Social Vigilantes

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I’ve been learning lately that there are two kinds of people around me: people who try to stay “up on” our culture, and people who, for myriad reasons, do not.

Really, keeping up with the times is nearly an impossible task, because as soon as you know something, it’s gone. It’s like a fighter jet going overhead. By the time you hear those engines screaming, the plane itself is probably out of sight. When you find out something or someone is cool, it’s probably not anymore. Finally hearing about Lin-Manuel Miranda? He was definitely last year. And wondering where Sean Spicer ended up? His 15 minutes were over before Melissa McCarthy got her wig off. And by this time, the majority of America has zero clue where their eclipse glasses ended up.

We’re short on memory around here.

The things that last a little longer tend to be conceptual, rather than tangible.

And right now, in our culture, the concept that is cool is social justice.

Hold up. I know some of you are feeling salty right now, and about ready to throw some serious eclipse my way for that statement. Tbh, I was scared to say it. But I’m p sure it’s true. So…sorry not sorry. (Pro tip: this paragraph will tell you which kind of person you are.)

See, I truly hope that the majority of people who are into social justice right now are in-it-to-win-it because it’s the right thing to do. But having lived among humans for some time now, I realize that’s not going to be true for everybody.

And just because something might be the right thing to do, doesn’t mean it’s got its own bandwagon going down the street. We are pro Black Lives Matter and we buy Fair Trade coffee, but when was the last time any of us took in someone off the street so they weren’t cold and hungry at night? Have you checked your clothes to see if they were made in a country that allows child labor? Yeah, me neither. Do I even know which countries allow child labor? Sure don’t.

Truth be told, we’re not all that committed to the social justice bandwagon, as a culture.

ThinkstockPhotos-586055578So we’re all talking about the same thing, let’s define justice real quick. According to the googles, something that is just is based on or behaving according to what is morally right and fair.

Are we, as a culture, invested in what’s morally right and fair? Well, we do promote, vote for, buy tickets to see, and retweet things related to social justice. But the other people and things we promote, vote for, buy tickets to see, and retweet are not all that morally right and fair. People with personal integrity no longer do better than people without it. And actually, when it comes down to it, a good portion of America no longer believes in morals. Most Millennials and almost all of Generation Z believe that truth is subjective. So how could we possibly promote justice, if there’s no moral “right” to line up with?

So, what happens when you push for justice, but also emphasize that truth is subjective?

ThinkstockPhotos-200288923-001.jpgVigilanteism.

Don’t believe me? Think about this: the Marvel Cinematic Universe has made over $12 billion in the last ten years, telling stories about vigilantes. TWELVE BILLION DOLLARS. And that’s just the movies, not the shows. DC Comics is literally promoting the Justice League right now. It’s a group of people who bring justice, according to their own view of what is morally right and fair. Now, I love Wonder Woman, but even I can see that if she operates only from what she believes is right, it might cause problems.

Two weeks ago, a man drove from Ohio to Charlottesville to hurt other people, because he believed he was doing the right thing, that what he was doing was just and fair. This was just the next in a line of people acting out in violence in the name of their own view of justice.

And if we, as a culture, are not committed to rewriting the script on what actually is just and fair, how can we fight back? How can we truly promote and battle for social justice? Until we commit to establishing what justice is, aren’t we just riding on the bandwagon, until the next cool thing comes along?

I include myself in this. I’m on the bandwagon. And honestly, I’m not sure how to change from riding to fighting. But I’ve learned that when I don’t know where to start on a big problem, I just need to take one step. Do one little thing. And then the next little thing.

ThinkstockPhotos-537604426So I’m going to start by choosing to speak about these things, even when I am afraid that I am going to say something wrong, something hurtful. Even when I might make a total child-of-a-horse-and-a-donkey of myself right up here in front of y’all. Or when I say something insensitive and ignorant, because my privileged, middle class, American, white self doesn’t know any better yet.

I’m going to speak when I’m scared to speak.

What about you? What’s your first step?

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Fear Factors

Oh, hey! Haven’t seen you in a while. How’ve you been?

I purposely did not post for the month of March because I was out and about, running communication stuff for a large conference, and trying to do any extra writing would have likely resulted in spontaneous human combustion.

Then, when I returned, I fully intended to start again. But I got scared.

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Two fear factors:

  1. Once I stop something hard for a while, it gets incredibly difficult to start again. What if it’s too hard? What if I’m not good at it? What if it hurts? That’s true of most things – working out, playing music, being honest. The gap between my last victory and today grows too large for my memory to throw me across.
  2. I’ve experienced some weighty relational tensions in the last two months, and I feel too vulnerable to bear my soul to the public. What if people who are upset with me read it and think it’s about them? What if it is about them? As an introvert and a people pleaser, my worst-case-scenario involves me being honest, someone misunderstanding my honesty, and said person becoming upset because of the misunderstanding. (This falls right after the scenario in which I am late for an important social event and get kidnapped by giant spiders.)

