When You Want Justice {But Have More Questions Than Answers}

by Laura on March 20, 2012

I wrote last week about justice and shared a story I told my kids, over green tea in little cups at a local coffee shop. I wrote about how Matt and I expected our three little ones to be people who stand up for the person without power, to fight for the powerless kid who faces the bullies.

And I wrote that piece one morning, sitting outside on my porch, drinking in the caffeine and the inspiration. And 20 minutes later when I read it to my husband, he got tears in his eyes. And he nodded his head in agreement. He does that a lot.

But. But. Then he started asking me hard questions. {He’s been known to do that a lot, too.} Questions about what justice really looks like, how it might play out, and figuring out which injustice we personally are called to fight right now.  And we circled the issue while the coffee got cold, and suddenly, I felt like my post about the special needs boy and the stolen bike was naive and contrite. Something I might have waved a banner for 10 years ago as I raced off to fight um, somebody, but a story that now feels like it needs a list of qualifiers.

Because ushering in justice to any situation is a complicated mess.

Ask any foster parent whose had babies taken from their hands. Ask any teacher that has been advocating for the poor in a system of the smart. Ask any woman who’s suffered abuse. Ask any missionary or humanitarian volunteer who’s logged time in the epicenter of a problem.

Ask Jason Russell of Invisible Children and KONY2012 {See their responses to critiques here for a look at how complicated their fight for justice has become}.

Ushering in justice, fighting the bullies, doing the right thing {especially in the environment of another culture}, can raise more questions than it answers sometimes.

And while we do need inspirational stories and pictures to get us off the couch {and sometimes to remember why we got off in the first place}, oftentimes we the well-intentioned land ourselves in a mell-of-a-hess. 

And, so, some questions my husband asked me that morning over cold coffee, that I think worth asking you, too. Not a truckload of answers here, just a hope for some positive, honest discussion . . . .

{If you haven’t read the earlier post about injustice and the bike, take a quick second to read it.  These questions will be terribly confusing if you haven’t heard the illustration.}

1.  What if getting off the porch to fight the bullies means your family falls apart waiting for you to get back from the WWF event at driveway’s end? What if choosing to NOT step into a battle is actually fighting harder for the health of your family, your marriage, your kids?  How can you tell as a parent/spouse, how much is too much?  When the cause is taking too much center-stage?

2. What if you feel moved to fight the bully and you charge ahead, without a plan as to how to effectively fight injustice?  And then you get beat up. And the bike still gets taken. And Jacob still gets abused.  And all you needed was to wait five minutes for your dad to come downstairs and help. Or, maybe you needed to remember where those brass knuckles were or something. Is that noble?  To fly in and die on a hill that maybe you could have effectively not died on, had you just taken some effort to plan better?

3. What if there really is no way to win?  Not even to make a dent in the problem? Is it worth a trip off the porch if it costs you and your family greatly? If, realistically, there’s really no logical way to change the outcome? Is it smart to die on that hill?

4. Is justice only about the bullies getting grounded by their mothers {punishment}?  Or is justice more about Jacob being protected? Or is it both? {Check out a post by a reader Danielle here about justice and righteousness.}

5. What if in the process of trying to stand up for Jacob, I actually hurt him somehow?

6. But, on the other hand, what if I spend so much time on the porch analyzing the methods of action that I miss the opportunity to act? {Is that more noble than jumping in and making a mess of things?}

7. Should justice ever involve violence? {Writing from Uganda and calling for a nonviolent resolution, check out Michelle Perry’s response to KONY2012 here.}

*****************

And, again, no neat and tidy answers from here. Fighting for justice can be epically-complicated. 

And I realize I wouldn’t have said that five years ago. So, maybe that makes me, wiser?

Or, just cynical?

I’d love to hear your thoughts, your answers, your own questions. 

 

  • Marlana

    Laura, I’ve thought about this a lot lately too.

