Thursday, January 13, 2011

A Different Perspective on Haiti

So it's been one year since Haiti's devastating earthquake.  Since then, storms and outbreaks of cholera have heaped more hell upon Haiti.  The picture below is not from just after the earthquake.  It's from this past Sunday.

(Copyright REUTERS/Jorge Silva)

I heard Tony Campolo say similar things when he was at ENC a few months ago as he does in the article below.  I don't always agree with him and I don't completely understand every aspect of the article, but the general notion is right on.  This is a different take from Tony than many of you might be used to:
Making Matters Worse in Haiti

Similarly, I remember a gentleman from Africa standing at the WC Leadership Summit a couple of years ago and bluntly saying, "We don't need your aid.  We need your trade."*

This isn't simply responding to one's personal worry about people spending our money well, but doing all that we can to enter into another's situation to take upon ourselves their need.

I never refuse an opportunity to propose that there is a difference between charity and compassion.  Most of what happens in response to these situations (Haiti, Katrina, etc.) is charity.  Rarely is it compassion.  Charity can serve compassion, but compassion is literally "suffering with" that many people either don't realize, or at least hide from behind the giving of finances.  I propose that compassion is only partially capable of happening through the giving of resources (namely money) and/or a spending a week somewhere.  And if it's in the pattern of Christ, compassion will move to the incarnational (apologies to Dave G.!), that "suffers with" in order to "lift up." (Philippians 2)

We might even say that an God was charitable prior to Christ, but that in Christ God shows compassion.  No longer does God act by proxy...sending divine messengers and messages, and "fixing" situations from a distance.  Rather, God in Christ enters into our situation to take upon Godself the situation in which we live, that we might conquer it together and be lifted up.  By no means do I think we should stop giving money to charitable organizations.  I believe that love can be practiced and that this is a great practice (not unlike beginner piano lessons).  But the money we give out of charity stops short of compassion.  It is simply a proxy.

*This is why I personally think that "giving" $20 to Kiva is money better used than $20 to other organizations.

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