You may have heard about the latest viral phenomenon, KONY2012. (If you have not, may I suggest a watching the news or reading a blog or two…it will be good for you!)
I, Daniel, had the opportunity to watch the 30 minute video with the teen I mentor. (He actually enlightened me to the buzz I was currently missing.) Thanks to the Riem household saving a couple of bucks each month for cheaper internet, we patiently waited for my internet to load the entire video. The wait was worth it as we discovered the horrendous act of violence currently happening in our world as well as enlightened about the new world we live in and how the sharing of a message has dramatically shifted.
KONY2012 has 80 million hits (as of today). Obviously, the world is responding.
But how should I, a Christ-follower, respond?
Thankfully, I remembered that Rob and Susan Delano (long time friends of Bloomingdale Church and current urban missionaries) had an interest in this subject of social activism. With permission, here is Susan’s response:
Here are some of my thoughts regarding your questions and the hype surrounding Invisible Children and Kony2012…
- Invisible Children is not a Christian organization, though Christians do work and volunteer for them. Rob and I went to see Invisible Children at Wheaton a few years ago when they toured with their first documentary. One of the mentors who works with child soldiers who escaped and are in rehab in Congo, is a Christian and he shared how much he relies on the Holy Spirit to reach, love and counsel the children who come to the safety of the home.
- I think the recent film is brilliant: education + inspiration + awareness + activism + tangible steps = a way to stop a monster from a 26-year path of torture. What I.C. is doing now is building on the momentum of a 9 year movement and targeting youth—youth who are are diving in with both feet, taking a stand and mobilizing to address this cause. The film combines segments of I.C.’s previous documentaries for historical context and combines it with a call to action utilizing cutting edge film-making, in a way that speaks to this generation … brilliant.
- I am saddened that the Church is behind … again. The Church, God’s people, should be LEADING the world in response to humanitarian/justice concerns. Our Book, our faith, our God commands—requires–the foundation of our faith and the structure of society incorporate acts of service and a commitment to justice in regard to advocating for and defending the needy as well as implementing practices designed to protect, empower and care for the poor/orphan/widow/alien/
immigrant/alien/sojourner/ oppressed/etc. (See Exodus, Deuteronomy, the Minor Prophets, the Major Prophets, Luke, etc…)
Since the church is content to follow, rather than lead, the charge involving any issue that even remotely hints of “social gospel”, let it be the Church’s priority to join these movements and bring the redemptive aspect to the cause that so many agencies on the ground fighting already inherently lack. They lack this crucial element to their mission statements and ‘programming’ because their fundamental components and strategies are derived from the world out of a worldly mindset. Nothing of the world is inherently going to glorify the Lord, only that which is birthed in/through the Lord will glorify the Lord. My heart breaks that God’s people have been so slowly to care, to learn, to act, to respond. What good does it do to rescue hundreds or thousands of people from horrid abuses only to have them die without knowing the saving grace of Christ? Yes, a valuable work is done in that people are able to simply live … and live without fear and live in freedom; I’m not belittling travesty or oppression or murder or rape or unimaginable crimes against humanity. But without the saving grace of God, or the ability to experience and know the healing, hope and redemption that comes through Grace, how can we expect survivors to truly live, and live in true freedom? How can we care for the felt needs and ignore the spiritual? How can we nurture the healing process without inviting the Healer to the heart?
I once volunteered for an agency that referred to their work as holistic. I understand that’s a buzz word of sorts nowadays, but I challenged them. I brought to attention the fact that while the mission, focus and aftercare are incredibly admirable and important, I failed to see anywhere in their promotional material emphasis on a spiritual component to their work. Without this emphasis, without a plan to address the spiritual nature of those served they cannot claim to be a holistic agency because they are leaving out the crucial piece: Christ and God’s redemption. Understand many of the staff are Christian, this agency grew as an outflow of the founder’s faith. But, in an effort to be most effective to reaching the population they target, given their geographical context of being located in a largely non-Christian area, they chose to be less obvious about their Christian identity.
- Now, having said all that, Rob and I support the work of Invisible Children. First, we support the work of I.C. because no one else is doing the ground work they are doing for child soldiers. No one else is building schools (or safe camps) for these children. No one else is rebuilding villages destroyed by the LRA. No one else is reaching out a hand to partner with the thousands of Africans whose lives have been terrorized by Kony and the LRA for decades. (Or, if they are more agencies, I haven’t heard of their work…yet.) How it breaks my heart the church is invisible in this effort to restore hope, peace and revitalization to this region of the world. Second, I know there are Godly men and women volunteering to mentor and teach the youth in the safe camps and schools. I’ve heard their stories and listened as they shared prayers for understanding in how to reach these children who’ve survived such unimaginable horrors, and asked God to show them a way to touch hearts with the gospel. We partner with I.C. to provide scholarship money so rescued former soldiers can go to school and receive an education. Education = opportunity + empowerment for these precious boys and girls.
- If the Church is unwilling to take a stand for what is right, or refuses to respond to the atrocities committed around the world, I will put my money to support agencies that are willing to do so. I cannot ignore their cries for help, even if the Church is. But how I long for the day when the Church rises to take her rightful place in loving the poor/oppressed/abandoned by demonstrating both redemption, through the offer of God’s Grace, and advocacy, in the form of implementing God’s Justice. Grace + Justice = both/and. Our faith is one that weaves into the fabric of God’s story Redemption and Justice.
- I think of Rob and I less as “cause minded” and more of Justice minded … Kingdom minded in that we take seriously the call that we are ambassadors of Christ, that we are called to be an active part of Christ’s ministry of reconciliation on this Earth. To me, from all that I read in scripture, this means not only loving people in such a way that points them to a personal path of reconciling with God for the forgiveness of sin, but also living my life in such a way that I participate in rooting out any system, structure, practice, ideology, behavior, etc. that is not aligned with Kingdom principles so that it may be reconciled to God’s standard. In this way God’s heart for humanity is reflected in those systems/etc.