My mind is all over the place.
Perhaps I would state it better to say my mind has been bombarded by several things that have set it swirling. I can’t help thinking about what is happening in Gaza; part of the reason it bothers me is I feel helpless to do anything about it. I think I feel that way about much of what is going on in the world. I was going through the various blogs I read this morning and read this from Randy:
I was listening to NPR on my way to work this morning, as is my wont. They were discussing the crisis of the moment, which is the story about how big bad Israel is attacking the poor innocent people of Gaza.
Randy and I have never met, though we communicate from time to time. Though we rarely come to the same conclusions about most anything, we stay connected, for which I am grateful. What hit me about his post, more than any conclusion he drew, was his phrase, “the crisis of the moment.” Maybe part of my sense of helplessness is I feel as though we live in such a state of cultural ADD that we don’t pay attention long enough to allow ourselves to be moved into action by our compassion.
One of my Christmas presents was a subscription to the UNTE Reader, a unabashedly lefty magazine that always gives me something to think about. In the latest issue, Richard Just has written an article entitled, “On Our Watch: The world is inundated with stories about the genocide in Darfur. So why haven’t we stopped it?” He talks about all that has been said and filmed and written about the mass murders and rapes and tortures there and then asks:
What has gone wrong? Did we, over time, grow immune to the images and the testimonies? Did we give too much weight to what seemed like the conflict’s complexities, and too little to the raw human suffering that was taking place before our eyes? Did we put too much faith in the United Nations and too little in ourselves? Did we allow our elected leaders to seduce us with airy statements congratulating us on our passion, when they should have been consulting with generals about how to get soldiers onto the ground as quickly as possible? True, we were poorly served by a small-minded president and his bungling administration. But did liberals demand the right things of him? Did we push for what would really save the people of Darfur? Or did we get trapped by the inclinations of our worldview, and advocate for too little?
Each person I met during the week had a story of how Katrina changed their lives.. Some left the city before and returned months later to find all they ever had was gone. A few I met had to be rescued from the roof of their homes as the water filled the neighborhoods in moments. Regardless of the story there is still much to be done in New Orleans to return folks to their homes. As of last week, there were 150,000 homes in New Orleans that need to be renovated, rebuilt or razed. Only 8,000 building permits were completed in 2008, at that rate it will take at least ten years to complete the rebuild of New Orleans and at least a generation to restore the city. As time moves further from the date of the storm, more and more folks will forget about the folks in New Orleans rebuilding their homes and communities.
In the last of today’s readings, I found this paragraph in Ron Martoia’s Transformational Architecture: Reshaping Our Lives as Narrative, which talks about much of Christianity’s focus on getting people into heaven over doing God’s transforming work in real time:
What if Jesus came to address human need, to bring shalom, to dole out free “pink spoon” samples – and in the process have people join his family, a family that lives together in harmony and love? Is it possible our whole construal of salvation is so other worldly that we don’t know how to read the [biblical] text honestly and as a result aren’t sure how to help the world?
I have more questions than I know what to do with. Instead of trying to answer them all, or even voice them all, I want to point to two things I also found tonight among what I’ve already mentioned that are helping me to move beyond hopelessness to a place where I can better see how I can incarnate compassion.
One I found also on the UTNE site: a link to a blog written by Hope Man, an Israeli living near the border of Gaza, and Peace Man, a Palestinian who lives about ten miles away in Gaza. Their answer to what is going on around them is to write together and to get to know one another, because they said hardly anyone knew people on the other side of the border. I remember years ago reading that the peace process in Northern Ireland began to take hold in large part because there were Catholic and Protestant women who crossed into No Man’s Land everyday to pray together, convinced that their burgeoning friendships could make a difference.
The second is on my friend Jimmy’s blog. His latest post not only tells about how New Orleans is still reeling, but describes how he plans to respond. He is, among other things, a carpenter. The winter weather and the frozen economy have left him with time, so he is planning to go to New Orleans for a month to rebuild all he can. He is raising money to cover his family’s expenses so their lives can go on as he helps to put the lives of others back together. I love the audacious compassion that comes through in the title of his post: “Help Me Rebuild New Orleans.” Please help him if you can.
Though the presidents and generals can give the orders to drop the bombs, they appear to be unable to wage peace. The media is prisoner to the “crisis du jour” and unable, for the most part, to tell us stories that foster hope and action for longer than a day or two. Friendships are what change the world – the relational commitments to enter into one another’s pain, to listen before we speak, to allow our lives to be filled with hope and trust and loyalty based not on doctrine or policy or ethnicity, but on the love between friends.
OK. I’m better now.