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Saturday, October 25, 2008

Called to be a Thinking People

Kelly and I went to the Art*Music*Justice concert Saturday night.

Honestly, I'm still struggling over what to say about it. Loved the music, admired the artists, but...

I have long been an advocate for breaking free from our own cultural framework to see the world around us. I'm a born and raised Midwesterner, who has lived all over the world and feels equally comfortable in a sub-Saharan hut as I do a McMansion in Plano, Texas.

But here's where I struggle: as I've gotten older I have become more aware that the world we want to touch and comfort is also the world that is quite literally all around us. Yet when we gather to talk about injustice and suffering, we often point overseas.


Is it easier to identify the face of suffering when it's a starving African child? Do we want to end poverty only for families enslaved in Bangeldesh? Are we concerned with the freedom to think and worship God only for those in the Middle East?

Don't misunderstand me. We have an obligation to help the world. My husband works with an organization that reaches out worldwide. I would pack my bags and move back overseas tomorrow if the opportunity presented itself.

What I question is that our desire for activism and justice is most stirred when we look outside our own borders. It's easy to write a check, support a child, take a 10-day trip. It is a relatively minor part of our lives.

What's not easy is addressing poverty in our own country. We allow the poor to become enslaved to payday loan companies in the name of "making money available to those who need it."

What's not easy is confronting high recidivism rates in our own country. We rail against crime, yet have no workable plan for actually rehabilitating offenders, nor identifying (and addressing) the underlying societal factors that lead to crime.

What's not easy is facing the unjust treatment of the mentally ill and chemically dependent. We've tried prisons, institutions and the streets.

What's not easy is admitting that the cultural make-up of our country is changing. We need to learn what being an American means - beyond accents or skin tone.

What's not easy is agreeing that you can't have it all. The single parent family has needs. The debt culture is out of control. The terms commitment, responsibility and promise (among many others) have lost their meaning.

I want to fight injustice and I want to make a difference - both here and around the world. It seems to me that part of the reason the Art*Music*Justice tour made me uncomfortable was that it didn't make me uncomfortable enough to impact my day-to-day life.

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