Alie Benge · Social Justice

Overcoming Apathy

This started as a rage post. I was so bummed at everyone that I couldn’t concentrate during worship, so I sat down in church and started writing. Luckily I did that thing where you wait before posting something ragey. A lesson I’ve learnt and forgotten a number of times. So this is now a post-rage post.

A week ago I hosted an anti-slavery event. In the promo video I said I would tell people what they could do to end human trafficking. I tried to appeal to the men especially to come because the global sex trade is targeted at them, so they hold the power for social change. I booked a gym and bought enough biscuits to feed a nation. Around 25 people showed up, people cried, people took sponsor kids. Later my sisters congratulated me on a good turn out.

I was so disappointed.

I first heard about slavery in a bible study. This was about three or four years ago. I was living in Sydney and attending Resolved church. We watched a documentary and then everyone talked about it while I blubbed in the corner. I went from website to website trying to find something I could do about the 27 million (now 30 million) people in slavery. All I could find were ways to donate money, and I didn’t have any money. It took three years of researching, reading blogs, going to conferences till I had enough information to tell people how to stop slavery. I thought surely people are in the same position I was in. Surely they want to help but just don’t know how.  I sent the promo video to three churches. I reckon around 300 people were invited to the event. If a solution was promised to the problem of children being sold into sex slavery, that place should have been packed. The gym I booked should not have been able to fit everyone. In the end I had to move to a smaller room.

Since the event people have told me that it doesn’t matter about numbers, it’s about the hearts of the people who show up. My sister told me that my expectations of people are too high. If I expect less I won’t be so disappointed. My pastor said  people need to hear about something seven times before they’ll start getting interested. Not just being told seven times, I mean seven events. I appreciated people trying to make me feel better, but it made me see that over time, people have been dissapointed often enough, that they’ve come to expect apathy. Perhaps I’m still young and idealistic, but that shouldn’t have to change.

Proverbs 21:15 says that seeing justice done is supposed to be a delight to the righteous. If that’s true then how is it possible that the apathy in the church can run so deep?  ctjlc

The church has dropped the ball on the fight for social justice. What happened to the William Wilberforces? Where are the Mother Theresas or the Martin Luther Kings? Why is the face of foreign aid Angelina Jolie? I mean, good on her, but it’s supposed to be us. Jesus died for us, but we can’t get off the couch on a Saturday night to find out how to end slavery, or part with an extra few dollars for fair trade products.

This morning my pastor lent me ‘Radical’ by David Platt and I’ve had my head in it all day. In it he says “we have missed what is radical about our faith and replaced it with what is comfortable. We are settling for a Christianity that revolves around catering to ourselves when the central message of Christianity is actually about abandoning ourselves”.

At the moment, the reason it’s so hard to fight poverty and injustice is because not enough people are doing it. The mission of the church is being carried by a select few that have been islanded by the rest of us. We don’t all need to be missionaries, but we are all on mission. In the first world, if we’re not missionaries, I believe our role is to support. That doesn’t mean tithing out of whatever we have left over on Sunday. C S Lewis said, “I do not believe one can settle how much we ought to give. I am afraid the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare. In other words, if our expenditure on comforts, luxuries, amusements, etc, is up to the standard common among those with the same income as our own, we are probably giving away too little. If our charities do not at all pinch or hamper us, I should say they are too small. There ought to be things we should like to do and cannot do because our charitable expenditure excludes them.” 

The other day I had to skip uni because I couldn’t afford the train ticket. I was laughing about it with my friend, Elodie and then she pulled $5 out of her wallet and gave it to me. She’s just as poor as I am, but she had $5 so she gave me $5. It’s not exactly global outreach, but it’s an example of giving what you have to someone else. It’s the kind of self-forgetfulness that we need to apply to the church. Would you give it meant not keeping up with trends, or iPhones?

In the same way, having a prayer ministry is not adding on at the end of your prayer, as you shut your bible, ‘oh yeah, and I pray for the persecuted church’. Again in Radical, Platt recalls a prayer meeting in China. When everyone left he found actual puddles of tears on the floor. Has this ever happened at your prayer meetings? Have you fasted? Have you truly mourned injustice?

This is not like deciding whether or not to become a vegetarian. We are talking about people. People living in poverty and having to sell one child so the other can go to school, when a $40 donation from us means both can go to school. I should not have to emotionally manipulate you to make you care. I should not have to hold seven events.

Pull your head out of the sand and do something. Don’t be the guy who stands before God and says “Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?” Don’t just be a little sad about injustice, a little sad about slavery, don’t just click your tongue at the World Vision ads. Who the frick cares about your ‘sadness’ If you aren’t going to do anything about it. What is the point? Mike Murdoch says ‘those who unlock your compassion are those to whom you’ve been assigned’. You don’t need to act on every cause. I don’t need everyone on the abolition team, but for the love of God, do something! If no cause has yet unlocked your compassion, find one that does. Pray that God will break your heart for something. Ask him to give you an assignment. It took me three years to work out what to do about slavery. It could take you longer, so you better get moving. If we do nothing about injustice, if we leave the good works to celebrities, then who will want our gospel?

Faith without deeds is dead. Think about it.

 

To support those rescuing children from sex slavery donate here:  http://www.destinyrescue.org/aus/support-us/donate

To help our brothers and sisters who are risking their lives for their love of Christ donate here:  http://barnabasfund.org/NZ/Donate/

To buy school packs for kids in Cambodia donate here:  http://www.shoelessnz.com/#!donate/c1n15

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