Saturday, December 17, 2005

in a few days we will observe the 1 yr. anniversary of the tsunami that devastated so many people on dec. 26, 2004. "oh yeah," you say, "i'd forgotten about that." so had i.
isn't it amazing how sensationalist the media is? if it isn't in the news, we assume the issue is resolved and we move on with our comfortable lives. we donate money to the red cross and our churches during the first week, maybe for a month, but then we grow weary of hearing of the other's plight. tragically, 1 year later, half a million tsunami survivors in indonesia alone are still living in tents- not to mention thousands more in sri lanka, thailand and the many more damnified communities. it will be a matter of years, perhaps decades to restore every home and livelihood that was lost.
why am i so quick to forget the other?

17 comments:

bryan said...

phil, thank you for this.

Chris said...

we forget the other because it's distant. we don't have to see it, smell it, feel it, taste it or even hear about it if we don't want to...

i guess what i'm saying is that it's easy to be detatched because it's not in your face. sure those are real people over there without homes and clean water...but without being face-to-face with them in some form or fashion it's easy to be detatched and gloss over it.

here's a simple and interesting exercise that might remedy our detatchment--trying to imagine life in their shoes...

what would be going on in my heart in mind?

Lian said...

I don't want to crap on what's been said because I agree with it. I just wonder at what point we HAVE to forget the other. There are so many others how can we possibly empathize and/or engage with them all at once? While I am remembering the pain-stricken Tsunami victims I am simultaneously forgetting the pain stricken woman whose husband is beating her in a drunken rage every night etc etc.

It almost seems as if we must restrict ourselves to those that cross our paths - not physically, but emotionally and spiritually. In this case I would say the tsunami victims have definitely crossed Phil's path and a few of ours by his reminder.

elnellis said...

you both bring valid points, but they are exactly what i want step away from- in other words, i want to make the other less distant, i want to broaden my path so that more cross it. i've been wresteling with the tension between the particularity of our immediate context and the global situation-
Henri Nouwen talks a lot about this tension in his Genesee Diary when he was a trappist monk:
"Compassion lies at the heart of our prayer for our fellow human beings. When I pray for the world, I become the world; when I pray for the endless needs of the millions, my soul expands and wants to embrace them all and bring them into the presence of God. But in the midst of that experience I realize that compassion is not mine but God's gift to me. I cannot embrace the world, but God can. I cannot pray, but God can pray in me. When God became as we are, that is, when God allowed all of us to enter into his intimate life, it became possible for us to share in his infinite compassion. In praying for others, I lose myself and become the other, only to be found by divine love which holds the whole of humanity in a compassionate embrace."
my hope is that the other might not be so other, that i may enter in (in any way possible... from accross the globe) and stand in spirit and solidarity with the tsunami vicitms through a prayerful awareness and remembrance of their continued plight.

Chris said...

hey lian--i actually do agree with your point. i believe that God primarily desires for us to work within our sphere of influence--those whose lives touch us and ours theirs. so often it's easier to for us to throw money at the problem or send a missionary from our church someplace far away...we prefer that because we personally don't have to get dirty.

i imagine that if you were able to be effective within your immediate sphere of influence it would allow God to expand that sphere so that it would eventually encompass our world.

what do you think?

Lian said...

I think that in all things we must find a balance. I remember when the tsunami happened, and other tragedies since then, my beart breaks with what is happening over there. Money is sent and prayers are prayed, but at some point the ache must ease. We are not called to carry the burden of all. We should be effected, most definitely, but I am not capable of carrying pain for all of those widows and orphans. I suppose this is where God'd sovereigness and ultimate plan comes in. God sees each one every minute of their lives. He can carry the load of the millions of lives effected by various catastrophes. I believe He calls some of us to ache with the tsunami victims, and some to ache with the victims of Chechen revolts in Russia. But I agree that ultimately our responsibility lies in serving God by touching those in our immediate circle. This requires trust in a massive body of Christ followers and in the God who is orchestrating it all. We still should do what we can and go where God calls. And if that is to the hurting in India, then they enter our circle of "know" and responsibility.

Sorry for blabbing on. I think I agree with everyone...

erika

nathan Barrett said...

