Going big and going small

Big things and little things. I have a theory about those of us who want to make the world a better place. In our hearts we know the ambulance theory; when people are being pushed off the cliff and falling to the ground many of us feel called to be at the bottom, assisting the victims with their injuries. But how many will try to get to the source of the problem, the persons who are pushing people over the cliff? Whether it is a lack of imagination or courage or a preference to think of the immediate issue in front of us few will question why people who are suffering continue to do so. In a more contemporary illustration why is it the poverty persists, what is causing this and how can we fix it? Those who prefer to stand at the bottom of the cliff and assist the injured might say, “There is poverty because people are not good with money.” But surely this is not the case, most of those in poverty have illnesses and challenges that make work hard to find and skills that do not translate into high wages. The fact we allow those who do not work to receive so little money and thus live in deep poverty makes us the same as those who watch the victims falling from the cliff.

Those who work on poverty issues often get burned out and cynical because there is not systemic change to enable the clients they work with to get ahead. Most of us in our assistance are giving out crumbs, subsistence living, keeping people’s heads just above the water. It is rare that we get to assist people to step out of the poverty that entangles them and into a more liberated and joyful abundance.

Why is it that we so often go small when we need to go big? Why is it that we are more comfortable bring extra groceries to the church than asking our MLA to increase the amounts given to those on social assistance? Why do we feel more comfortable handing out our used clothes than asking our government to build more social housing?

Even at Lent when we are engaged in the drama of Holy Week and read stories of the suffering of believers, put to death by the Roman Empire, do we channel that persecution into “I will give up chocolate for Lent this year”? Really? In a movement like Jesus’ that moved from place to place stirring things up, turning tables in the Temple, feeding the hungry, mixing with the hated Samaritans, swearing an oath to Jesus, not Caesar, how did we get from there to here, giving up sweets, a swearing jar, a pious promise to say the Lord’s Prayer each night. How did we get from the big to the small?

Has our faith really been so domesticated that when we hear words of persecution in the Bible we think about the friend who criticizes us for going to church. How small! How selfish! In reality there are churches all over the world right now planning to break laws to engage illegal refugees, prepared to go to jail if necessary. Now that is big

One reason people are not looking to the churches for a message of justice in our era, in our community, is because they don’t think we offer that vision any more. Isn’t time to go big again?