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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

What in the World Happened?

I'm reading a very disturbing, but powerful--and I'd even say, life changing--book by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide. Nicholas writes a regular column for the New York Times and travels the world, usually to developing countries. Often he reports on women's lives and certainly the lives of those who are burdened by abject poverty. I've learned more from him about the world around me than I ever do in church. Yet it was in church as a child that I learned about a wider world, not some of the problems described in book, at least that there is a world in need out there.

Nicholas and Sheryl tell the stories (you have to have a strong stomach for it all) about women throughout the developing countries and the ways in which they suffer and die from means that could be alleviated. They write about the overwhelming statistics (which I won't give you here) on modern slavery in sex trafficking for girls, the high and growing maternal mortality rates in developing countries, the lack of education for girls which influences poverty and even the number of pregnancies that the girl will experience in her lifetime, the violence inflicted upon women and girls in war-torn countries and the list goes on. Millions and millions of women and girls are suffering and dying...and we almost don't hear about it.

The thing is that as the women go, so goes the village. Do we care about all of these precious lives, children of God?

I actually believe that our outreach through the Women's Division and Global Ministries has ministries and missionaries that reach out to many of these women and girls in their villages, but we rarely hear about them in our churches.

What in the world happened? Or maybe I should ask, What in the church happened? When did we stop caring about the world?

If you read my last blog, you saw that 52 times someone posted a comment. Lots of activity, the most I've had on my blog! The topic of homosexuality is of great interest to many people, and as you can read for yourself, it usually invokes great emotion. Certainly it's a reality that we have to deal with in our society as well as church.

But I feel a bit like Nicholas and Sheryl when they describe how they reported on a dissident in China and it made front-page news, but "when 100,000 girls were routinely kidnapped and trafficked into brothels, we didn't even consider it news...we slip at covering events that happen every day--such as the quotidian cruelities inflicted on women and girls." (p. xiv) "Quotidian cruelities" were what the prophets warned the people about and Jesus came to heal.

Do we care? Can be generate as much emotion over the existence of such poverty and neglect of the most vulnerable in our world? Do we care enough to hear about it? Pray about it? Do something about it?

I was cleaning a book shelf this summer and saw an old copy of Walter Rauschenbusch's, A Theology for the Social Gospel (copyrighted 1917). I opened it and came to a story he told about a Mennonite farmer whose milk was flagged because it had contaminates in it due to careless practices on his part. The farmer swore, which is a no-no in the Mennonite community, and was publicly chastised for swearing by the faith community. But they made no mention of his carelessness in potentially causing children who drank milk to get sick from his contaminated milk.

Rauschenbusch suggested that the faith community should tell the farmer to settle his sin of swearing before God but that he be excluded from the voting community until he gets his practices in producing milk back into a healthy and ethical level. The social impact of his milking practices far exceeded his personal problem with swearing and yet the faith community didn't care about the greater problem of children getting sick.

It seems like we become so emotional and focused on certain things without noticing the huge ethical infractions that our own living creates.

Do we care? Why don't we care?

WDYT?

(I'm betting I don't have 52 comments!)