    1) I read this article last night on modern, slave trade; not sexual exploitation or child slavery. Just modern slavery. Another story to my list of things I wish I could stop. a must read: http://edition.cnn.com/interactive/2012/03/world/mauritania.slaverys.last.stronghold/index.html

    2) Recently watched the Truman Show (the movie). In all its evilness, it reminds me of where we are today. Everyone sat around and just watched a man’s life on camera and did nothing about the evilness. Sad nothing. And then I thought about how many events we’ve sat and watched. Earthquakes, slavery, child slavery, we could go on and on. When I was watching the movie, I was screaming, “everyone get up and just show up at the film studio at once,” when its my real life I shake my head and say impossible.

    So you mentioned the bully or the boy that steals the bike. Things do need to be thought out, but somehow, it feels if we just too any action it would be better than nothing. 

    • lauraparkerblog

      Marlana– loved this comment and the connection with The Truman Show– why does it always seem easier in the movies?  :)

      • Ruth Jopson

        Hi Laura, I’m just going to preface my comments on this matter by say thing: I am American- born and raised. Moved overseas when I was 18 and worked with YWAM for 5 years in various countries. I am now married to a South African and have been living & raising my children in South African for the past 5.5 years.

        1) I have a huge heart for justice issues but I think it’s fairly obvious by now that fighting justice issues ‘full time’ is a hell of a call to take up. It is an all consuming battle- easily. I also think that having a family and raising kids is a hell of a call to take up and all an all-consuming thing- easily. You simply cannot give 100% to everything- something has to be a higher priority than something else, that’s just reality. I personally think if you make the decision to have a family, that is your main priority & justice issues fit into & around that calling. That takes different shapes and form and involvement levels depending on the members of family, their capacity and temperaments. In the same way, if you take up the call to fight injustice full on, you’re kind of sacrificing the opportunity (at least for a certain season) to have a family. By no means am I saying that the way that you and your family are living is wrong- please don’t hear that. It seems obvious to me, through your blogs, that you are first and foremost a full-time mom, and then help with the justice fight when and how you can. I think that’s the big thing- HOW you can. I’m not ignoring my heart for justice issues now that  I have kids, it just means that for now my involvement is more like sending awareness emails & taking my kids with me as I volunteer at an orphanage once a week. Anyways, all that to say… I don’t think God would ask us to sacrifice our families to fight for a cause. God sacrificed His son cause He’s God… we are not. 

        2) On the topic of using violence when it comes to justice… We do not live in an ideal world, by any means and I think it’s actually quite naive to think that bringing  justice never involves force & potentially violence. When Jesus drove the money- changers out of the temple for being unjust and dishonoring to God he didn’t ask them to leave nicely, he went nuts and turned over their tables and forced them out. Also, when God delivered the Israelites out of Egpyt, he first sent Moses to ask Pharoah to let his people go and when he wouldn’t God ‘got violent’- sent plagues and killed the first born son.   

        Now I want to give an example from my own life.  You may or may not know but South Africa is a absolutely crime-ridden country & the police aren’t really any help. So most South Africans have to rely on the protection they can give themselves & God gives. A few years back, my husband, who works in an industrial area, saw a lady being mugged right outside his office.  A man jumped on this woman from behind and tried to take her purse. When she held onto it he sunk his nails into her flesh and started beating her.This was one of many attacks or attempted break-in they’d experienced in their area and at their business. The police weren’t doing to combat the situation so enough was enough.  My husband and another guy he works with ran outside chased the guy down, brought him back to their office and tied him down to a chair while they called the police and tended to the attacked woman. That mugger sat in that chair for 4 hours while they called the police repeatedly and no one came. Eventually it was obvious that  no police were coming and justice was in their hands. They striped the mugger naked, beat him up and sent him walking home naked. To this day (6 years later), they’ve never had trouble with muggers or robbers in their area. A message was sent- justice will be had here and it was heard loud and clear. Is my husband a violent man? Absolutely not. In fact, he’s never done anything like that since then. He would never resort to that as a first options… or even a second or third option! But justice needed to be had and the ‘peaceful’ / due process rout wasn’t cutting it. Americans (and I say this as an American) can weigh in on this subject all they want but until they’ve lived in a country like South Africa or Brazil or Columbia that has a high rate of viscous crimes that effect every aspect of day to day life and no reliable police presence… I don’t feel that you can give a fair response of this question. Watch a Brazilian movie called ‘Bope’ and see if your opinion of what justice looks like doesn’t change. Justice isn’t always peaceful. 

