James in light of Kony 2012

A few evenings ago, my roommate asked me if I had seen all the posts about Kony on facebook. What? Who?

That’s likely the reaction of most people upon first hearing this name… first, is that a name or a thing? Oh right. Joseph Kony is a Ugandan man wanted for numerous atrocities. There’s a video by the organization called Invisible Children that aims to catch him by making him infamous around the world; they plan to do that by encouraging any and everyone to share it, tweet it, blog it (hm… that would be what I’m doing I suppose)… I won’t link to this video, because not linking is part of my point. You can easily Google/Youtube it yourself.

[Since writing this post, I have watched the video, though I wanted to reflect first before watching it and being ‘swept off my feet’. Scroll down to see thoughts post-viewing.]

I have admittedly not watched it or thought much about it, being of the sort who generally avoids viral internet trends, but I have read a thing or two. First I read this blog post by Tim Challies (http://www.challies.com/articles/kony-2012), then I followed a link from that post to this one written by Kilama Dennis, a Ugandan survivor of some of those aforementioned atrocities (http://arccuganda.blogspot.com/2012/03/kony-2012-survivors-perspective.html). Finally, having read those two posts, I was reminded of several parts of the book of James that I studied some months ago.

James 1:19 -21
19 Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. 21 Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.

James 1:26-27
26 If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. 27 Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.

James 4:11-12
11 Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. 12 There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?

James 5:7-11
7 Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. 8 You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. 9 Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door. 10 As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 11 Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.

Now, the caveat here is that you read those two blog posts and at least the passages from James quoted above before reading on. Otherwise, what I say here rather briefly will not be as sensical as intended.

As Kilama Dennis admitted, “the thought of capturing Kony arouses more anger, more pain and feelings of revenge that are unbiblical.” According to James, that would be focusing more on taking justice into our own hands than on showing mercy and love to the “widows and orphans” who were oppressed and are still in despair. That is not to say social justice is unimportant or that capturing Kony would be a bad thing, but that social justice in the sense of showing mercy and giving hope to the oppressed is vastly different from the justice of retribution on the person of Joseph Kony. The important thing is less to capture him and more to show mercy and give support to the oppressed. To quote James verbatim, “the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” As Dennis points out, justice is not going to be inaugurated by the capture of Kony, for there are many others who are just as bad or worse, but justice on earth occurs if “the oppressed are restored and given living hope.”

Here is one more quote from Dennis that I appreciate. He naturally craves revenge — in his human and sinful nature. But, “Now,” he says, “I realize that revenge is for God, I personally have handed Kony over to God. The gospel of Jesus has helped me over come these feelings, the thought of arresting Kony arouses sin in me, reminds me of how hopeless I am and how people do not understand me.”

So as James says, “You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.”

The important matter is not capturing Kony, but making good our concern for the victims by restoring the brokenhearted and giving hope to the hopeless. This does not necessarily mean you need to support these specific Ugandans either! If you are supporting people who are poor/oppressed/hopeless elsewhere, that is just as good. That’s the kind of pure and undefiled religion that James 1:27 speaks of.

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——— After watching the video ———
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So, I’ve just watched the KONY 2012 video. I think I still stand by this post that I wrote before watching it. I also now understand why it’s “KONY 2012” in capitals with the year: It’s election year in the U.S.

This video is about human triumph. It’s about American triumph. It’s about the American dream, where one regular man can work his way up to make a difference. There are many great things about this video. First, it tries to make people care about something that matters. If Kony is caught, all the children in the LRA and all the children whom he could kidnap will be free. Second, it manipulates our emotions through the clips with the guy’s son and with Jacob to make us care. Third, it shows carefully selected footage and music to motivate us to act and be part of a great cause.

A slight concern I still have with the video is that it generalizes the success over capturing J. Kony to mean ‘saving the world’. Tell me that’s not what you feel in the panoramic shots of the ‘army of peace’ standing united and the plastering of posters all over the city to upbeat music.

The main reason I still stand by my prior post is… Mao Zedong, previous chairman of Communist China. Why? Similar to Kony, but in the 1960s, he brainwashed almost a million Chinese youth, who called themselves Red Guards, to be loyal only to him, and to tattle on parents who weren’t loyal to Mao, or just hadn’t memorized his Little Red Book or hung his picture in their mantleplace. Mao gave these youth whips and had them torturing parents, relatives and anyone else, sometimes killing them, and certainly handing them over to the Chinese Communist Army to then be incarcerated and subjected to brainwashing. One method of torture was to make them kneel on broken glass. Mao is dead now, but the youth who were scarred by this are still scarred. What I am saying, I suppose, is that stopping the tyrant is important, but it’s also easy to forget about those who live in the aftermath of a tyrant’s destruction when the tyrant is gone. Osama Bin Laden has finally been caught, but is the world a much better place, like the rhetoric prior to his capture suggested? No, because Joseph Kony is still out there. After Joseph Kony is caught, will the world be a much better place? No, because the next tyrant is is still out there.

