I haven’t written for a while because I’ve been laying in a pool of unmotivated hopelessness, which I’ve medicated with a solid amount of Netflix. Don’t worry- it’s not “you should be worried for my well being” bad, but more “I’m kind of lethargic” bad. Hopelessness sucks the life right out of me. And it’s strange- because sometimes the things I feel hopeless about are very unexpected. Some people look at college students and feel hopeless about Christianity. But I look at college students on secular campuses and I am filled with stories of God’s faithfulness and unexpected work. On the other hand….
SYSTEMIC INJUSTICE IS TOO SYSTEMIC
I have been trying to finish The New Jim Crow for months. It sits on a table in my bedroom- mocking me everyday. The complexity of mass incarceration is overwhelming. The tragic and horrific racism that is scarring us as a nation- is shutting me down. I watch the painful way that incarceration impacts the lives of my students and it is overwhelming. The longer I do this social justice thing- the more I believe that we have to change things on a systemic level. Yet, I must constantly fight becoming an atheist when it comes to systemic social change. And I feel hopeless when I see how fixated we as Christians are with having “meaningful” missions experience that make us feel good, but are often detrimental to the very people that we are trying to serve and never address systemic change. (Let Richard Twiss kick your butt on this issue.)
POOR CHILDREN AS BARGAINING CHIPS
Then the whole World Vision debacle went down. First they decided to hire people that were legally in same sex marriage and then after Evangelicals went ape s*!t they took it back. And no matter what you think about gay marriage- can we all agree that we shouldn’t use the sponsorship of poor children as a weapon to fight with each other. Can’t we? Apparently we can’t. Thousands of Jesus followers cancelled their financial sponsorship of children in dire situations around the world to make a point about homosexuality. This type of Christian in-fighting and tantrum throwing just sucks the life out of me. Rachel Held Evans wrote a great post that captured a lot of how I felt about this.
I want to quit American Christianity lately. I knew I had reached a pretty low point when I was teaching a senior seminar and we were talking about money. A student said “A lot of people in my church do X behavior, so isn’t it Ok?” My response, without even thinking about it was, “If it’s normal in American Christianity, it’s probably wrong.” Which I think is true for the most part, especially when it comes to money. But it’s a bit cynical, even for me.
CHECK YOURSELF BEFORE YOU WRECK YOURSELF
But I know I need to be careful as I walk down this road. As much as I just want to rant or accuse or wrap myself in a blanket of judgmental awesomeness, I’ve got to stop. Beause Christians are my tribe, my people. Even Christians that I don’t agree with, even Christians that make me want to die of embarrassment or kill them in anger, are supposed to be my people. There’s a quote people toss around (and attribute to a variety of sources) that goes “The church is a whore, but she’s our mother.” This is how I feel lately. Christians in American are depressing me and making me crazy. But we are still supposed to be one body. And I’m sure I look like some sort of liberal socialist feminista ethnic lady preacher that doesn’t trust the authority of the Bible. I’m sure I make other Jesus followers nuts. But we’re stuck with each other. Supposedly.
I keep wandering around and mumbling “Can the ass say to the butthole- I do not need you. We are all one body.” (I can play either body part in this analogy.) I could go on about the fact that Protestant are pretty lame at unity. Especially coming out of the Korean American church, which is sort of legendary for fights that lead to church splits. I could say a lot about this. But the focus of this post is hopelessness. So let me get back to the soul wallowing that was sucking my life juices away.
So I’ve languished for a month- too melancholy to write anything. But I had a little glimmer of hope the other night. Actually it’s the most hopeful thing that I’ve experienced in a long time. I was asked to lead worship for the launch of a crowd sourcing project. A friend of mine has been living in South Los Angeles and noticed that there are very few employment opportunities in the area. He observed that it is a food desert. 100,000 people and only two full service grocery stores. He saw the need for affordable healthy food. So he and a team have begun raising money to build a cafe and market.
Just watch this video- it explains everything. I know you’re going to waste more than 4 minutes on the internet today- this is actually worth your time.
I led worship as Andrew and his team shared the story of how this cafe will come into being and it breathed hope into my soul. This effort goes beyond Christian feel good charity- this is a business that will bring employment to an area that needs employment. It will address a need for affordable healthy food. Giving someone $25 bucks and giving them a job are worlds apart. A job brings dignity. It brings self respect. It brings autonomy. And I think that this market has the potential to be a life giving gift from God.
I felt hope as I watched Andrew, who I met when he first walked onto campus at Occidental College as a freshmen, take this incredibly courageous step to live out his faith. I felt hope because this little business is a tiny stand in the face of these broken systems. And there was something supernatural that happened as we worshipped. I felt hope shine on my soul. In the end, real hope, not just campy Christian happy, but real hope is a spiritual transaction. People have managed to hold onto hope in the darkest of situations. Hope doesn’t wait until circumstances align. I felt like I lost 30 pounds that night- the heaviness lifted from me. And so I’m back and ready to write again.
Also- let me make an explicit plug. Please consider giving towards this endeavor. With Love Market and Cafe is one the most hopeful and thoughtful ministry ventures that I have come across in a long time.
And talk to me- what are your thoughts and experiences with hope and hopelessness?