It’s a (Serious) Shame… My Apathy

I’m cruising along in my MINI Cooper, feeling full of myself and full of life.  I zip around a number of cars, smug that I have a car with some serious pickup.  I take in the tourists heading for the zoo and the regulars pouring into their Starbucks and sidewalk cafes.  I have my nearly omnipresent iPod playing deejay for me as it randomly selects the tunes.  I fast-forward past Vivaldi (too cultured for this occasion), Tim Keller sermons (which constitute about 1/5 of my iPod selections but are too lengthy for this short ride), and Boogie Oogie Oogie (tiresome today) and settle on It’s a Shame by The Spinners.  Fun driving music.

It’s a shame (sha-ame), the way you mess around with your man
It’s a shame (sha-ame), the way you play with my emotions
It’s a shame (sha-ame), the way you mess around with your man
You’re like a child at play on a sunny day
But you play with love and then you throw it away

Why do you use me try to confuse me
How can you stand to be so cruel
Why don’t you free me from this prison
Where I serve my time as your fool

Ok, you get the idea.  Spinners blaring; the windows are down; I’m singing along (badly).  Badly enough that I stop singing when I get to a light.  Summer.  Euphoria from a break in the humidity and a nice Sunday afternoon drive.  Life is good.  I’m actually driving to church where we will pray in small groups for the struggles in Georgia, Mauritania, Iraq, Afghanistan, Darfur, and our own city.  I’m enjoying the drive, the weather, the music, my life.

And then I realize I’m approaching, in a park downtown, a protest related to human rights violations.  Serious ones.  (As if there are some human rights violations that are minor!  I should probably edit out my “serious ones” phrase here but it’s a slip that perfectly illustrates my point.  The one I am getting to eventually.)

Or how about now?  Here’s my point: I am in a privileged enough position, just by virtue of being an American Christian, that it’s incumbent on me to address and pray for the problems of the world instead of ignoring them.  To work for justice and to reflect on the fact that injustice is as simple as some of us having enough to waste and some of us wasting away.

Yet I live with an attitude of “it’s a shame,” as in “oh well,” or “whatever” or “too bad” or “yuck.”  I live in a free country, with freedom of religion, orderly elections, clean water, rule of law, highways, infrastructure, and that’s before I even get to the add-ons … like air conditioning, a dizzying assortment of Italian and Ethiopian restaurants to choose from, enough money to waste food, enough money to waste everything, enough personal space and privilege to keep me anesthetized from the world’s problems.

Those sound like gifts but they are also soul-numbing limitations if they keep me cluelessly driving along, flashing a thumbs-up to the protesters (“Hey, I’m informed; I agree with you guys!  Have a good day!”).  As if.

I’m heartsick.  I want the things that break God’s heart to break mine.  And yet so many days I’m just tripped up on chores, petty grievances or minutia — or stressed that I can’t fit in my gym workout before my pedicure or that my airplane is running late on vacation.

For a Christian, identification with the world’s pain isn’t an endpoint.  It’s the beginning, an opening up to surrendering ourselves to being used to fight good fights, to end things that we all — on our best days — do hate.

At church yesterday, our New Testament text was 1 Timothy 2: 1-7, and my priest made this great point that I had never seen there before.  This is a passage about praying for our leaders, “so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity.”  His point is that people in turmoil, chaos, war, genocide and other such horrific conditions cannot live “quiet and peacable lives” that would enable them to know God’s love… and that part of why we pray and work for the eradication of such horrors is to reverse that.

In my world, I have everything needed for a “quiet and peacable life.”  Seriously.  To the degree that I don’t  have on, it’s hardly the fault of my circumstances.

I pray, literally, that more and more I will have the presence of mind to not just pass by protests of horrible human rights violations, smug in my complacency and rushing to and fro, but that I will protest in my spirit, crying out with God’s spirit, “Enough.”  And that I will ask God what I personally should do to insure “Enough”.  And then, most importantly, that I will do it.  God help me!

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~ by Cary on August 11, 2008.

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