Friday, February 18, 2011


The Good And The Bad

Paul Vander Klay @ Think Christian notes that there are many stories of humanitarian efforts gone wrong and what lessons a Christian can take from those efforts:
It is no secret that this new revelation of the humanitarian industry has long plagued the church. Part of the irony is that many see the humanitarian industry as kind of an alternative to the church for bringing peace on earth and like many in the church will simply want to close their ears to these results. Both the church and the humanitarian industry have too often been guilty of loving the mission more than the people the mission is intended to serve. Intention is not insignificant and outcomes are important, yet what we see here is that as is true of almost every human endeavor outcomes are simply not within our control.

For me the only answer is the strange dynamic of our simultaneous loss to the age of decay while the resurrection grows within that Paul speaks about in places like 1 Corinthians 4 and 5. We begin the path to helping the other only to quickly realize that it will cost us more than we intended to expend. Even when we over-extend beyond what those around us consider responsible, we realize that other dark motivations and needs were playing on both givers and receivers and in the end often the best accomplishments were incidental. Nothing short of the renewal of all things will heal human history. This is a power we can bear witness to in our decaying flesh yet not employ in the ways we desperately wish we could.
Vander Klay's conclusions are right on as far as they go here, but somehow I find it chicken*&^% when he begins his discussion a bit earlier, after setting it up with horror stories of benevolence gone wrong, by saying "I am not at a point where I can say the world would be better without all humanitarian organizations"

Theological reflection is nice, but in this case it does almost nothing to solve the problem. His stories are of near genocide to attract aide - not trivial stuff - Nor is it stuff to be contemplated while people die. Real problems demand real solutions.

Have we done it wrong - on hell yeah. we are likely to do it wrong again. Not the point. The point is we need to keep trying. The tension of the "already, not yet" is not a tension of thought - it's a tension of knowing it is OK to fail and try again.

I grow weary of Christians feeling powerless. We have the greatest power unimaginable at our fingertips. And yes, I said "unimaginable." Power byond comprehension - power that can create ex nihlo. Our problem is not a lack of capacity - it is a lack of being able to use our capacity properly.

But we do not stop trying.

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