ME: The brown bowl? The one on the glass table in the sun room? With the napkins?
DEAREST DAUGHTER: Yes.
Yes, I have a four year old. 😁
The writer of Ecclesiastes reminds us that “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.” I’m writing this on the Monday after the most terrible primary school massacre in American history, after a mentally ill young man went to his mother’s school, killed her, several adults, and at least twenty young children.
This is a time to mourn.
Not a time to score Calvinism points by hammering away about God’s sovereignty.
Not a time to remind us that this massacre is nothing compared to the greatest crime, the crucifixion of Jesus (which was also God’s plan from before the foundation of the world).
Not the time to explain that every murder is primarily an assault against God, and God’s sovereignty. Not a time to learn “A Lesson for All from Newton” – the lesson being that we should think of this as a warning about our own depravity.
Not even a time to theorize on the question of evil.
But considering what Piper has said in the past about God’s unquestionable right to kill women and children, even commit genocide, maybe this would have been a time for him to take off his theologian hat and simply offer compassion and sympathy as a fellow Christian and human being.
The same could be said for every pastor who cribbed yesterday’s sermon from Piper’s blog posts. We don’t need a lesson. We don’t need deflection away from this event onto an oversimplified, self-contradictory view of the crucifixion. We don’t need the decaf version of Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.
What do we need? Compassion. Space. The humility to admit that there isn’t an easy answer to this, no matter what the Reformed bloggers say.
We need what the author of Ecclesiastes offered:
A time to mourn.
In response to my last post, I had a very legitimate question asked: Why donate to World Vision, presumably overseas, when there are so many people in America that are in need?
(My response ended up being longer than most of my posts, so I decided to make it its own post. I thought it would be easier to read that way. I’ll say right up front that Laura Tremaine has already said all this better than I can).
First, you can have it both ways. There are several World Vision operations within the United States. For example, this entire section deals with US-based needs: school supplies, food, general toiletries and necessities. And there’s no conflict between supporting local charities and international ones.
But I don’t want to dodge the question. The bottom line is, $500 is not a life-changing amount of money in the U.S. Not for anyone. But it is life-changing for people in Sri Lanka, Sierra Leone, or Uzbekistan, where it represents four months’ wages for the average worker … and the aid often goes to those who are not average, but in the greatest need.
Through an operation like World Vision, $500 can be the difference between clean water and contaminated water (Americans don’t have to worry about their children dying because they drank unsanitary water and contracted cholera), education and child labor (Americans don’t work full-time at age 8) or even child marriage or slavery. Here, $500 is nice. It’s a decent laptop, an iPad, or a couple of semester’s worth of college textbooks. There, it’s enough to change lives.
The magnitude of impact of a limited sum of money is so much greater where the need is greater, that it just makes sense. I don’t think, from a Christian perspective, that Americans have more intrinsic value than people in other nations.
And the need is so much greater there. We live in a fairly well-developed welfare state, one where emergency rooms have to treat anyone who comes in, regardless of ability to pay. One where WIC gives food to pregnant mothers and mothers with children. One where food stamps and unemployment insurance and social security and medicare and medicaid all provide a certain level of mandated support.
Yes, life is hard at that level, but there is clean water, free and mandatory public schooling for children, prohibitions on child labor, no significant threat of malaria or cholera, and food available. “Hunger,” as defined in the United States, is nothing like the life-and-death starvation that faces many of the poorest of the poor in developing nations. It’s a cliche, but it’s worth noticing: in America, the poor are disproportionately obese, not rail-thin.
The impact is greatest where the need is greatest. And that’s there, not here.