So, now what? You know why I’m afraid to write. What do you think I should do?

Yeah, I was afraid you’d say that. ThinkstockPhotos-638654162

Sigh.

Fine.

Here I am, starting again.

As a reward for coaching me through my fear, next week I’ll update you on my dating life. (Teaser: there are snails involved.)

If there’s something you are dreading or putting off this week, join me in doing it anyway.

Little Flock

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On this beautiful, sunny, springy Friday here in Indianapolis, I want to say a brief something about a trend that I’ve been noticing in recent months.

“What’s this trend?” you ask with awe and wonder.

Thank you for your interest. I’m glad I haven’t lost you yet. That trend, my friends, is fear.

What if ISIS comes to our city? What if that guy from The Apprentice becomes president? What if we all get cancer from eating out of plastic containers? What if our children get hurt? What if you go bankrupt and have to pay bills with Monopoly money? What if I die? What if someone I love gets maimed? What if? What if? What if?!

What if…bad things happen?

Here’s the thing. Bad things are going to happen. They are. It’s just true. Whether you believe in Murphy’s Law, Karma, or the Bible (and pretty much everyone I know believes in one of those), bad things are going to happen.

I specifically want to talk to those of you who believe in the Bible, because we seem to be the most shocked when bad things happen – especially to us. (That’s not new; if you don’t believe me, I have a fella named Job I’d like you to meet.)

Jesus, the guy who was already on the scene when our universe was created, specifically told us bad things would happen. In fact, he said things are going to get worse and worse, and that’s how we’ll know that we’re getting toward the end of the world.

Maybe it’s just me, but I’m pretty sure things looked real bleak for the humans that lived through the Dark Ages and had to throw dead bodies out into the streets because a plague they didn’t understand was killing every third person. And it’s going to get worse? Yes, worse.

At this point, perhaps you are saying, “Yes, Ashleyne, this is why I’m afraid.” You know what? I am too, often. I admit it.

And it’s not that you shouldn’t be afraid. There are things in this world that are pure evil, designed only to steal, kill, and destroy. The Bible says we should pray for strength to make it through, that we need extra help. And that those that overcome the evil will be blessed (implying that not everyone will overcome the evil, because the evil is just that strong).

But there’s a problem with being afraid.

Jesus (yes, the same Jesus who just said, “Yo, bad crap is going to go down, so brace yourselves”) also said this: “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.”

Don’t worry, he says. Don’t panic. Breathe. Because the One who made your actual soul and your skin and your kidneys and your eyelashes has everything one hundred percent under control.

Do not be afraid. The King, the ultimate authority in the entire spectrum of all things that exist, and His Kingdom, which contains all goodness and joy and peace and the real love that holds your soul together and tells you only truth, is all that matters.

The rest of this is just a passing moment. A blink-and-you-miss it kind of experience.

We are just here for a hot second. It will hurt. Bad things will happen. But then we are done, moving on, set free. Free to look at the King on His shockingly large throne and say, “I knew it all along – everything was going to be fine.”

Do not be afraid, little flock. Little children. Little creatures. Cute, furry, helpless little things, lost and running around, acting like this life is all that matters. Like holding tighter to our government, our health, our cars, our jobs, is going to matter when we blink and open our eyes in a new life, a new reality.

Why are you afraid? Bad things are going to happen. Expect that. Instead of being afraid, what if we work on doing something about it?

I was greatly wounded by this quote earlier today, and so I will end with it here. I am not necessarily saying this is the answer, but I was struck by my own fear when I read it. Struck and compelled to change, to move toward recklessness. Do you want to come along?

“What is therefore our task today? Shall I answer: ‘Faith, hope, and love?’ That sounds beautiful. But I would say -courage. No, even that is not challenging enough to be the whole truth. Our task today is recklessness. For what we Christians lack is not psychology or literature…we lack a holy rage-the recklessness which comes from the knowledge of God and humanity. The ability to rage when justice lies prostrate on the streets, and when the lie rages across the face of the earth…a holy anger about the things that are wrong in the world. To rage against the ravaging of God’s earth, and the destruction of God’s world. To rage when little children must die of hunger, when the tables of the rich are sagging with food. To rage at the senseless killing of so many, and against the madness of militaries. To rage at the lie that calls the threat of death and the strategy of destruction peace. To rage against complacency. To restlessly seek that recklessness that will challenge and seek to change human history until it conforms to the norms of the Kingdom of God.” – Kaj Munk, 1944

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