        That is my very long two-cents. 

        • lauraparkerblog

          WOW, Ruth, what a story! Thanks for sharing it so honestly! Sheesh. I can not imagine what it must have been like to live in a place without justice or hope from it from the authorities. It is true that living in a community that is corrupt in authority puts a person in a really strange place– ethically and emotionally on so many levels. I love that you gave us a real picture that is practical and just dag gum hard for our vague theories to wrestle with.

          Thank you so much for giving us your very awesome two cents. Leave them anytime!

          Love from here,
          L

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jade-Chauvin-Collins/575815892 Jade Chauvin Collins

            Laura, you move me to tears everytime I read your post. I am a missionary to Spain, and just wish we could sit over coffee and chat!!!!! Thank you so much for your stories, for the time you put into this blog, you have no idea how reading this makes it easier for me to get through my days, to put on my “big girl” panties and face another day! Thank you and keep them coming!!!!!

            • lauraparkerblog

              Oh, Jade– girl, hang in there! How long have you been in Spain? I would totally loooovvveee a coffee and talk with you– heaven, maybe? save the date? ha ha.

              Seriously, though, I appreciate your encouragement. Very muchly.

              Love, Laura

        • lauraparkerblog

          Watch a Brazilian movie called ‘Bope’ and see if your opinion of what justice looks like doesn’t change. Justice isn’t always peaceful. ”

          Haven’t seen this movie– I assume it is disturbing? Justice isn’t always peaceful . . .. hhmmm . . . but always eventually brings peace? Good food for thought, too.

        • http://www.facebook.com/justincombustibl Justin Schneider

          My first question, Ruth, is whether the method of your husband was the best method. Sure it was effective for that individual and it appears to have scared a lot of others. But was it loving? Did it follow the command to love our enemies? Did the perpetrator who left in shame just choose a different neighborhood?

          I don’t want to belittle your experience, because I know how real it was for you then just as it is today. And I certainly don’t ask these questions to condemn you or your husband in acting in the only way you saw to be effective.

          The problem is that it usually isn’t as effective. Oftentimes, the Punisher doesn’t do it just once, because one time is rarely as effective. In addition, the Offender upgrades from fingernails and fists to metal rods or knifes. The shame he experienced seeks revenge, not a change of heart.

          The majority of the time–as history shows us–violence begets violence, increasing at each step. Happy endings are hard to come by except on rare occasions. At the systemic level, it’s even rarer.

          Jesus shows us a different way–a more difficult way. The Israelites destroyed 7 nations in totality (Deut. 7), but Jesus reconciled with them (Matt. 15:21-28, 32-39). Jesus got furious with people who were treating the central place to worship God as another financial opportunity, and he flipped out. This is the only story anyone can come close to using as a justification for violence in seeking peace. And if you think about it, doesn’t it seem like a bit of a stretch that he maybe hit somebody with a table or somebody tripped when they heard the crack of the whip and twisted their ankle?

          I cannot deny your experience, because it happened. My fear is that people won’t hear the first, second, third, and more attempts at other solutions. All they will hear is a justification for using violence in seeking peace. The problem is, it didn’t work for the Israelites, it hasn’t worked for America, and it ever so rarely works for individuals.

          Ragarding “Bope,” a more recent and religious take on justified violence can be found in the movie “Machine Gun Preacher,” based on a true story. “Bope” differs from this movie and your story in that the police officer was an actor of the state. Both films have been criticized for glorifying this type of violence. And the favelas are still a mess with increased militarization despite continued reports of police violence (the film was fiction, but other stories support that police brutalization continues against suspected drug cartels as well as street children).

          I’m thankful that you have experienced a deterrence in crime in your area. I’m hopeful that development and prayer continues to lead the way.

          • lauraparkerblog

            Justin. Great questions, and I really appreciate your willingness to engage in honest discussion. I love the idea that violence begets violence. I guess the question is, practically speaking, what does that look like? In uber-practical terms . . . like when the lady is getting mugged, what is a person’s response? Is protecting someone with physical force the same thing as “violence”? Surely, we don’t stand by and let it happen. And surely, in the moment, we don’t try to reason with the guy beating the lady up. I think this is where pacifism struggles so often– agree in theory, but how does it really flesh out in the real world?

