It is interesting to see what makes headlines and what people are interested in reading about on news sites. Today (October 26, 2011) the most read story at CNN.com is about “Mini-Gaga” a four foot tall Lady Gaga impersonator. Hmm. Perhaps the New York Times has a more sophisticated readership. So what are the urbane, globally aware, highly educated reading? At this moment, the “most read” article at the New York Times website for the last 30 days is titled “Protesters Bare All Over Proposed San Francisco Law.” It’s about a “nude-in;” naked people protesting a proposal restricting public nakedness.
The real news story is how the media, particularly US media outlets, have under reported the famine occurring in the Horn of Africa. The UN is pretty stingy in their use of the word “famine.” In the past twenty years they have handed out that designation to only a handful of situations, but in July that sad label was awarded to the crisis in Somalia, with much of East Africa in danger of following suit. August, September and most of October have now passed with little coverage of the famine as the crisis grows. One displacement camp in Kenya designed for 30,000 has swelled to over 500,000. Tens of thousands have died, and each day many more are dying the slow death of starvation. Yet to look at the headlines you would assume Lady Gaga impersonators and nude protests are our most pressing concerns. You might never know that some are claiming this is the worst humanitarian crisis in 50 years … and we’ve had some pretty severe crises, even in the last ten years.
Which may be why this famine is so off the screen of our news sites. There is public tiredness over the mass death and destruction which seems to have ramped up in recent years. The words “humanitarian crisis” have been used just in the past couple of weeks in reference to Liberia, Libya, North Korea and Thailand to name just a few troubled locations. How can we remain compassionate for those who are suffering, avoiding the prophetic denouncement that Amos laid upon the Israelites for their complacency over the plight of the oppressed (Amos 6:1-7)?
Prayer: Prayer is a valuable resource which is not easily depleted. As long as we have breath we have the currency of prayer. I believe in praying to thwart the designs of those who are perpetrating evil, such as warring factions who control aid in order to gain power. I believe in praying for rain, and strength for the dying and stamina for those who are assisting the vulnerable. This is praying for God’s will on earth as it is in heaven. As overwhelmed as I can become there is always a simple, “Lord have mercy,” within me.
Generosity: There is something about my tightfistedness which binds me up in so many ways. Stinginess brings on a sort of spiritual and emotional constipation. Giving can loosen me up. It helps me realize that I need to simplify my lifestyle in regards to the time and money I waste on things which are frivolous. Striving first for the kingdom of God over my own needs helps to free me of my self-absorption and can help cultivate a healthy dependence on God.
Limitation: There is something beautiful about coming to the end of yourself. My need for rest, for simplicity, for a few good relationships and for daily bread are made more acute when life gets complex and I become depleted. In the times in which I am overwhelmed with the crises around me I am reminded of my humanity and my finitude. This is a good thing, because when I admit that I am not enough, God is all that is left.
Community: I am most easily overwhelmed when I face problems alone. We are meant to be in community with others. My wife and children, my friends at work and in my neighborhood and at my church are all resources that I cannot operate without. Working together with others, even if simply in united prayer, can bring fresh energy and willpower into what feels like a crushing situation.
Those of us who want to follow Christ closely will need to figure out how not to grow weary of well-doing when there’s so much wearisome well-doing that needs doing. Facing crises as a community rather than as individuals, acknowledging our limitations rather than attempting to be a messiah, giving what we have to give instead of hoarding our resources and praying at all times are a few ways that we can stand in the gap for a world in such desperate need of Jesus and his kingdom.