Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Class Warfare

The reason severe injustice exists is because everyday people will not speak out against it.  We cannot allow protesters or talking heads to be the spokespersons for society; to stand against war, bigotry, racism or classism.  We have to do it ourselves, in our everyday lives, politely but firmly to those who display their prejudice.

Perhaps we are too shy, or too afraid of confrontation.  I understand.  I have those days in which confrontation feels like a chore, instead of the joy it often is to have groups of people upset at me.  There are those rare days that I’d rather go to bed than write to the person who is wrong on the internet.   Or perhaps we just don’t know what to say.

Well, let me give you a hand, at least in the area of classism.  When you hear someone making a classist statement, there are things you can say that will gently remind them that poor people are actually human beings.  It’s a public service we should all provide. 

Below are some excellent examples of classist quotes, and I’ll provide a response.  When you hear or see these kinds of statements, perhaps you can just repost one of these responses and it will make your job of stopping classism easier.

“Try to imagine a … presidential candidate saying in front of the cameras, ‘One reason that we still have poverty in the United States is that a lot of poor people are born lazy.’ You cannot imagine it because that kind of thing cannot be said. And yet this unimaginable statement merely implies that when we know the complete genetic story, it will turn out that the population below the poverty line in the United States has a configuration of the relevant genetic makeup that is significantly different from the configuration of the population above the poverty line. This is not unimaginable. It is almost certainly true.” —Charles Murray, “Deeper Into the Brain,” National Review, 2000

As a famous intellectual and scientist, I would like to think that you know the difference between “almost” and “certainly.” And perhaps the reason you have never heard a presidential candidate say this statement is because the candidate certainly does.  (Heh. Heh.  See what I did there?)

“We have got this tailspin of culture, in our inner cities in particular, of men not working and just generations of men not even thinking about working or learning the value and the culture of work, and so there is a real culture problem here that has to be dealt with,” -Paul Ryan, Bill Bennet’s Morning in America.

I know, Congressman Ryan, that you are a hard working man, having experience at working two jobs at a time and raising children on your own with inadequate nutrition and little support from your family… oh, you don’t?  Perhaps we have pinpointed the real cultural problem.  The one pinpointed by billionaire Warren Buffett:  “There’s class warfare, all right, but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.”

“The typical poor person in the United States has a far higher living standard than the public imagines. While their lives are not opulent, they are far from the images of dire poverty conveyed by the press, liberal activists, and politicians”.– Heritage Foundation Website, http://origin.heritage.org/issues/poverty-and-inequality/inequality

Yeah.  Sure.  The three and a half million people who are homeless every year in the United States have a pretty decent standard of living.   You cannot know the life of the poor until you live it.  If you would like to rule with justice, you should live in an mental hospital or a nursing home for six months to understand what citizens at the bottom live with.

Poverty is caused by laziness.- 27 percent of all Americans.

“Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of heaven.
Woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort.” -Jesus

I don’t know why you think helping someone, people who were born and dying on food stamps. I don’t know why you think that’s admirable. And yes… a lot of people are lazy and a lot of people are becoming lazier and we’re not doing people a favor, by the way. “  -Charles Payne on Sean Hannity’s show 1/7/14

Helping the poor heals one’s soul.  Speaking ill of the poor without evidence empties one’s spirit.

Prejudiced statements against the poor, both black and white are not just a recent phenomenon.  Here’s a quote from 1947. (I had a quote about poor black folks, but I didn’t put it in because it was too long.):
"Poor whites lacked ambition; they were violent, sexually promiscuous people who did not respect human life."-Wayne Flynt  http://www.demos.org/blog/1/14/14/people-have-always-thought-poor-were-lazy-degenerates
Perhaps we shouldn’t be speaking to a whole class of people as being immoral.  The same lens might be turned on ourselves.

“My humble observation is that most long-term poverty is caused by self-sabotage by individuals,” he argued. “Drug use. Drunkenness. Having children without a family structure. Gambling. Poor work habits. Disastrously unfortunate appearance. Above all, and counted in the preceding list, psychological problems (very much including basic laziness) cause people to be unemployed, have poor or no work habits, and enter and stay in poverty.” –Ben Stein

Mr. Stein, allow me to introduce you to Nobel laureate, Muhammad Yunnus: “Most people distance themselves from the issue by saying that if the poor worked harder, they wouldn't be poor…The fact that the poor are alive is clear proof of their ability.” ― Muhammad Yunus, Banker to the Poor: Micro-Lending and the Battle Against World Poverty

About poor children: “They have no habit of showing up on Monday and staying all day or the concept of  ’I do this and you give me cash,’ unless it’s illegal.” –Newt Gingrich

So poor children don’t go to school?  They don’t get grades?  And poor children are all criminals?  Newt, are you trying to compete with Pat Robertson in crazy talk?

