May 1, 2007

Going abroad: An inside perspective on an ‘ivory tower’ from the outside

by Joel Furrow, Guest Columnist
I have a habit of involving myself in let’s-change-the-world conversations on a regular basis. These typically include lots of coffee and a few individuals with endless amounts of time to spare.
During the most recent discussion I had with a friend concerning the state of the world, the church, America and the many problems in between, my friend made a comment portraying our great country as someone who sits in her own “ivory tower” overlooking the world — judging and making opinions concerning other people’s interests.

 It seems that we have forgotten that the world possesses other people and have resorted to viewing them as pawns that we can move about as we like. Topics of discussion such as the Sudan, Iraq and Palestine have become just that — topics, not places and people.

The most recent tragedy on everyone’s mind (and rightfully so) is the Virginia Tech massacre.  This horrible act of violence seems to have truly awoken the American public to the fragility of life. On the same day as the Virginia Tech killings, 164 people lost their lives in Baghdad to suicide bombings based on tribal conflicts that have existed for centuries. 

I say this not to downplay the great tragedy to our neighbors in Blacksburg. Indeed, my prayers and heart go out to those families and communities. However, this is an opportunity to put our ivory tower mentality into perspective.  What we witnessed at Virginia Tech is a type of situation that many parts of the world deal with on a daily basis.

I have lived in Amman, Jordan for the past eight months, studying Arabic and finishing up my senior year.  I know some who have been brutally affected by the war in Iraq.  Jordan is now home to nearly one million Iraqi refugees.  They live here with no rights to education, health care or legal jobs. 

The overwhelming majority escaped Iraq with only their families or less. They have faces, names, brothers and sisters. They have family members still living in the chaos that we know as Baghdad. They face great difficulty, with little hope for the future.

It is so easy for us as Americans, myself included, to evaluate the situation from 8,000 miles away — to develop what we think should happen based our “educated” opinion or what the leader of our political party says we should think and believe. 

We sit in our ivory tower surrounded by more blessings from God than any nation in history, discussing issues that greatly effect individuals with the same rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

We deceive ourselves by thinking that American government is the answer to our problems. We state, “ If he had just done (blank), things would be better.”

Or worse, we blame the opposing political party for the problems. 
I have only one question concerning these topics.  Are we the bride of Christ or not?  If the answer is yes, then we have some things to change. In Matthew 5:13, Jesus stated, “You are the salt of the earth, but if the salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet” (ESV).
The American government cannot fix the many issues in the Middle East, the Sudan or anywhere else people suffer. Our opinions without action are meaningless and show how close we are to losing our saltiness. Experiencing the person and the blood of Jesus is the only thing that can bring people from violence to peace, from hate to love and from tragedy to joy. There is no other power that possesses this effect.

The responsibility of spreading that freedom, peace, and joy falls on one group of people — Christians.

Christ has empowered us with a message that is greater than that of democracy or any other social cause.  This message possesses the keys to peace, love, selflessness and, most importantly, the redemption of the broken and destroyed. 

What we do with this message will determine what the world looks like in the next 50 years.
May we cease to be the people who see and do not act, who hear and ignore, and who discuss intensely yet fail to ever see past ourselves.

Contact Joel Furrow at
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