Saturday, July 17, 2010


There are 700,000 child slaves in Indonesia alone. There are over 200,000 child soldiers in Uganda. There are 35,000 homeless in Orange County, California. 80% of those are families with children.

Why don't we care enough to change the world we live in?

A recent quote from artist and activist Milton Glaser noted that it becomes harder and harder to provoke Americans to act for justice because, as he says, "Americans are immune to outrage".

I have to wonder how we in American have become passive in the face of injustice and atrocity? Our Nation was founded by individuals who took up arms to protest an unjust system of "Taxation Without Representation". They were incensed and spurred to action because of a 4% sales tax that yielded no representation for the 13 Colonies in Parliament. Yet today, their descendants and the inheritors of their spirited revolt are quietly reserved to pay over 30% of their income to the United States Government each year and most have no faith that elected officials will fairly represent the true needs of the people they serve.

I'm not advocating a new revolution against our Government, but I am puzzled as to how we've become immune to the sort of outrage that helped found our Nation in the first place.

William Wilberforce fought the British slave trade in his day. After spending his life arguing for abolition and lobbying in Parliament for the immediate end of this inhuman practice he finally found victory on March 25th, 1807. He died three days later, his life's work completed.

Why did Wilberforce believe he could stand up to the powerful slave industry giants and succeed? Why did Luther believe he could take on the Universal Church of his day and prevail? Why did Martin Luther King Jr. believe he could overcome generations of hatred and bigotry and change the hearts and minds of an entire Nation?

Why don't we believe these things? Do we believe in anything enough to risk our lives, or our families or our careers to stand up and speak out? Are we too comfortable in our own little world that we cannot be bothered to experience sincere compassion, or moral outrage, at the exploitation of other human beings? Is it because they are far away? Is it because they are not American? Is it because we don't believe our voice will make any difference?

A dear friend of mine once admitted to me, "I don't care about the poor, and honestly what bothers me most is that I don't care that I don't care about the poor."

What is the cure for apathy? How do you provoke people to become outraged at their own lack of outrage? How do you inspire people to protest against their own lack of concern? What sort of hope is there for hopelessness? Who can awaken the one who does not wish to be awakened?

I often wonder why it is in America that we have made a multi-billion dollar industry out of escaping reality. We are the entertainment capital of the world. Yet, I cannot help but imagine what could happen if we were to spend those same billions of dollars on creating a world where reality was a place you didn't need to escape from?

Why don't we respond to the injustices of the day? Is it because we have no clear direction, no specific steps to take? Is it because we have no great leaders to show the way? Is it because we don't believe that our lives can make a difference? Or is it because we are too comfortable where we sit?

Where are the Wilberforces of today? Where are the Martin Luther Kings or the Ghandis or the Mother Teresas? For that matter, where are those who call themselves disciples of Jesus?

Why can't it be you or me? Aren't we ambassadors of the greatest world-changer who ever lived?

For me, to be a Christian is to be an activist. This is what "Subversive" is all about. It's about provoking others to change the status quo of their lives in order to follow in the radical life and love of Jesus of Nazareth.

To be a Christian is to be an activist.

In what way could someone call themselves a follower of Jesus and be anything other than someone who brings change in their wake? How else is a person who names the name of Christ to act?

In my mind, to be a follower of Jesus is to be one who sees things as they are and work to bring the Kingdom of God in order to make things better.

Looking at Matthew 25, it would seem that the kind of followers Jesus is looking for are the ones who are incapable of walking past the poor without doing something to help. When they see someone hungry, they give them food. When they see someone thirsty, they give them a cold cup of water. When they see someone who is lonely, they stop and spend a few hours with them.

“For whatever you've done for one of the least of these”, says Jesus – our example and teacher – “You've done it unto me.”

Jesus was a radical. He raised up a small army of revolutionaries with the sole "raison d'etre" of changing the world and turning it upside down. In their wake, the early followers of Jesus, left changed governments, changed religious systems, and changed hearts and minds.

If the early church had simply existed, if it had only found a way to blend in with the culture around it and become safe and acceptable to the populace, you and I might not ever have heard of a person by the name of Jesus of Nazareth who, about 2000 years ago, gave his life to change the world, one person at a time.

The church today needs to become more like its founder. It needs to be driven to press forward, out of its comfort zone, to get its hands dirty, to move in such a way that our words line up with our actions. To do any less is settle.

Who wants to belong to a predictable movement? Who wants to surrender their life for something ordinary and unremarkable?

Many of us are willing, we say, to die for Christ. The question is, are we willing to live for Christ?

When it comes to outrage, I believe a Christian needs to be constantly spurred to action against injustice and poverty.

Are you immune?


"And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds"
– Hebrews 10:23

Originally published April, 2007

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