“You gotta look people in the eye and tell 'em they're irresponsible and lazy. And who's gonna wanna do that? Because that's what poverty is, ladies and gentlemen. In this country, you can succeed if you get educated and work hard. Period. Period.” –Bill O’Reilly

Bill, listen to me.  You are irresponsible with your words and lazy with your research.  Success is luck as much as work.  And classism is ugly and immoral.  Period.  Period.

Classism exists everywhere.  There is a long history of the famous and important talking down the poor.  Let’s not let anyone get away with it without being challenged. You can speak out in a much more polite manner than I, I'm sure.  But let's respond.   Let’s drive classism into the back alleys of the internet, where it belongs.

 “The Gospel takes away our right, forever, to discriminate between the deserving and the undeserving poor.”

― Dorothy Day

Thursday, April 24, 2014

The Problem With Praise

God, the Emperor of heaven and earth is the most praised entity that has ever existed, even more than Paul McCartney.   He has more hymns, songs, prayers, anthems, spontaneous outbursts, love poetry, essays, monologues, and even clich├ęs to his nature, character and works than any other being.  He is the only one recognized as so noble to have His pronoun capitalized.  That must be some sort of certificate on the wall that He can compare to other spirits, kings and celebrities: “Sure, Michael, you have the greatest selling album of all time, but I receive the most glory, how about that?”

But I can’t help but wonder if He is actually… comfortable with all this praise.  I know I wouldn’t be.  I certainly wouldn’t like millions of people extolling my physical characteristics as virtue.   I suppose if someone said, “Steve, your beard is glorious,” I’d respond with a humble “pshaw”, but if someone honored me for my height, I don’t know how to respond to that.  I wonder about people praising God for being eternal or almighty.  Did he do anything to obtain these characteristics?   Isn’t he a bit embarrassed for being extolled for that which is his basic nature?

I could understand a certain pleasure in being thanked for something that He had done.  We all like some gratitude for our hard work.  But I wonder how J.K. Rowling feels when the ten thousandth person approaches her humbly and mentions how much the Harry Potter books have meant to them and what an amazing author she is.  I think most uber-popular creators get a glazed look over their eyes and mumbles a half-heard, “Thanks” in response.  It can be wearying, receiving that enormity of thanks.

And what about being thanked for something you didn’t do?  I’ve had this experience quite a bit, being the head of a service organization.  “Thank you for that food,” “Thanks for the clothes,” and I just want to respond, “You know, I didn’t have anything to do with that.  You should thank David, he cooked it or the donors who gave it.”  But I don’t, because the recipient’s lives are complicated enough and they just want to express some gratitude, even if it is directed toward the wrong person.  After all, grateful people are statistically shown to be happier people, so we should encourage that characteristic.  I wonder if God does the same.  If he recognizes that even if He is thanked or praised inaccurately, that He receives it for our benefit.  On the other hand, I’ve very rarely heard him utter a “You’re welcome.”

Not all praise is good, either.  Of course there is sarcastic praise, which the Holy One might only receive occasionally by a disgruntled atheist.  But think about the woman who hears a whistle down the street and a shout, “Nice ass!”  Or my female friend on Facebook who receives requests to be friends with the quip “you’re pretty.”   It isn’t that this praise isn’t sincere, I have every reason to believe that it is, but that the worshippers are speaking honor for their own motives that do not match with those being “honored”.  What they intended is much different than a friend glancing at another’s clothes and responding, “You look great today!”  (One might wonder if there is an implication that other days might be a remarkably different story, but it’s best not to linger on that.)

I wonder if that sense of mixed motives is why Jesus rejects the praise of the wealthy young man in Mark 10.  He goes to Jesus and says, “Good teacher…” and Jesus immediately responds with, “Why call me ‘good’?  Only God is good.”  I suspect it isn’t because Jesus didn’t think of himself as good, but that he was feeling buttered up for a bigger bite, in this case to receive a free ticket to eternal life.  Once Jesus realized the man’s sincerity, he softened up and gave him the hardest blow, but a truth that he needed to hear.  But he wasn’t ready to give the youth this powerful knowledge when only receiving an adjective on false pretenses.