What should we do? I can’t say definitively. I’ll admit that. You could join in the KONY 2012 cause. That wouldn’t be a bad thing. It would be a good thing if your heart is in the right place about it. But don’t go in thinking that it alone will change the world. And don’t be deluded that you will change the world and make it all better. That is for God.

If by this time you still have not read Kilama Dennis’ blog post, you should. (http://arccuganda.blogspot.com/2012/03/kony-2012-survivors-perspective.html) It’s from the perspective of a Ugandan survivor, not an American middle class man who wants to leave a legacy. It’s humble, and strikes me as the thoughts of a peacemakers who will be blessed, for they shall be called sons of God. Matthew 5:9

More on the topic:

http://newhopeuganda.org/2012/03/21/a-loving-caring-family-lets-them-know-we-care/ [plus a video response]

Assorted Stir Fry of Thoughts

Read different things today worth making a note of:

  1. “Certain speech is not as valuable as other speech, and I think we need to say that,” says one commentator on the rise of internet fads like Youtube videos used to post moments of death captured on video. [See When a Family Tragedy Turns Into a Youtube Sensation] This quote is a good one for considering the worthiness of speech coming from my own mouth. Or the worthiness of what I type.

  2. Second thing is fairness and equity. Fairness can be misunderstood as necessarily a good thing, but it is not the same is justice. Often, our perception of unfairness is self-focused: we will compare ourselves to others. Are we getting the same deal? Justice is not comparison-driven but standard-driven. And unlike that creepy picture of identical blue humanoids, we are uniquely created by God and unconditionally chosen and saved by His will alone. It’s not fair at all, but completely just. [See Fair is a Four-Letter Word]
  3. Finally, I’m pretty sure I’ve thought all seven of these things. [See I’m Not a Christian, But I’m Coming to Your Church This Sunday]

Justice

I do love justice.

Justice is something I have been painfully aware of from childhood. I never really resented being hit by my parents if I did something wrong. I might resent the shame of being caught, and want to self-justify, but when the ruler came down on me, I knew I deserved it. (I think I now own and use that ruler, weird.) I would have been disappointed at my parents if they did not carry through – that would have been scandalous, not the hitting. (Yes, I am all for physical punishment for children within reasonable limits. Don’t be wishy-washy with children – they love justice more than you think. Or else they should.)

I guess I’m writing this to encourage myself in seeking justice today, though I’d really rather not. I wish I wasn’t so aware of what mistakes were made and why they might have been made. Then we could all just woolly through and ignore things that we don’t really want to change.

From the small,
Justice begins –
Pervert it then,
Perverted all;
At the large
How would it end?

Sometimes not being able to leave things be is perfectionism, and you should drop it. There is a time for pursuing things through though, when you should be relentless. I think justice is something that requires a thorough pursuit. Oh I really would rather not. It would be convenient, sometimes, for justice to be perverted. – It is not silly though! I shan’t listen to you. We cannot pass this off as silly, and sit pretty with what I have now, otherwise bigger and more important things will just be silly too.

This is because my Father is just. More just than I.

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EPILOGUE

The event was as satisfactorily unsatisfactory as I thought it would be. But the motto of my old high school (King George V School) ran through my head, along with the rather pompous school song based on said motto: Honestas Ante Honores.

Relativism. Justice.

When people tell me that they think truth and morals are relative – say, that we today cannot judge people of the past for their actions, or that you cannot judge me and vice versa – are they not admitting that among us humans, no one can claim to know justice?

And yet when we say that no one of us can judge perfectly, but we still desire justice in some way, – say, to point out the ‘wrongdoings’ of  Israel or Palestine – do we not subconsciously infer that there is Justice existing ‘out there’, somewhat out of our reach, where we know of it but do not know or practice it? (That perfect Justice is somehow possible.)

We are like children squabbling over spilled milk; a tumbled block castle; an unsatisfactory game of Monopoly. (Though in my book, Monopoly is an unsatisfactory game in itself.) We as children appeal to Mom/Dad, whom we recognise as a higher order of justice. And then when that justice rules against our favour, sometimes we whine about it, and mumble “old-fashioned,” “playing favourites!” “what a wheeze.”

So it is with us and God.

I think we desire his capital-J Justice, and yet we think: “Oh, you allow innocent people to die?” “I did not see you punish that evil person!” Forgetting to consider that we may not understand the justice that is meted out, or temporarily withheld, by that Justice, we sometimes throw up our hands and give up on God being good in any possible way.

Hence we desire absolute Justice, resent the thought of it being ‘still to come’, but we don’t dare to claim it ourselves. No sane man would.

“Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”” John 14:6-7 [read the chapter]

“In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction.For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.” 2 Timothy 4:1-5 [read the chapter]