Sunday, January 31, 2010

Christian Imperialism in a Time of Crisis

Updated: I found a link to this article, too.

We all know about the terrible devastation in Haiti, and we may be certain that many families have been torn apart by death and destruction. So why, in the midst of all this turmoil and chaos, would a group of Christians think it was a good idea to smuggle Haitian children across the border?

I get that they have good intentions in building an orphanage for children who've lost their families in this earthquake. However, how could these Americans possibly know that these children are, indeed, orphans? They did not bother to get proper papers, or investigate that these children had no family to care for them. They simply accepted the word of those who brought the children to them. Given the scope of international child smuggling rings, and the likelihood that many such children end up being sold as prostitutes or sex slaves, you would have thought that a group of committed Christians would have done at least a little due diligence.

They also did not think to keep these Haitian children in their native land - they planned to build a fancy orphanage at or near a resort in the Dominican Republic. One may say that Haiti is not at the rebuilding stage yet, but the entire nation has not been devastated. They could just as easily have worked to build an orphanage somewhere other than Port-au-Prince. Given the contentious relationship between Haiti and the Dominican Republic, this just smacks of extreme cultural ignorance.

This entire situation is a perfect example of American Christian Imperialism. These people had it on their hearts to go do something about the devastation in Haiti, caring for the youngest and the poorest. That's all well and good, but what about what God has placed on the hearts of Haitians? Did these Christians even think to ask what God had said to the Haitians? Did they bother to LISTEN to what Haiti needs, or did they just assume that since they had heard God's word on their hearts, that the rest of the world would just line up behind it? Thinking you have a divine mission from God is not an excuse to be ignorant about the people you want to "save," and it certainly isn't a license to break international law to get what you want.

There is hearing God's word, but there is also discerning God's word. It is not enough to simply hear God's word - or to think you have - but you must also discern the meaning of this word. And when God's word involves other people, it's a good idea to discern God's word with those other people. It's not naivete to fail to take this step; it is willful ignorance. And it is, frankly, unconscionable. You can't just act like this - you have to think, to test your motives, to discern God's will. You can't just assume because your heart goes out to the orphans in Haiti, that this means God is telling you to go build them an orphanage for them (again, in another country, where you have to smuggle children to get there).

I am not surprised that this sort of imperialistic thinking goes on in American Christianity. We've gotten a bad name acting imperialistic for a long time, both as a nation and as Christians not working for the government. Deservedly so, given what we know of this situation. We strut around the world, thinking we know best. In the process, we destroy families, communities, and nations. Who is to say that a group of Christians from America know what's best for these Haitian orphans? Do these Christians even know anything about Haiti, its history, its culture, its people, its struggles, its dreams? Its relationship with the Dominican Republic, where the children were going to be smuggled to (hint: it's not a friendly one)?

I doubt these Christians considered the additional trauma these children they are trying to "save" are going to be put through - torn from families and communities, uncertain in many cases if their parents are even dead, probably encouraged to learn another language in order to communicate with their "rescuers" (because I'm willing to bet these Christians don't know French or any of the other languages [besides English] spoken in Haiti). Because fundamentally, it is not really about the children. It is about burnishing their credentials as "good Christians" who "sacrifice" for God's kingdom.

I am also not surprised that this group (and its pastor) is trying to put the best spin on it. "They were just trying to do good," seems to be the refrain. If all that do-gooding, however, breaks international laws, one has to wonder what the real motives of the people were. Sounds like they were more concerned with getting stars in their crown than they were truly helping these young, already-traumatized children. They had no prior relationship with Haiti or its people, and I am willing to bet they no absolutely NOTHING about transracial, transcultural adoption. (For information on both of those, go read this excellent article.)

Christ calls us to serve in his name, but he does not call us to do so in a vacuum. We are called to minister in communities, and to value the many voices at the table and the many ways God speaks to people. That means listening to the people we are trying to "save," and working as equal partners in that "saving."

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Gossip News

Okay, if the unconfirmed rumors are true that Brangelina have broken up, all I can say is that the relentless media attention about their relationships - and the nearly-weekly covers of People US Weekly, OK! and what-have-you - definitely contributed to the stress and strain of their relationship.

In fact, this relentlessness is part of the reason I stopped reading People magazine and its ilk. Fundamentally, I finally realized that celebrities deserve some privacy, and that by continuing to read such magazines, I was contributing to the paparazzification of their lives. That wasn't who I wanted to be, and it's not the life I want for celebrities to have to endure.

Friday, January 22, 2010

This Week in Idiocy

I can't promise that this will become a thing, but this week seemed to be full of all kinds of crazy. The stupid - it burns!