And this makes me wonder about our practice of praise.  In many… perhaps all… churches, we have a practice of pouring praise upon God’s name and power that seems highly suspect.  It is a habit to weekly heap words of gratefulness and honor from the lips of another that often runs counter to our daily experience.   Perhaps we sing and speak the words because of social pressure or because we appreciate the nostalgic feeling of familiar cadence.  But are we really expressing praise or thankfulness in the manner in which God desires it?  If I were God (which, thankfully, I am not), I’d prefer a sincere  statement of awe when viewing a mountaintop or an outburst of gratitude when the cancer is in remission rather than being the object of the worst possible musical ever made. 

Certainly the Bible, while establishing opportunities for regular worship, is equally harshly critical to that same worship.  “Take away your worthless offerings; incense is an abomination to me.”  “You are not pleased with sacrifices, otherwise I would give it.”  It isn’t that praise or worship isn’t inherently wrong, or that a certain kind is opposed by God.  Rather, one’s attitude is essential.   I wonder if God would be more pleased with my narrative of His work this last week rather than another rendition of the Doxology.  I wonder if God wonders about our motives and if we shouldn’t consider them more often.  And I occasionally wonder if my motives are ever worthy of God’s attention. 

Going through the motions never do it for me.  At first, perhaps it would be nice if my wife arose each morning, faced me and said, “Praise to you, my Lord” but after a while her bored tone would get to me, as well as the sense that she wasn’t speaking in all sincerity.   But if I actually did the dishes and she said, “Thanks, you did a great job” that would mean a lot to me.  Or if she read this article and said, “Wow, that’s some amazing writing.  I enjoyed it so much, I’ll read it again,” my heart would truly warm.

I sincerely doubt that this will happen though.  I wonder what God feels is his chance for sincere praise with the motive of a pure heart?   Or is He interested in it at all?  I find it fascinating that the Lord’s Prayer, in the form that Jesus taught it, contains not a single word of praise.  We have the title, “Father,” which introduces the phrase “hallowed be your name,” which is no statement of praise, but is, in fact, a prayer request for God himself. 

Jesus, when giving us a model prayer, does not give us a single line of praise or thanks, but the first three lines are requests for God himself.  “Make your name holy, may your kingdom come, may your will be done.”  These are requests for God to act in his own self-interest.  I wonder if God is less interested in honorifics, or, like the rest of us, just wants to be prayed for?

Jesus prayed in one of the few prayer requests ever made with an immediate answer, “Father, glorify your name.”  So the one who praises is not us, but God, who could do it much better than we.  And the Father responds, “I have glorified it and will glorify it again.”    So how is God praising himself?  Through his works, through his acts of mercy and power that we often miss because we are too busy listening to the number one worship song this week?

Well, Lord, keep it up.  We’ll be the backup to your lead vocal.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

What is Classism?

  • Cities enforcing camping laws on people who do not have homes.
  • A person refusing to hire someone because, although qualified, they don’t have an address.
  • Services not being available to people because they don’t have ID or the means to obtain ID.
  • Looking down at obese poor people who became obese because they bought what food they could afford
  • Seeing wealth as a matter of wisdom rather than a combination of luck and hording resources
  • Telling a beggar to “get a job”
  • A doctor telling a person that to be healthy they need a prescription they cannot afford.
  • Church members looking askance at a visitor who is not dressed well or who smells.
  • Laws reducing welfare because the poor "abuse" the system

Classism, like racism or sexism, has three different levels:
1.       1. The distrust, anger against or hatred of another person simply because they belong to a different class than one’s own.
2.     2.   Making assumptions about another person based on a stereotype of their class.
3.     3.   Societal structures which make it difficult for a person of lower classes to obtain the status of “normalcy” in society.

Because of the three different levels of classism, it is difficult for people to communicate to one another when they are speaking of different kinds of classism.  There is a kind of classism that speaks evil of all wealthy people (definition 1 or 2), but wealthy people are not affected by the societal structures, because they have enough power to overcome them.  Some wealthy, like Donald Trump, suffer under societal infamy (whether deserved or not), but Mr. Trump is not struggling to obtain the everyday benefits of American society.
Classism is still at the starting gate to be battled against.  The poor and homeless are still represented in the mass media as pathetic, not real people.  Politicians and pundits are allowed to call the poor “lazy” without mass outrage.  The assumption that it is easy to get a job or assistance is rampant among the population.  There are many more blocks to raising one’s class than ladders to overcoming blocks.  And classism is often ignored in discussions that speak about racism and sexism.