            I just read an interesting post over at Rachel Held Evans where people asked a Christian pacifist. Just thought it fitting for this discussion: http://rachelheldevans.com/ask-a-pacifist-response

            Again, thanks for the food for thought.

            • http://www.facebook.com/justincombustibl Justin Schneider

              Thanks for this link.  This is great. I’ve read Yoder’s “What Would You Do?” book and highly recommend it, and now I have a lot of others on the list.

              I’m all about resistance that is pacifist rathern that passivist. I’m one of those nuts who thinks that when Jesus said “Turn the other cheek,” he was actually demanding respect, not just asking people to throw another punch (more like daring them to). It sounds to me like above case was nonviolent until after waiting a few hours, the man was beaten and stripped naked. Like Tripp said on the post you linked to, violence is really hard to define, and then taking our definition of nonviolence from that just muddies the waters and creates a greater area of gray. I really wish Jesus had given us a “Meanwhile…” in the story of the Good Samaritan as the scene shifted to the robber being caught in an area without authorities. I hope it’d be something like this by the next victim: http://www.npr.org/2008/03/28/89164759/a-victim-treats-his-mugger-right.

              I hate using Ruth’s story as a “what if,” because it doesn’t do justice to the experience of her and her husband. Unfortunately, I can’t help but wonder: Why did the robber attempt to rob the woman? How hungry was the robber? Where did the robber live? How long had the robber been living like this?

              In my very limited experience working with criminal offenders in the U.S. justice system, the vast majority of people commit crime out of desperation and the first time getting caught is all the deterence that is needed.

              As I often do, I’m wandering from the questions. All this to say, I think catching and detaining a perpetrator is not violent. Like aikido, the nonviolent martial art says, you should “create harmony, not discord; reconciliation rather than victory.” Detaining a person can be the first step in this journey. I can’t help but think Jesus would want it this way. And the worst thing that can happen is being played out in Florida right now after what happened to Trayvon Martin (http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Justice/2012/0320/Trayvon-Martin-case-use-of-Stand-Your-Ground-law-or-pursuit-of-a-black-teen).

              One last note on Jesus and the sword in Revelation. Revelation is an apocalyptic book full of imagery that scholars continue to debate. One image that very few scholars debate is the meaning of sword coming out of someone’s mouth. Jesus uses his words to cut down the nations by sharing with them the true way.

              Wow, I’ve talked a lot about this, and we haven’t even met yet. My apologies.

        • lauraparkerblog

          Ruth, I think, too, that maybe there is a difference between FORCE and VIOLENCE.  Maybe force is physically stopping a kid from getting beat up while VIOLENCE is going in to attack Kony in his bunker.  An interesting difference, perhaps? 

          But, I think, realistically, the real test comes when it is YOUR kid that is getting beat up. Then perhaps the line gets blurry faster between the two.

  • http://www.angiewashington.com/ @ngie

    The question that came to mind when I read your previous post relates somewhat to the points raised in question #2 on your list: strategy. Might there be a way to bring justice to the situation so that the Jacobs of the world are defended AND the bullies are rehabilitated? Might there be a way that nobody leaves from the scene dripping blood?

    • lauraparkerblog

      oh, this sentence caught my breath:

      “ Might there be a way that nobody leaves from the scene dripping blood?”  Have you read Michelle Perry’s responses to the KONY2012? I just linked it on the post.  Would love your thoughts on that– she calls for a nonviolent response to the LRA . . . interesting stuff.

      I think for me, the issue of strategy is the biggest topic of conversation around our household . . . the importance of it but the allusive nature of it, as well.

      • http://www.facebook.com/justincombustibl Justin Schneider

        Great point, @ngi. And thanks for the link, Laura.
        @angiewashington:disqus 
        Two quick thoughts.

        I differ from many Christians in thinking that nonviolence is the only way to stand up and fight for justice. That doesn’t mean I don’t want to punch people in the face in order to defend a person or cause. I do. Too often. (sidenote: the comment box is not expanding, so I apologize for the typos that follow.) The big questions is how do you fight without punching, bombing, etc. Jesus is the example, but homeboy was super smart and super connected to God. How can we be as creative?

