Sunday, November 15, 2015

Rejoice with Those Who Rejoice; Mourn with Those Who Mourn

Let's imagine that my house is robbed, my family injured and killed, and I go to my neighbor to get help or comfort. What would you think if my neighbor said to me, "Yeah, well, what about the people down the street who got robbed last week? Or the family across town who were all shot to death just last night?" What if he said, "I'm not saying what happened to you isn't bad and all, but if we're going to talk about that, then let's talk about all of the pain and suffering going on in our community"? 

What would you think of a guy like that?

I'd think he was kind of a jerk - a heartless, unfeeling person - and I'd have a hard time even believing that he really does care about the family down the street, given that he can't seem to care about what's going on in front of him, even for a second, to grieve with me.

There is something about these terrorist attacks in Paris that is bringing out this very ugly side of people in conversation and on the Internet. Too many people are saying that we should be paying attention, or sometimes more attention, to what's going on in other countries. And maybe we should. But here's some of the problems I see with this attitude.

First, it seems really calloused to respond to someone's pain with your own politics, or even with someone else's pain. Suffering is not a contest, and only a fool would try to win if it were. 

Second, I get tired of hearing from people that no one talks about the suffering in other countries,  when the people complaining about it aren't talking about those countries either. Why is it that the only time I see certain people talking about oppression in Africa or Asia or South America is when something gets blown up in Paris? Yes, definitely, we should make noise about all of the suffering and oppression in these countries, but it looks very hypocritical when the only time I hear people talk about these issues is when they are trying to draw attention away from someone else's pain. Stop waiting on the media. You have a Facebook account and a Twitter feed; make yourself the herald of suffering in these countries. Sacrifice thirty minutes of your day every morning and post 200 words about the most recent developments in the country you are most concerned about. It will require a real commitment on your part, but it will have the power of sincerity and sacrifice behind it, instead of sounding like someone trying to scold everyone for showing sympathy and compassion, as if there's only enough love to go around, and you want to make sure it gets to the right places. 

This is exactly what makes many of us so frustrated with the "all lives matter" movement, if it can even be called a movement. If it is a movement, then apparently its mission is to misdirect the sympathy and attention shown to black victims of police violence and abuse of authority. When people look at situations like the ones involving Corey Jones or Tamir Rice and shout that "Black lives matter," the only correct response is to shout back, "Yes, they do!" Trying to correct, or more accurately, redirect, by saying that all lives matter is callous, heartless, and ignorant. But is it any different to draw attention away from the suffering in Paris by saying that there's suffering in Africa or South America as well?

My point is that we need to stop trying to trivialize the suffering of others by refocusing attention and questioning people's intentions or implying prejudice. The Bible teaches us to "Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn" (Romans 12:15). We also need to stop demanding that others do what we are not doing ourselves, or waiting for someone else to start the movement. Let your passions guide you to protect and support others without tearing any down.

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