The first steps to overcoming classism are simple and can be done by most people with access to cyber social media:

1. Don’t let anyone make stereotyped statements about the poor without being corrected, whether personally or publicly.

2. We need to battle our own prejudices against the poor by finding out more about them.  Two good places to begin is with Barbara Ehrenreich’s journalistic expose’, Nickel and Dimed, http://www.amazon.com/Nickel-Dimed-Not-Getting-America/dp/0312626681
or Anawim’s site about homelessness: http://anawimcc.org/articles/dehumanization-articles/

3. We need to pursue relationship with the poor.  We can meet with and ask questions about the life of people we know who are struggling.  Or we can go to a local shelter and ask the homeless how they became homeless and what they do.  Only if the poorer classes and the middle classes communicate can prejudice be overcome.

4. We need to actively oppose any legislation that openly harms the poor, or that makes assumptions about the poor that are untrue.  It is not enough to shake our heads in shame, we can email our Congress Persons, Senators and President and speak to them about the classism in legislation. 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Three Deaths: Meditation for Good Friday

The penultimate death is this:
The underground passage to an unknown land;
The unseen forest creek leading to the deep ocean;
Eternal darkness of hidden rest;
The track divided, whether right or left we have already chosen.
It is a separation from all we love and rapture we have known to plunge into
A solemn welcome to the sea of hidden humanity.
The masses fear it
but we all must travel

The master Death is this:
He awakes you every morning, sorrow lowering your brow;
You roll over, wondering which way he will abuse your body;
He plants today the brutal children in your path, threatening, battering;
He is the menace in the officer’s gaze as he destroys your safety;
He is the fist of the skinhead landing on your face, your gut, your crown;
He is your rapist, thrusting his hell within you;
He is the kidnapper, forcing you to kill or be killed;
He is the comfort of the liar, easing us all to the ideas of war and famine;
He is the persistent nausea and pain of what another calls “healing”;
He is the slow quiet desperation, certain of an untimely ending.
He is living dystopia
For all the lowly.

The defeating death is this:
The newborn father awaking to give the mother respite;
Forgiving he who stole your life;
Giving the last coin to bring the injured to a healer;
Remaining awake all night to prevent a friend’s suicide;
Quitting your job because they abuse the poor;
Standing  before the soldier that he won’t shoot the innocent;
Daily waking exhausted to serve those without hope;
Becoming a slave to comfort the slave
Healing lepers and so becoming a leper;
Serving prisoners as a prisoner;
Ending on a hateful blade.
Embracing the master
Is death’s defeat.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Monoculturalism Destroys the World

Everyone wants to battle prejudice. To label people by their group, to stereotype an individual by who they look like or false ideas about their group is a horrendous crime. However, sociology teaches us that this is not a crime that we can just point at and jeer, but rather it is a sin within our own hearts. There is not a single person who has ever lived who has not made a determination of another’s personality, goals or vices based solely on one’s looks, one’s accent, one’s clothes or the people one is friendly with. Labeling on insufficient evidence is hardwired within us, and we will all stumble because we assume that our current experience with a person is based on a previous experience or story of an experience with someone we put in their same category. To confront a bigot, all we have to do is talk to the mirror.

It is for this reason that many Western societies have targeted certain areas of prejudice. We have laws against some forms of racism and sexism. We decry homophobia and religious bigotry. And so we should. Because to limit one’s rights or ability to survive due to one’s beliefs, one’s sex, one’s race or one’s sexual orientation is wrong. Every adult, without exception, should be allowed to make their own decisions about how to meet their needs, as long as it does not harm another. If one person has the money for an apartment, then all who can afford it and not harm others should get the same apartment. If one person can sit in a bar to drink, then all should be allowed. This is what Martin Luther King Jr. died for.

There is far to go in these focuses. Yes, an African American has been elected president, but thirty six percent of all abortions in the United States are on minorities, and 40 percent of all prisoners are African Americans. Yes, women are now able to succeed in almost any occupation men used to hold a monopoly on, but women still only make 77 cents for every dollar a man makes. Most people have the freedom to worship as they please, but any Muslim appointed to a high government position will soon have to resign because of false allegations that they have associated with terrorist groups. With prejudice, the work is never done.

