way to know He who calls me by name, who orders the storming waters to be calm, who works righteousness and justice on behalf of the oppressed.
Lord have mercy, your Kingdom come. Shake us, break us, mold us, remake us. We are in need of your transforming love.