Does knowing about a problem require you to do something about it?
|photo credit: Chicago Man via photopin cc|
It seems that almost every day I’m exposed to a new issue that deserves my attention. I was sickened to discover that in Chicago alone, a minimum of 16,000 – 25,000 women and girls are victims of human trafficking every year. It’s sobering to realize that there are an estimated 153,000,000 orphans worldwide, and 123,000 of them are right here in America. How about the fact that there’s over 116,000 people homeless in Chicago. Then there’s Pastor Saeed Abedini. He’s been tortured in an Iranian prison for a year simply for being a Christian. On top of all that, the little boy down the street from me lives with his great-grandmother, and doesn’t have any male role models in his life.
Without a doubt, this data is completely overwhelming. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Constant access to information makes it impossible to turn a blind eye. The days of blissful isolationism were over a long time ago.
How should we respond?
Many choose the simplest solution to the mountain of problems plaguing the world – overlook them. They just pretend they aren’t there. I can’t do that. I don’t believe willful ignorance or deliberate apathy are appropriate. Unfortunately, that leaves me in an uncomfortable position. I’m forced into honest hypocrisy.
Whether or not you realize it, you’re in the exact same situation. All of us are aware of so many societal problems today that we can’t possibly begin to take action with all of them. We’re left with no choice but to prioritize our attention and our resources, while fully acknowledging that there’s some problems we simply can’t do anything about.
I was confronted by this dilemma in an episode (“Food Justice: Do as I say, not as I do”) of a podcast I co-host. In it, I acknowledged that I’m against animal cruelty. I also shared my conviction that it’s terrible when animals are mistreated while being processed for consumption. At the same time, I openly confessed that my family doesn’t do much about this issue. In the aftermath of the episode, I’ve received strong criticism for knowing about the problem, but choosing not to do anything about it.
I feel badly that passionate animal rights advocates might be upset with me. However, as much as I don’t like it, my emotional, physical, spiritual and financial resources are limited. So is my time. There’s only so much all of us can do.
I care about animal rights. I’m emphatically against human trafficking. My heart aches for orphans, and I’m troubled by homelessness. But at this point, expressing those feelings verbally is all I can do. I wish I could do more, but I can’t because all of my resources are allocated to other issues. And if openly proclaiming these positions and my inability to take action makes me a hypocrite, then so be it.
So, does knowing about a problem require you to do something about it? No. That’s clearly an unreasonable expectation for anyone in our world today. We’re simply confronted with too many problems to take action against them all. But we can prayerfully do something about a few issues, and trust that God will guide other people into different areas of passion and priority. Lord willing, we can even stand in verbal agreement without being chastised for inaction.
So let’s start extending each other some grace, and live in the uncomfortable reality of intellectual honesty. Even if it means embracing honest hypocrisy.