With as much work as must be done on the bigotry that has been targeted, there is a problem with speaking of racism, or sexism or whatever other focus one has. For every prejudice our society focuses on and tries to wipe out, a hundred are ignored and five more are created. Yes, our society has made great strides in sexism, but assumptions are publicly made daily about the poor who receive welfare—that they are lazy, are cheating the system, are taking advantage of the government. Racism has changed and in some ways gone underground, but social workers can manipulate and control the lives of the mentally ill because the mentally ill have been deemed unable to care for themselves, even when they are not under a court-ordered commitment. People are allowed to worship as they please, but people who have pot for their own use are thrown into prison, although they have harmed no one—not even themselves.

The list of prejudices go on and on—the homeless are treated like criminals for not having a place to sleep, an immigrant is treated like an idiot for having an accent, someone who criticizes democracy or capitalism is held at arm’s length, distrusted, a person over 80 is treated as unable to make their own life decisions. Why is this? Not because we haven’t been taught about tolerance. Simply because our teaching of tolerance has been limited to only a few categories. Thus, we who are white males feel guilty at just glancing at a young black man, but we can openly speak hatred against the same man if we find out he is homeless and speaks with an African accent.

The issue is not racism, or sexism or any other -ism of limited scope. Our prejudice is against those who are unlike ourselves—of any other culture that is unfamiliar and uncomfortable. When one person or a group of people make a values decision that is different than one we would make—whether or not it would hurt another—that person is wrong and potentially dangerous. The different are not allowed to rule the society, because they will not uphold the cultural standards, whatever they may be. No matter how we try to attack bigotry, as long as we limit it to just a few issues, we will always fall behind our own unknown prejudices. I believe that our problem is not racism or homophobia—rather it is monoculturalism. The limitation of the “acceptable life” to only a few choices.

Our problem is not simply a lack of education. Certainly Americans would be more tolerant if they learned more about cultures, religions, and a variety of cultural mores and habits. But knowledge is not the answer to a monocultural outlook. The prejudice against women persisted for centuries because there was a mutual agreement between the sexes to not interfere with each other’s way of life, mores and areas of influence. Only when they began to live as equals, interfering with each other’s lives was there the beginning of understanding and a breaking down of the wall of sexism. The prejudice against African Americans persisted (and will continue to persist) as long as there is separation in neighborhoods, schools and cultural blocks. Only when there is a free and equal mixing between races will understanding and true hope come about.

And we cannot solve monoculturalism by just mashing neighborhoods together, because in the war of culture, the more dominant culture will always win, simply because they have more resources. The dominant culture will be quite "rational" when they dismantle the cultural values and visions of the non-dominant cultures.  And if rationality does not work, then brute force always does.  A homeless camp on private property, although neat and orderly, will be dismantled and all possessions stolen by a local government.  A neighborhood association will fine a house that holds to a different cultural standard from the houses around it.

I believe that the answer to monoculturalism is living in other cultures, being humble in a situation apart from that which we grew up. When I visited India, after living my whole life in Southern California, I was confronted and ashamed by some of the things I did which was acceptable in my own society. I learned that not only were different races, religions and languages acceptable, but so were different ways of thought. When I began to live among the poor, I learned that there was much that I had an instant revulsion to—dumpster diving, for one—that was not only acceptable, but actually a moral benefit to society.  We who are a part of a dominant culture need to live as a minority culture to understand how to recognize and protect minority cultures.

Only if we live humbly among different cultures will we learn to accept other cultures. Only if we are forced to confront our prejudices face to face with those who we appreciate but run in the face of our prejudices will we change.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Books on the Road to Damascus

I am a white male evangelical who repented.  I didn’t repent from being white or male, which I couldn’t help, and I understand from my science friends that it has to do with some genetic whoozawitz.  I still retain much that is evangelical, although my evangelical friends might disagree.   My repentance has not as much to do with being white or Christian, but it has much to do with the books I read.

It was a book that caused me to think that giving up everything I had and surrendering my life in service to the poor was a good idea.  It was a book that showed me that normal charity just wasn’t enough. It was a book that taught me that compassion to those not like us is the best way to live. It was a book that taught me that the Bible wasn’t written to the middle class evangelicals, but to outliers of society, and the best way to understand THAT book was to read it from their perspective. 

