Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Who Among Us?

I have posted below selected excerpts from an article sent to me by a friend of mine.

Niger, ranked as the second-poorest nation on Earth, is experiencing its worst famine in more than 20 years, as a brutal drought last year was followed by a plague of crop-destroying locusts. An estimated 3.5 million of Niger's 12 million people are currently at risk of starvation.

"That's why it was so important for this mission to happen right now," said Clarkson. "So many people here are suffering. Disease, starvation, and lack of shelter are day-to-day realities in Niger. But once they hear the Good News of Jesus Christ and accept Him as their Lord and Savior—once they really take Him into their hearts—then they will see what poor comforts are the things of this world."

Though "spiritually gratified" by their work, many of the missionaries spoke about the difficulties of working in an impoverished country."It can be so hard being away from the comfort of our homes and our loving families," Clarkson confided. "I will admit, there have been times when I prayed, 'Lord, just help me get through this mission and get me back to Texas!' But when we rolled into town and people started running after the truck with those big smiles on their faces, I couldn't help but smile back."

Clarkson added: "And when we opened up the back of the truck and they saw that it was full of Bibles... Grown men and women wept in front of their children. That's how moved they were by the Holy Spirit. That's how I know it's all been worth it." Clarkson said her mission will succeed in bringing the people of Niger "the spiritual sustenance they've been deprived of," despite such obstacles as the nation's 18 percent literacy rate. "You say you're suffering. I say, let the good Lord do the suffering for you," she said. "You say you're exhibiting the deleterious effects of severe dehydration and chronic malnutrition. And I say that no matter what ails you, the Holy Bible is the best medicine there is."

As I read this article, I started getting upset and annoyed that my intelligent friend had been duped into believing there were actually people like this in the world. I was on my way to to check the story out when I remembered—the Onion, where this article was published—is a satirical zine. Satire.

According to, satire is “Irony, sarcasm, or caustic wit used to attack or expose folly, vice, or stupidity”. Irony, sarcasm, caustic wit—it’s all there, and I love it all. And I am not above laughing at myself, not at all. I am more than a little familiar with the kind of people who are being mocked in this article.

Then there is the second part of the definition of sarcasm: a method used to attack or expose folly, vice, or stupidity. That’s where I began to feel downright insulted. But, you know, to each his own. And yes, if you have an ability to laugh at yourself, the article is humorous. So I laughed. But when I stopped laughing, I started thinking, because there is always a grain (or more) of truth in satire.

And I wondered:

Who among us would deny a father who has lost his young son the humanity of being angry by dismissing that anger with “you just have to trust the Lord”?

Who among us would send a woman who has been broken by her husband’s inability to learn how to manage his anger to a Bible study called “You Can Be The Wife of a Happy Husband”?

Who among us would make feeding the homeless a “once every summer” project for our youth, allowing them to deliver the gospel with peanut butter sandwiches for a week, and then return home with a renewed sense of “how very blessed we are”?

Who among us would tell an addict who has fallen for the umpteenth time, “you’ll never amount to anything”?

Who among us has not resorted to tossing quick and pithy phrases out as wisdom, uttering sound bites like these? –

“Just do it.”—good advice for a person weighed down with depression?

“Get a job.”—the cure for poverty?

“Keep your legs closed.”—helpful for the teenage girl who only wants someone to cherish her?

“Just say no.”—why can’t those darn addicts get the message?

Like I said, I got to thinking.

And I wondered, how many times have I given a stone for bread?

"Satire is a sort of glass, wherein beholders do generally discover everybody's face but their own"--Johathan Swift


  1. For me it comes down to selfishness. Why would I offer someone a platitude rather than a listening ear? Because that's a lot easier for me! Then I don't have to actually care about another person's view of the world, their feelings or experiences. I don't have to give myself to anyone. But that's what Jesus did.

  2. I have some pretty huge problems with people trying to "exchange" goods (like food and water) for their chance to sahe the good news. Harkens me back to my mid Lent post from Bishop Tutu. And then I had a flashback to something a fellow blogger said post Katrina, that people who want to eat should have to listen to the message of the Gospel along with their PB&J. Funny I never thought of the Gospel as a condiment. And should the act or action speak for itself. Is that not what it is about? Why do I feel the top of my head getting hot? Oh.....this one has surely hit a nerve. This combines my two biggest life peeves, poverty and stupidity. I must go soak my head now.

  3. You're "preaching" from right where my own thoughts are located right now, Annie. We worshipped at the rescue mission last night and I talked with a friend as we drove home. These people have heard all the chapter and verse before, put to them in the framework of formulas and "magic potions". They have also seen the truth at work in our lives. They don't need a page out of the book. They need to find the reality of "Christ in me" and too often we, the Church, just want to "do church"............

  4. little david --Ouch. That's an interesting take, to see selfishness as a reason for offering platitudes. Certainly to do more than offer a platitude costs us in terms of time and involvement.

    ayekah --Sorry to get yer blood boiling! I had a longer post on this, written last summer, and now I can't find the thing (it was a bit disturbing at the time). I may have deleted it...I know I wrote the jist of it in my written journal. I may have to try and dig it up.

    Jim --They don't need a page out of the book. Far too often, we (I) use the pages of the book as a shield to keep myself from becoming involved, which amounts to selfishness, which is convicting...ouch, again.

  5. Oh Annie....this is your best so far. I love this and it means so much to so many different people for so many different reasons.

    Do you mind if I print out your pic? I would like to make a magnet of it to remind me at all times.

    I am also still trying to figure out why there is a yes and a no on that cows butt.

  6. POE(&TS)-- Thank you! Of course you can print out the picture.

    Why don't you go in and ask about the yes and no on the cow's butt?


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