“Compassion constitutes a radical form of criticism, for it announces that the hurt [of poverty and hunger] is to be taken seriously, that the hurt is not to be accepted as normal and natural but is an abnormal and unacceptable condition of humanness. Therefore, hospitality in a society structured around profit margins and individualism constitutes not only resistance, but also offers an alternative.”
-Chris Crass, Towards a Non-Violent Society: A Position Paper on Anarchism, Social Change and Food Not Bombs
We Aren’t Going to Pull Ourselves from this Mess
There is much struggle and weariness amongst those who desire and endeavor to do right in this world. Feelings of exhaustion, hopelessness and cynicism are not at all uncommon. Many, conscious of their potential, and subsequent responsibility, find themselves heavy laden with questions, doubts and pressures. The absence of easy answers looms. If those concerned with the plights of others don’t have simple solutions, what hope is there to be had?
“Once again I repeat what I have said before. I feel deeply that we have very little conception of what the Church suffers from the lack of this divine humility, the nothingness that makes room for God to prove His power.” Andrew Murray: Humility
In our pursuit to fix things, we can effectively render ourselves impotent. How many persons with good intentions have perpetuated problems simply due to being in positions where they are too busy or stretched thin to identify root issues rather than mere palliative measures that will within time become problematic themselves.
This feedback cycle grows quickly and heavily. Is drawing away from society the solution? For an individual it may be, but the crux of the matter depends on whether such flight is escapism, or a way to be more intimately involved. Is it an end or a mean towards something better? Take Trappist monks for example. Although they are viewed as a prime example of a group of people disconnected from the world, it has been said that if the monks stopped praying, the world itself would stop spinning. They are actively involved in the matters of this world, whether it be through guidance and teaching, prayerful intercession, or even in simply displaying a more sustainable, virtuous model of living. In a previous post, I offered a brief text from an interview with some of these monks. Their answers show a simple, holistic understanding and comprehension of what is taking place in this world that we, being caught up in the disjointedness of contemporary affairs, all too often aren’t able to recognize. Television drivel, advertising and sensationalism are not healthy. There is nothing new under the sun. (https://tayreed.wordpress.com/2012/06/07/some-thoughts-from-trappist-monks/ )
“Though the problems of the world are increasingly complex,
the solutions remain embarrassingly simple.” -Bill Mollison
Is it any wonder that the Christian life is so often feeble and fruitless, when the very root of the Christ life is neglected, is unknown? Is it any wonder that the joy of salvation is so little felt, when that in which Christ found it and brings it, is so little sought? Until a humility which will rest in nothing less that the end and death of self; which gives up all the honor of men as Jesus did, to seek the honor that comes from God alone: which absolutely makes and counts itself nothing, that God may be all, that the Lord alone may be exalted – until such a humility be what we seek in Christ above our chief joy, and welcome at any price, there is very little hope of a religion that will conquer the world.-Andrew Murray: Humility
What if these solutions require hard work? What if they necessitate a willingness to serve? To get dirty? To remain anonymous?
Is it worth it?
What if working hard brings about a greater gratitude and thankfulness for what we have. What if it promotes better discernment of what is necessary? What if service allows us to love others genuinely? What if our attempts to avoid these things has made us rather weak and selfish, and our lives fairly disconnected and aimless?
Before we offer can peace, we must first encounter it ourselves. And when we have found it, it’s what gives our actions meaning, otherwise we’re following the example of Paul’s early life: hard work and self-righteousness, although of no value or worth. Spinning and thrashing about without getting anywhere beneficial. Instead, let us take a better way-
And this is my prayer: that your love for one another may grow more and more with the knowledge and complete understanding that will help you to come to true discernment, so that in the day of Christ you may be pure and blameless, entirely filled with the fruits of uprightness through Jesus Christ, for the glory and praise of God. Philippians 1:9-11
Discerning right action before taking action isn’t an attempt to absolve responsibility, but rather view ourselves and that responsibility properly. We are caretakers. Everything before us has been provided. With this understanding we can work to return things to their intended state and flow, rather than impose our fallible wills and self-serving desires. We need to get involved, we need to “do”. But we must do so from the proper perspective- with something worth offering, and in the correct manner, which is from a position of genuine humility, both of which are things more connected to “being” than “doing”.
I should: Identify a need. Work towards a solution. Allow God to work through me. Accept the fact that I am broken and fail time and time again. My deficiency, however, is opportunity for one more powerful to work despite me in ways beyond my understanding.
“The greatest change we need to make is from consumption to production, even if on a small scale, in our own gardens. If only 10% of us do this, there is enough for everyone. Hence the futility of revolutionaries who have no gardens, who depend on the very system they attack, and who produce words and bullets, not food and shelter.” -Bill Mollison