Clearly the lesson here is: Books are dangerous.  At least if you want to keep your life intact.

Obviously, not every book is dangerous.  I think reading Terry Pratchett is generally safe.  Or The Purpose Driven Life.  Or Jesus Calling.  I’m not saying that these books can’t  be inspirational or entertaining or even powerful.  But they can never be dangerous.  They aren’t the kind of books that take your life by the throat, choke out your last breath, toss you to the ground and say, “Now get up and walk.”  

There are books that speak to my privileged state as a white, relatively well-off, conservative evangelical  and says, “You know that this is not all there is to Jesus.”

Below are some books that belong to the “challenge the narrow-minded Christian” genre.  These are books that talk about how the author went through a process of paradigm shift and invites us to make that same change, to see the world in a different way than we did originally.  To see the world in a way closer to how Jesus saw it and sees it.  Yes, these books are all written by white male evangelicals.  But like the movie Knocked Up, these are books about male religious “slobs” who come to mature in powerful ways because a Lover taught them new ways to love.

Surprised by the Power of the Spirit by Jack Deere
Jack was a pastor of a moderate evangelical church who believed that the charismatic was of the devil and needed to be stopped.  This book details his journey to become a charismatic himself, not because of doctrine or theology (although that comes into play), but through the work of God.   It’s a well-told story, and Jack shows that his exclusionist theology was cutting off God’s work in his life.

The Jesus I Never Knew by Phillip Yancey
Phillip grew up with a Sunday School Jesus like many people, but when he really started examining the gospels, he found that the real Jesus was quite a bit different than the one taught in churches.  This is an open, informal examination of the gospels, explaining what Phillip learned by going directly to Jesus and learning from him.

Unexpected News: Reading the Bible Through Third World Eyes by Robert McAfee Brown
When Robert started living as a church worker in Latin America, he thought he was the expert on the Bible.  What he soon realized is that he had a lot to learn.  The Bible wasn’t written to middle class Americans, but to the rural poor, and if we are going to learn what the Bible says, we have to learn how the poor read it.

The Unkingdom of God by Mark Van Steenwyk
Mark grew up as a patriotic American evangelical, and saw nothing wrong with that.  It took Mark to learn, not only that the American way of leadership wasn’t necessarily the best one, but how to transform himself into a servant, as Jesus would want him to be.

Radical Faith by John Driver
Many of us were taught the basic lessons of church history by our church or seminary.  This is usually the story of our denomination or of Christendom’s triumph over the West.  But the heart of the church has been the outcast and rejected movements.  Driver examines many of these movements, planting a seed for a new way to look at the heart of the church over the last two thousand years.

Long Live the Riff Raff: Jesus’ Social Revolution by Steven Kimes
It’s a little tacky to suggest one’s own book, but here it is.  I grew up as a non-Christian in a wealthy part of the U.S. and when I spent time in India, I was shocked to see real poverty.  When I came back to the Bible after my experience, I found that Jesus’ teaching had a lot to say about social issues that I was never taught in the church.  This book is a summary of what I learned from Jesus about social structures and how to turn them upside down.

It is amazing how many of these books are simply Christian men being re-converted by Jesus.  Not converted by the church, by theology or by an excellent teacher.  Rather, in following Jesus, Jesus stopped us on our own road to Damascus and told us we were going the wrong way. 

I am sure that we all have things we need to learn from Jesus.  I pray that we would all be willing to keep being ready to repent, to be converted to be more like Jesus. 

Monday, April 7, 2014

Fixer Upper

The Creator gave us an incomplete world so we might share in his creation.

He gave us a world of violence so that we might create peace.

He gave us world world of competition so that we might reward charity.

He gave us a world of suffering so that we might heal.

He gave us a world of emptiness so that we might fill it with love.


Unless the hero surrenders all, even his life, he cannot be honored or even noticed.

Unless the heroine loses her way and faces the villain who threatens her life, she is only a girl.

Unless the robin pierces his breast with the thorn, he is an unremarkable bird among millions.

Unless a child suffers under a life-sucking cancer, the genius will not invent the cure.

Until the police brutalize and kill the protester, the wrong will never be righted.

Unless the mother loses many nights, 
            breaking her body and spirit, 
            weeping at her weariness, 
the child will not be fed or loved 
             to become the strong generation that will change the world. 

Without suffering, nothing worthwhile is accomplished.