As I have had the amazing and unique opportunity to travel the globe this last four months I have seen the other, touched and talked with the other and have had my heart grow in concern and love for them. I believe that my year with OM is supposed to do that for me - to give me a space in my heart for each of the places and people that I encounter. My heart is growing in its capacity to love and be connected to the issues - from the last 30 years of war in Ireland to the stagnation of apartheid in South Africa to the injustice displayed in the treatment of the American Indian and just recently to the lostness of our Muslim friends - 1 billiong strong! I am feeling my heart grow in its capacity to love and feel for those but not everyone can see and experience what I am and in fact so very few do. My heart is being raked over is some ways with global issues but I feel a literal growth of my heart in its capacity to understand and feel for others in thier plight. This has to be God because I am so indifferent. I used to struggle with indifference towards homeless people in Chicago - still do, but i read an article by Bruegemann in which he calls us to be educators of the impossible - If any of you can get a hold of it, it is called "Passion and Perpective" It is in an educational journal. It helped me a lot with this issue. As always, Nouwen is the bomb! If you get it please comment on it - mostly the last part of the article! As Christian, we are called to never give up on the impossible - it calls us into what Phil quoted from Nouwen.

nathan Barrett said...

I have to say one more thing!

Don't forget that indifference is always an aspect of our fallen nature not our new nature. Whether you think of it as something to deal with for life or something to address and challenge consistently or both - it is not of God! I am at peace with indifference, only because I am seeing God work it out of my life -I know it is being worked on and I want to participate - I lose when I stop participating - no matter what my context is or isn't.

Aaron said...

thanks, phil, for bringing this to mind... how quickly we can forget. and how easy it can be to be charitable during christmas, yet be selfish for the other 11 months of the year...

2 cents worth here...
has anyone seen Beyond Borders with Angelina Jolie and Clive Owen? i was surprised that the tomb raider could pull off such a powerful performance in this movie.... but it's an amazing, yet disturbing look at what is going on around the world... and our human responsibility... after seeing it, i walked away feeling as though i need to keep the images burned in my mind, yet at the same time hoping i could forget what i just saw and live in ignorance of it all...

i'm interested to hear anyone else's comments on this movie if you've seen it... and how you see it relating to this dialogue...

(on a side note, it was after filming this movie that angelina adopted her first of two african children, which one could surmise that being a part of the production of this film had quite an impact on her...)

elnellis said...

thanks all for commenting, i think everyone brings a unique perspective on what it means to be a person of faith in this world populated by the estranged, widowed and orphaned (all of us).
i agree that we are primarily called to the specific (ie- our immediate context). but at the same time i don't believe that God is waiting for me to "get it right here" before i can "move on" to broader or global issues. our immediate context can become a bubble that protects us from global issues (remember moody? or now mars hill...). ruth and i attend a church in which we pray for the world each week- for the victims of war, catastrophies, and economic suppression, illness, etc... this time every week has become quite meaningful to me as a global perspective had not been a part of my spirituality in the past. it is so important to join with God in his constant and deep ache for a broken world-
i'm wondering what we do with the "soverignty" of God and how often we cling to that in order to relive ourselves from the call to enter into the suffering of the other?

Jason's Fix said...

"The gods had condemned Sisyphus to ceaselessly rolling a rock to the top of a mountain, whence the stone would fall back of its own weight. They had thought with some reason that there is no more dreadful punishment than futile and hopeless labor."
Albert Camus

Chris said...

Where does the whole concept of the "Kingdom of God" fit into this equation? More specifically, our role making it a reality here on this broken planet as a 'kingdom of priests,' 'ambassadors' and 'children of light?' I believe that this is what we were called to do both on the local and global scale--together.

pedro said...

Hey all, great discussion as usual.

I have nothing to add except to say that I think everyone who has wrtiten here believes essentially the same thing: that God is love and calls us to love others as we follow him. We may all express this love in different ways, but this difference is merely a reflection of our unique personalities, experiences, etc. This diversity of perspective and context makes the body of Christ a unique entity. Indeed, its head - the incarnated Christ - is the force which binds us and compells us live and love.

nathan Barrett said...

Chris,

I saw the Angelie Jolie movie and was impressed except for the relationship dynamics - that made the heroism of it fade, except that I think that was the point of the movie. The fellow got list in his heroism and compromised his ethics to do so - she followed suit all the while trying to do something good for the world. Another great one is "Tears of the Sun" with Bruce Willis and the woman who played prositute-turned-disciple in the Passion - whoa! Jesus was hanging out with some fine young ladies! I forget her name. But great movie - sacrifice, valor, determination, faceless becoming faces, etc...

Jaime said...

thanks for a intelligent discussion.

i just want to share what someone else has said,

"Think Globally, act locally".

I think it was Jacques Ellul who said that, but anyway, we need to work in our context, but never forget the big picture.

elnellis said...

good word jaime- keep reading ellul!

nathan Barrett said...

Just read a great word from CS Lewis, "The opposite of love isn't hatred, it is indifference"