        Second, being from Texas, I want to be the cowboy who rides in and saves the day. I have a good sense of right and wrong, even if I don’t choose correctly in my own life. So, I want to DO. The question is, am I the right one to do anything other than pray? Jacob may need me to move my feet as I pray, but what about here in Thailand. Shouldn’t we allow the authorities to have the opportunity to do the right thing? If they don’t have that opportunity, will they ever learn how to help?

        These thoughts are starting to stray from brief, so I’ll leave it hear — with more questions.  Thanks for sharing.

        • lauraparkerblog

          Justin, your comment really stirred good thoughts here. The idea of nonviolence as the “only means to fight injustice” is a really hard reality to grapple with– but I think you are right- when was Jesus ever violent. And yet, oh the tension of living in the real world! ah!

          I loved that you made the point that why do I assume I am the one to fight for Jacob in the flesh- maybe my fighting for him is in prayer, or in not getting involved myself but giving others a chance to fight for him, first. Excellent point.

          Looking forward to meeting you and your wife in real life!

        • lauraparkerblog

          Oh, and . . . a random question from the conversation on the porch today with my husband– (love what your comments spark at our house, ya’ll!)
          ** When Jesus took the whip and drove out the money changers– was that violent? It was definitely force? Who is to say a few people didn’t get hurt a bit in that process of him fighting for something. Thoughts on that? But, then, of course, the cross was the peak of NONviolence, so . . .

          But, then, isn’t Christ often pictured with a sword in his hand? in Revelation? A sword seems like a picture of violence/aggression . . . .
          Hmm . . . Personally haven’t landed, just throwing it out there . . .

          • lauraparkerblog

            So, Justin set me straight in real life– that Christians typically use those two examples to justify violence (oh, man, busted!)– when in reality it’s a pretty large jump to go from Jesus knocking over tables and a symbolic image of him with a sword out of his mouth, to jump from that to justification of wars/violence towards others. Good point.  I reckon that is pretty weak.

            • http://www.facebook.com/justincombustibl Justin Schneider

               Don’t worry. You’ll hear plenty of others using those same examples. When it’s the best example we have to support what we’ve been taught our entire life, sometimes we try to use it beyond its usefulness. I’m guilty of this almost every day with other scripture and stories.

      • lauraparkerblog

        So, Angie– Justin’s wife, Angela, knows you!  What?!  I felt like I almost had dinner with you last night, by talking with them . .  .  You were like a movie star in our conversation about you. 

        • http://www.angiewashington.com/ @ngie

           Did Angela tell you about the straw mattress we made her sleep on? :-) When I was little I fantasied about being famous. Wow… my dream has come true. Ha! I am glad you were able to connect. Angela is amazing. I am sure Justin is great too.

  • http://bahava.wordpress.com Katy

    such good questions and that’s where I go over and over….I analyze and analyze–definitely one of my gifts, but can also get me stuck in indecision! I even go there with justice and talking missions and mission trips and all of that…it’s like pray, pray, and pray some more and trust that God’s bigger and can work with my mistakes yet I keep on praying that I’m hearing clearly and obeying directly and remembering too that God’s ways are definitely not my ways.  

  • richelle

    you don’t believe in asking easy questions, do you?
     
    i think what makes it so hard is i want a formula – an answer or pattern that i can apply in every situation and then know i’ve got it right. and so that means i don’t have to wrestle with these questions, every time…
     
    1. might God ask you to sacrifice family to fight the bullies? i sure hope not – i don’t want Him to… i can’t guarantee that I’d be obedient if He did, or that He’d even let you know beforehand that was the case… but I can’t say He wouldn’t… He sacrificed His Son.
     
    2. hindsight is always 20/20… if the Holy Spirit prompts action, then is the time to act, trusting the results to Him. if He prompts me to wait, then i’d best hang out on the porch and figure Dad or someone else must be coming along to help… or maybe i need to start screaming for help. what if i take the time to make a plan only to find jacob in serious condition because of my delay. and then, what would 2o/20 hindsight be saying?
     