1. Plane diverted because of prayer. Some idiots saw a young Jewish man praying with tefillin, freaked out and thought it was a bomb threat. Man was unresponsive (maybe because he was trying to pray without being interrupted?), plane got diverted, and a bunch of people ended up with egg on their face. But the piece de resistance: the FBI investigator is reported to have said of the tefillin, "This is something most Americans probably have never seen before."

Um, seriously, dude? Have you never ridden the subway in NYC (elsewhere, too, probably - NYC is just my personal experience)? Never watched a crime drama episode involving observant Jews (I'm sorry, crime dramas just do variations on certain themes, the "death in an observant Jewish community" is standard fare)? Never heard of tefillin? Or even heard their description? I must have read descriptions of tefillin in a half-dozen novels or more, to say nothing of the non-fiction I've read. And I don't even read a lot of Jewish-themed stories. (Or maybe I do, compared to the rest of the population.....)

Gosh, maybe I am more highbrow than I thought.

2. John Edwards is a big fat tool. Thanks for your utter lack of integrity. I knew you were a creep when I met you in Red Oak. Alas, this latest "revelation" (first scooped by The National Enquirer, for God's sake!) is without any sense of grace. And how nice of your mouthpieces to try to put Elizabeth on the moral high ground yet again by saying she really wanted you to acknowledge paternity. You weren't doing it for her sake, just as you weren't .... well, doing the baby's mother for Elizabeth's sake. You're just doing this for yourself. Think with the brain between your ears next time. (Oh, and I gave you the link to Jezebel not because it's the best link, but just because I like them.)

3. NBC. Really? You think Conan is worth just $45 million? Leno sucks at his prime-time experiment and you fire CONAN? Y'all are nuts. Y'all were asses to pull the rug out from under him with The Tonight Show, and y'all were asses to stick with Jay. I'm sorry, but Conan is funnier and will make some network very happy to have him bring in the younger generations. Aren't they the ones you want to market to, anyway? I'd consider ending my Fox moratorium* if he ended up there, just on principle. Gah.

I won't talk about the election in Massachusetts and the subsequent hand-wringing among the Dems, because I can't decide who's more of an idiot: the 53% of Massachusetts residents who elected Brown, or the Dems who think that 41>59. Get your act together, Dems.

I also won't talk about Pat Robertson's odious comments about Haiti, first of all because it was last week in idiocy and second of all because it just goes without saying that Robertson is a big fat idiotic tool. Bless his heart.

Of course, even when I think these people are acting like idiots, I try to remember that they are God's beloved children, and that behaving like an idiot doesn't mean you ARE an idiot. But what God must think of humanity with these examples, I shudder to imagine. And, I am loathe to ask it, but what am I missing from the news this week?

* Okay, I don't really avoid Fox altogether. How would I survive without the Simpsons? And I have enjoyed Dollhouse, primarily because Eliza Dushku could probably earn her toaster if she propositioned me. But mostly I try to avoid the channel for reasons that should be obvious to anyone who knows my political bias.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Here's a Fun Facebook TimeSuck

A few days ago I mentioned on Facebook how much I love when my worlds collide. It was in reference to the fact that a dear friend just had a baby, and that one of her closest friends posted photos that I'd wanted to comment on. Not being this friend's "Facebook friend," I couldn't. But we've kind of interacted on ye olde FB previously, so I just "friend-requested" her. And she accepted! And we learned we have a whole bunch of things in common. It's been delightful.

Also, recently, when I friended the director of the play I'm currently in, I discovered that he knows Intern (now Minister) Extraordinaire. It's not that strange, as she grew up in the town where he lives. But, knowing those two people in such different contexts made it very surprising to me that they knew each other. And to make that story even weirder, what is truly remarkable is that this director and I lived in Sonoma during the same time and have mutual friends from that time period. And now we both live in the same part of Iowa.

So in my Facebook ramblings, I've been checking out the "mutual friends" link on some of my friends' pages, trying to see if we have overlapping friends from non-overlapping parts of our lives. For example, my friend K is a minister in Virginia, but not in the same denomination as I am. She knows some people from her denomination that I know from seminary. But that's an easy example. I'm still looking for that wild, weird and wonderful friend link where I go, "How in the world do you two people know each other?" It's a pretty small world, but I'm pretty sure I'm going to be pleasantly surprised soon. As an example, if my friend R, who was my first colleague here, and, say, my middle-school drama teacher, turned out to be good friends from way back when, well, that would just about make my day.

Share your wild, wonderful Facebook stories in the comments section if you so choose.

(It occurs to me that anyone reading this post who does not know anything about Facebook would be utterly confused. We might call those people "Muggles," but the odds that they would understand that reference are probably also pretty slim.)