There are a lot of problems in this world: children dying of hunger, people exploited as labourers or trafficked for sex, people killed in wars for freedom. This stuff is bad, and so I ask, what can we do, what can I do, to change the situation?
I've been told that I should do my part, be faithful with what I have, do as I should, and even if I don’t accomplish much, it will all work out in the eschatological end. God will come back and set things right. Don’t worry too much if a child dies of hunger, this life is a short trial, but heaven will be so lovely that these earthly struggles will be forgotten.
I don’t like it. I find this answer to be too simplistic. It feels like a cop-out to me. It seems to me to render this live meaningless, or at least relatively insignificant. While those with such a mindset often seek to alleviate the suffering of others, it seems they often to the good for the sake of doing the good. They do care for those in their immediate presence, but don’t attempt to make the world a better place for everyone. They realize they can’t, but they do their part to make life better for a few. The do their part, God will take care of the rest… after they die. I don’t like it. It doesn't sit well with me.
The alternative seems to say, “Make the world better!” It urges me not to be content with improving a few lives, but to seek world change, mass economic revolution and equality of all. That begs the question, “how do we get there?” Here’s the danger. With such ambitious goals a temptation presents itself. It is a little voice that answers the question slyly. “By any means,” it says. “By any means.” Then those who dream about economic equality violently fight against the current powers. Those who long that all be free and democratic use violence to work towards this end.
I don’t like it. I fear this mentality all too often leads first to violence and rarely accomplishes what it set out to do. I think extreme is good, but not all extremes. We forget to do good in our immediate settings and dream only of what the world might be. We might fight to get there, but in the way do more harm and actually accomplish little good. A problem exists within this mindset because people are causing the problems, and getting rid of the problems all too often means causing harm to people. I don’t like it. It doesn’t sit well with me.
Well, my prof tried to offer me a third option, an option which hopes, which is a call not just to do our part, but to do all we can, together. It is an option that recognizes limits and means congruent with the end. It is an option that believe in the church, people, and hopes that they will come together to create social change. He thinks that the church can have a greater influence than policy makers, politics or radicals… I’m not sure I’m that hopeful. I’m not sure I have that much faith.