Thursday, October 14, 2010

Looking for Warm? Not so Fast...

It's essentially impossible to get warm water in our little home on Lesley Avenue. Unlike the apartments we've rented in America, where the hot water is always ready, and we could turn on the beautiful handle, then add a bit of cold and get warm, here, we first turn on the water-heating mechanism inside of our boiler-system-thingy.

The water heats up, and then we can get hot (really, really hot) water. However, when we try and turn the handle for cold water, the stream rushing from the faucet simply turns cold.

Try again: hot on (scalding hot), cold faucet on...warm?...nope. Cold.

So, we've started to learn to live with the extremes of the water, and I'm starting to give up trying to find a nice warm water flow in which to wash dishes. Instead, this morning, as Tyler played with a large digger--trying to stuff a lego-man we affectionately call JO-JO MAN into the driver's seat of said digger--I simply let my hands get a bit burned as I washed the dishes.

It made me think of the conversations Jennifer and I have been having lately. (At night, once Tyler is down for sleep and we're sitting on comfy chairs in our little living room.) We've been talking about what she's studying, and it's pretty hard stuff to stomach.

27 million slaves worlwide exist today.


And that's a low projection, because it's difficult to know how many slaves are out there that haven't been found, or whose dire enslavement is kept a secret from authorioes and activist groups like Kevin Bales' Free the Slaves.

Many of the 27 million slaves are victims of sex trafficking--something many of us would rather not think about, let alone learn about.

But during our conversations, I realized that here I am, a 29 year old man who considers himself a pretty progressive guy, who listened to NPR to and from my teaching job back in the states, who reads progressive material and tries to engage with culture without being overtaken by it, and yet I had never heard this fact until Jennifer started researching.

The quandary I came to is simply this: how is that possible? How is it conceivable that such tragedy can exist in our world and yet awareness of it can be so scant?

We carried our conectures one step further to look at the idea of American Christianity. Jennifer and I have been a part of great churches in the U.S. These churches have certainly taught us much, and helped us grow and learn.

And yet.

We started to wonder if it's right for a church to seek so much safety. To steer clear of issues that should beckon the very heart of the church. I have yet to hear the word "slavery" mentioned in a sermon, and whenever we've heard talk of fundraising, it's usually in conjunction with a refurbishment or a remodel of the sanctuary, the parking lot, or missions work. Don't get me wrong, it seems most churches give to cuases that are beyond themselves, of course, but how much?

When I read of the way Jesus responds to those in need in the gospels, it seems his point is to heal out of his great love or great pity for a person. Tony Campolo makes the claim that when Jesus says, "Greater works than these will you do" regarding the miracles, Jesus really means that our collective love will be able to do even more.

So it is becoming harder and harder to see that if the status quo of our world is going to change, the church must certainly change. There are certainly groups--like Sojourners in DC with Jim Wallis, and others who live in communities that seek social justice and community-growth and change, like Shane Claiborne--who are doing it. But on the whole, it seems like we've accepted the fact that warm is okay.

Warm will do.

But it won't.

As long as we consent to live thinking that small change is sufficient, and that maintaining the status quo is fine when it comes to a world so much bigger than ourselves, we're already in dangerous territory.

Jennifer and I are still learning about the tension of consumerism, ownership, and giving, freedom. We've got tons more to learn. But the more I hear about the tragedy of slavery in the world today--and that amidst so many other crises--it becomes harder and harder to substantiate a way of life that calls for no wide-scale changes, and seeks instead to help us own more, own more, own more.

I worry that most of us may find that we end up owning lots, but sadly realizing it all only makes our hearts a bit warm.

Perhpas there is more heat to be had by taking other paths, other journies.