Saturday, December 5, 2009

A Word about Justice . . . and Half the Sky

Okay, I'm not a big Oprah fan . . . only because her show airs while I'm usually at work. However, I did catch an episode last week. It must have been the day after Thanksgiving because our office was closed.

Her main guest was Nicholas Krisof and his wife/co-author Sheryl WuDunn as they discussed their book Half the Sky. In summary, Nicholas, a columnist for the New York Times, has been on a personal crusade to fight injustice in the world, especially as it applies to women. He, and his wife, have tremendous courage to face, and interview, the monsters in Africa who use rape and murder as a political tool. He has also worked in Asia, such as Cambodia, trying to free young girls from the sex-trade-slavery cycle. This book, Half the Sky, examines this plight of women around the work . . . and gives Nicholas and Sheryl's hope for change.

As I listened to them, I felt in my heart that these people are doing God's work in the world . . . even though I have no ideal whether or not they are Christians.

One of my favorite verses is from Micah chapter six:

8 He has showed you, O man, what is good.
And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.

It reminds me of one of those times in my life, a long time ago, that I was an ass. It was just before I went to the Middle East as a missionary. I heard about an elderly Presbyterian missionary to Lebanon speaking at an old mainline church. I think he had worked there for 40 years. He shared stories about building hospitals, schools, helping the homeless, helping the victims of the terrible civil war that was going on at the time.

I sat with a friend and both of us were getting frustrated. I can't remember which of us said the following during the Q & A period, but I'm afraid it might have been me.

"I've sat here and listened to you talking about being a missionary for an hour and I didn't hear you say one word about the Gospel of Jesus Christ."

There were several in the room who shook their heads in agreement with me. The elderly gentleman smiled and tried to say, "Hmm . . . I thought I WAS talking about the gospel?"

We, as evangelicals, were taught to hate liberals . . . such as from the mainstream, old churches. You know . . . those who didn't see the world as black or white and Jesus as another product of Amway which needed to be pushed on everyone. If you weren't peddling Jesus (like you would a bottle of soap) then you weren't doing God's work. Who cares if people were suffering and dying or being raped . . . if they didn't hear the Four Spiritual Laws (or the Navigator Bridge) then God couldn't have cared less about them . . . or so we thought.

I was in town the other day and one of my pastor friends spoke to me. He is an Evangelical pastor. First I asked him how he was doing and he answered, in a strong voice and a big smile, "Just Amazing!" The sad thing, I'm sure he would have said the same thing even if he had just caught his wife in bed with his pool boy. But then he was talking about not seeing me around for a while. I mentioned that I was in Nepal for over three weeks.

The pastor asked the most peculiar question about my trip. "So who was the target that you interfaced with?"

What the hell does that mean? I know what he meant. He assumed that I went all the way to Nepal to give a cheapened gospel that you could find written in a tract. I didn't know how to answer him. I did say I was doing medical work . . . and his eyes fell downward as in disappointment.

But the gospel is bringing God's redemption to the world. That means redeeming all things. It is my opinion that a huge part of that redemption is bringing justice to a very unjust world. That is not a substitute for Jesus, but allowing Jesus to live through us.

If Nicholas is a Christian, or if a Christian behaved like him, then those he (or they) served who want to know Jesus. It is only natural.

If you were a woman whom husband and children had been hacked to death right before you, then 20 army men raped you one by one, then the whole village hates you because you are now unclean, and then you are starving to death because no one will give a piece of bread because you are unclean, then this stranger picks you up, puts you in the back of his car and drive you 100 miles through very dangerous roads controlled by rebels risking his own life, paying his own money because he thinks you have value in God's eyes . . . wouldn't you want to know that man's God?

I'm really looking forward to reading that book soon.


Hope T. said...

In a town nearby, it was decided that the creche could no longer be displayed on the town square. Christians near and far protested against such discrimination. Some of the quotes in the newspaper ran along the lines of "we're fighting against Satan himself here" and "the Lord is right here next to me in this battle". If that is a battle against "the devil", I have to wonder what they would call the atrocities that Krisof and his wife are fighting in Africa.
Hearing about things like that and what the pastor said to you ("targets" !? why would he use such language) really makes me want to run as far from evangelical Christianity as I possibly can. Honestly, the atheists I know are just nicer. Unfortunately, I can not even pretend to be an atheist but neither can I defend 90% of what I hear in "church" so I don't know where that leaves me.
Thank God for people like these authors and like you who are willing to go and do something for the hurting. I know you believe your motivations were largely selfish but my guess is that what you did in Nepal still makes a big difference.

MJ said...

I know what you mean. I have no desire to get involved with the culture wars. I think the great culture war is over and the Evangelicals lost not it is time to look back at what they did wrong (to alienate so many people) and clean up their act.

I've heard Christians say a lot of stupid things like, "Let the Arabs all kill each other . . . they are just Muslims and we would be better off without them." How does this connect to a God who created people with great worth and in His image.

Anonymous said...

The pastor asked the most peculiar question about my trip. "So who was the target that you interfaced with?"

I can't even begin to understand THAT mixture of metaphors. How do you "interface" a "target"?

Software "interfaces" with other software.

"Targets" get attacked for the benefit of the attacker.

All I can figure is that pastor was quoting some dictionary of Pop Business Buzzwords authored by Dogbert or Catbert.

In a town nearby, it was decided that the creche could no longer be displayed on the town square...If that is a battle against "the devil", I have to wonder what they would call the atrocities that Krisof and his wife are fighting in Africa. -- Hope T

Probably the same reaction as Job's know-it-all companions/counselors after God showed up in person. IF they survived.

(It's like a fantasy I've had with Christian Bonnet/Prairie Romance novels -- what would Sweet Polly Purebread Christian do if you dumped her from her Just like Little House on the Prairie, except Christian (TM) novel straight into the mud and grit of Deadwood?)

Headless Unicorn Guy

Anonymous said...

One line from my favorite Christmas carol keeps running through my mind this year.

"Truly He taught us To love one another;
His law is love And His gospel is peace.
Chains shall He break For the slave is our brother;
And in His name All oppression shall cease."

That's redemption!

A. (Your favorite stalker :))