Well, I didn’t post this weekend as promised. Sorry for lying. I’ve realized that at least a few random souls are looking at my posts now, even though I’ve said jack squat and haven’t really told anyone yet that I have a blog. So, apologies for letting the faithful few down.
I’m reading Exclusion and Embrace by Miroslav Volf. Only 100 pgs. in, and I can’t seem to read it fast like I need to, b/c it keeps convicting me and making me think. (I had a similar reaction to Cost of Discipleship, even though the foci of each book is pretty different.) Kevin told me this is his favorite book of all time… and he’s read quite a few books in his day. I’m digging on it, but it hurts right now.
It hurts b/c I’ve only read the part about “exclusion” so far… and judging from the fact that Volf wrote it back in the mid 90’s, pre-9-11 (while he was still teaching at Fuller, he’s now at Yale), I’m finding it to be quite prophetic. The problem is, the exclusion bred into our culture has not subsided at all since that tragedy; it seems to be getting stronger. It is indeed interesting that as the ” cultured West” we continually preach the gospel of egalitarianism and full equality for all; yet we probably have just as much of a defined sense of the “other” than the countries which we refer to as “savage,” such as Rwanda or Bosnia in recent history. What’s worse is that use our banners of equality to hide the fact that we are exclusionists. The simple remedy that many Americans likely believe is the answer to Iraq’s problems? The same as the one that our government upholds… make ’em like us. Yet this is no less a form of exclusion; we allow no room for the “other” to exist when we simply assimilate them into ourselves and our own ideologies.
So, last night I was pretty broken about my own willing participation (through my complaceny and silence) in this exclusion. About my contribution to the structures and powers that serve to hold people down. The “other” is produced by these structures, and we are not void of these victims in the US, and especially not here in the San Gabriel Valley. I watched a presentation on foster children yesterday at Lake Avenue Church, for a “rallying of the troops” meeting to run a 1-week camp for 50 foster children in the Pasadena area by this time next year. I kept having flashbacks to some of my old campers from T Bar M… and to the children I met in Africa this summer… and I thought a lot about the 4 former-foster children that live in my community, who I’ve grown to love. I also thought about a presentation I saw in-class last spring regarding the LA foster care system– and how terrible it really is. I got angry and confused and depressed… and convicted… all at the same time by watching this presentation.
And as I write this, a hurricane is tearing apart New Orleans. I remember living on the Gulf Coast; 10 years ago Hurricane Opal did to our part of the Florida Panhandle what Katrina is doing to NO (although Katrina is a tad stronger, and NO is below sea level, which makes it a much higher threat.) As I watched the news in a coffee shop yesterday afternoon, Katrina was Cat 5 and had gusts up to 200. I was convinced that by Monday evening NO wouldn’t exist anymore… and had it stayed that strong, that may have been the case. I went to church last night at Warehouse feeling empty and guilty… singing to God, asking to be “filled” and inspired…meanwhile hundreds of people await their likely death, and thousands of homes are waiting to be destroyed? But of course, it was no different than any other night in that respect… Niger, Zimbabwe, Iraq… all the death going on there didn’t go away when I stopped watching/reading the news that morning! Having just seen African poverty with my own eyes just weeks before, it had been frequently out of my mind, meanwhile I spent money and bought needless groceries and listened to my music and analyzed my finances… and somehow I felt like part of the exclusion all at once last night.
So I cried a lot. And wrote a song (which I hadn’t been able to do in 6 months). And I felt really lonely and prayed all night for NO, and for Sara’s family (my friend from A&M, whose family is stuck in NO thanks to traffic and already have rising water in their house.) It’s all that I knew to do. So I was quite thankful to God in the morning when I heard that Katrina was downgraded to a Cat 3, just like Opal had been downgraded 10 years ago just as we hit the flood of interstate traffic during evacuation. Even now, my mom’s cries of gratitude to God in our car that night repeat themselves in my head…I confess to God for calling Him “distant” and getting so pissed off at Him last night…
It’s not over for NO now by any means; the city will likely sustain numerous casualties and destruction. So continue to pray for them, even beyond the passing of the storm as they attempt to salvage what’s left.
And, I have many more thoughts regarding the Volf book… and I haven’t even read the happy part yet. (There’s always a happy part; that’s the cool thing about studying theology.) So more to come in that respect, whether you like it or not.
Off to somehow gather my scattered thoughts so I can start my papers. God Bless.