    4. What if there really is no win? There might now be, but does that excuse us from acting or from obedience? I keep thinking of the passage of Scripture where the angel of the Lord came to Joshua (chapter 5, i believe) and Joshua asks him whose side he is on. the reply is neither. God doesn’t need my “dents.” He does demand my obedience…
     
    5. i was deeply challenged by danielle’s post -  for those on the front lines, fighting such awful atrocities, unbelievable poverty resulting from corruption, etc., it is easy to forget that the penalty has already been paid for the very worst that man can do – and that God’s goal is His glory, each individual man’s very best (meaning those on all sides of the issue). there must obviously be a balance as we seek justice and righteousness in this fallen world… we are commanded to let our moderation be known to all…
     
    6. isn’t this any helper’s nightmare??? again, i keep coming back to moment by moment obedience and leaving the results up to God
     
    7. see above…
     
    8. violence is hard to stomach… i was in an accident on sunday and a motorcyclist ended up underneath my landcruiser… just inches from being run over… and that was an accident. but could i resort to violence if my interests were vested enough? i’m thankful i’ve never been put in that position. old testament examples – violence is used. Jesus turned the other cheek and forbade violence when He was arrested.  yet He wil lead His armies once again…
     
    there truly are more questions than answers and i think that is ok – it keeps us searching, keeps us clinging, keeps us from finding some ormula that we can plug in all the variables ourselves and think we’ve come up with the solution – which could be considered injust…

    • lauraparkerblog

      Richelle– Love your words and so sorry to hear about your accident! I think you hit the nail on the head (several times) when you kept coming back to personal obedience to what God is saying. Absolutely. I think the hard thing is that it feels like so often we “do what we want or feel is best or have been conditioned to do” and then stamp “God told me to” on it, ya know? And I know you can’t ever really get away from that– but I love that you kept coming back not to formula, but to personal, alive walk with Jesus. YES.

      • richelle

        I’ve been thinking about your reply… and you are so right that people use that phrase “God told me to” way too often to give themselves an unquestionable authority.
         
         I wonder if “getting of the porch” isn’t, in part, 1) making a decision, 2) acting based on that decision and then 3) accepting the responsibility for the consequences of those decisions/actions without shifting the responsibility to the Lord.
         
        Am I willing to act, based on my understanding of the Bible, after prayer (admitting that sometimes there is not time for prayer), and flowing from a persistent and daily walk with the Lord – am I willing to say that “this” is what I felt the Lord was directing me to do… but then, because I recognize that I might have misheard, misunderstood or simply out of the practice of listening for a few days and so didn’t hear – accept the responsibility and the consequences.

        • lauraparkerblog

          LOVED your last paragraph– about being willing to always admit you were wrong, even if you were confident you were right and following God.  And then being willing to accept responsibility.  This is something Christians really don’t do well, in general.

  • http://dreamsvisions7.wordpress.com/ Ron

    Whatever the complications we face, the basic truth is that we are told to stand up for those who can’t stand up for themselves. Widows, orphans, the powerless and the poor. Your last post doesn’t leave a lot of dry eyes in its wake! that’s presicely because of the depth of the truth it conveys. whatever that ends up looking like when we actually get there, I think will ultimately depend on the particular circumstances at that time. I don’t think there’s a cut-and -dry answer for questions like these. It’s easy to say ‘well, just pray for guidance before you act’. but it’s not always so easy to do.

    • lauraparkerblog

      This was good to hear:

      Whatever the complications we face, the basic truth is that we are told to stand up for those who can’t stand up for themselves.

  • http://www.facebook.com/justincombustibl Justin Schneider

    I just read an article on The Atlantic (http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2012/03/the-white-savior-industrial-complex/254843/) that made me think of this post again.  I’m so excited so many people are recognizing the command to seek justice, I just hope people seek wise methods that lift up others rather than just themselves.

    • lauraparkerblog

      Oh, man– this was a great article! Hey, guys, this is totally a GREAT read on how so often the westerner swoops in and causes a mess of things, out of good hearts maybe, but often with some disastrous results. Thanks for posting, Justin.

