Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Are Causes hamartia?

I went to church on Sunday.

I went to a, what looked to me like a younger tamer version of, Woodstock festival on Saturday.

I found some interesting differences between the two events. Now the "Woodstock"-like festival was a local Celtic festival celebrating a huge mark for, we'll say, local Celtic studies. So obviously, it was nothing like the French church service. Those differences are evident but we might as well mention them anyway. The festival was lively with lots of music, lots of dancing, lots of beer and local cider, lots of people, and lots of fun all culminating in one weekend. The church service happens every weekend with the same few people, little music (well there is more music than anything else), little enthusiasm, little interaction, and overall little benefit.

But the differences I saw were over the importance of incorporating social justice into the lives of those in attendance. Let me try to illustrate this. All over the church I see signs encouraging people to get involved in social justice causes mainly by buying commerce equitable (fair trade or the French site) products. One gets the feeling that if you buy fair trade you are being a good Christian. OK, fine. I have no problem with fair trade (except in some cases with cotton but that's another post).

At the Celtic festival I found a booth where people were selling various products and people ready to get you involved in making sure everyone gets a fair trade around the world (ohh, except Coke, and they are evil just because they are). I've even had the chance to talk to one of the more outspoken advocates of fair trade; I happened to be near her when I ordered a glass of that Satanic brew.

These are two institutions having the same goal; involvement in a cause for the betterment of humanity. But are these two groups being properly involved in the greatest good? What's the importance or even motivation to be more involved in social justice? I thought about this during the sermon when I heard the French version of Matthew 6:33 where righteousness in French is rendered justice. That may satisfy Christians who need a biblical mandate to get them more interested in social justices. But for others, they are motivated to get involved as a result of being affected by something even bigger than the cause of the day. However, if the Christian thinks that being more socially active ensures that he is a good Christian, then he has missed the mark. I am not saying social justice is not something good for a Christian. Sure it is. If you have seen the movie Amazing Grace about William Wilberforce, you have seen an example of how getting involved in social justice projects can have a huge impact on those around you. I am saying that, for a Christian, being involved in any cause without being connected to an even higher goal is missing the mark. He's simply getting involved to look good and possibly for selfish reasons.

The same is true for our earthy friends who put all their energies into their "causes," whether it be fair trade or something else. All of us want to be a part of something bigger than ourselves. So, often social causes are a way to participate in something larger than ourselves. Stopping AIDS in Africa, promoting recycling, bring attention to child abuse, or buying fair trade products are all great in and of themselves. When one is involved in a project with others for a common goal, one can have this bigger-than-me feeling fulfilled. But it's not enough. Sure, one may be remembered as a great philanthropist and have a huge commemorative statue erected on their behalf. People may look to this one as an example, but the mark has been missed. It's been missed, in my humble opinion, because righting wrongs in society is the indirect result of people being in touch with the greatest good, God. Otherwise, we all become idol worshipers missing the Creator himself and helping others for pure self promotion.

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