      • pastordt

        The last line of that article says it all – those we are ‘helping’ need to be consulted, not patronized in any way. And that is tough to do. Really tough. This is a great discussion here – wow. And I appreciate your wanting to teach your kids to stand up for the oppressed, wherever they encounter oppression. That seems a worthy goal to me. But yes, I do think some (accent on SOME) careful thought needs to be given first. Reactivity is seldom, if ever, a good thing. Thoughtful, reasoned response is always better. Not long drawn out response – but at least some. And I think responding wisely in the moment can only happen when we’ve given time and effort to reasoning things out BEFORE we find ourselves in the position of deciding what to do and how to do it. So I salute you for inviting this important discussion and I thank your readers for their thoughtful responses and for the links to other sites tackling this important topic from different angles. I’d love to get Michele Perry and the author of the Atlantic article in the same space sometime!

        I find myself on the non-violent side of this argument pretty much. I do understand that living in a nation with totally unreliable public police makes everything terribly different and difficult. But I still wonder if there might have been a different way to get the same results in her story. 

        I lived cross-culturally for two years in the 1960′s, trying to learn about both the African culture in which we lived and worked AND the missionary culture we were a part of for those years. And I never did understand – never – how parents could put their 7 year old children on a train and send them 500 miles away from home to live in a hostel so that they could be educated at an international school – and their parents could be ‘freed’ for their important missionary work. Excuse me? If God gives you children, THAT is your first and most important mission field. And if you can’t do your work as an intact family, then go home. 

        Okay. I’m done ranting now. 45 years ago and it still gets my blood boiling. I’m glad that most missionary cultures have changed pretty dramatically since then. 

        As always, you have engendered interesting and thoughtful discussion, Laura. Thank you.

        • lauraparkerblog

          Diana, we actually live right across the street from a big international school where some of the kids are boarding because their parents are in remote places. It’s a hard one for me to rationalize, too, for sure. Many of the boarders are older– high school age. And lots of countries do boarding school options for high school, so I guess it’s not that rare. But, I totally struggle with the idea of young children getting sent away like that, though I know it was a big trend with my parent’s generation.  

          Thanks for chiming in, as always!  Yes– loved that article, too.

  • http://www.sixbrickshigh.com/ Jamie @ Six Bricks High

    Oh Laura, your words here deal with the very thing my heart and mind are struggling with.  And I can’t for the life of me get my thoughts figured out.  I used to have a real heart for missions (really going on a mission trip) but then I began to read all sorts of stuff about how mission trips may be more harmful than helpful.  And I thought all that made good sense too.  Really, I’m left feeling frustrated and helpless.  I’m a rule following kind of girl – just tell me exactly what to do and I will do that.  I want to help, I really do.  But how?  I feel like I’m up here on the porch, analyzing the heck out of the situation and doing absolutely no good at all.

    • lauraparkerblog

      Jamie– oh, girl, i hear you! I don’t really have answers, except to say that honestly, sometimes the best way to help is to stay home. And other times, it is to GO. And then other times, it is to give a truckload of money. or time in prayer.

      I think the real lie we buy into, as American Christians, is that we only fight for justice if we move to Africa. THIS IS A LIE. We can fight for justice for the foster kid in our kids school. Or for the homeless guy who scares us. Or for the housewife that is figuring out faith in an abusive relationship. I almost feel like our Christian culture has sold us propaganda (strong language, i know, not really sure i believe that) that in order to “make a difference” we have to go on a missions trip. And we stress ourselves out and then do crazy things OR feel like crappy Christians.

      And maybe we have it wrong.

      Maybe a lot of it IS just being LIGHT, right exactly where we are.

      Anyway, I hear your struggle. I don’t know if you remember, but i wrote about our own collision with this last year:

      http://www.lauraleighparker.com/2011/02/role-of-missionary/

  • http://raiseyoureyes.dreamhosters.com/ Connie@raise your eyes

    Oswald Chambers said, “Never look for justice in this world, but never cease to give it.” We won’t always get it right, but at least we’ll know we got off the porch.

    • lauraparkerblog

      Oh, love Chambers . . . thanks for sharing that Connie. :)

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