Tuesday, March 13, 2012
"I Am No Longer Excited:" Thoughts on Kony 2012
By now I assume you have seen, or at least heard about, Invisible Children's new activism video, Kony 2012. This video went viral when it debuted last week. It surpassed 74 million views on YouTube yesterday. A pretty heated debate has been flying all over the internet concerning Invisible Children and this film. Rachel Held Evans has compiled a great post of links to articles and other resources concerning these issues. You can access that HERE.
A lot has been said, pro and con, so much so that I don't want to add to the noise by rehashing the points many have made. However, a lot of people have asked what I think. So I want to take a few moments to lay out my personal feelings.
I think some of the criticism has been unnecessarily harsh on Invisible Children. There is something to be said about the resolve of its leaders and their commitment to their cause. They have pressed forward and I find that commendable. It is also impressive how effectively they have been able to motivate and mobilize others. That isn't an easy thing to do.
I am also irritated by critics who try to paint the Ugandan government/army in the same light as the LRA. Uganda has it's issues, some of them big, but critics are giving to Americans who know no better the impression that Uganda is a semi-terrorist state. This just isn't the case.
That being said, I do take issue with many aspects of the video and the method of activism it employs.
The Kony video can be useful when it is only one component of a more nuanced approach. My concern is that the nuanced approach will go unheeded as millions barrel ahead armed with only 30 minutes of vague, motivational footage.
We like simple solutions, things we feel can be accomplished, that can be fixed relatively quickly. Kony 2012 offers that to us. It makes us feel greatly empowered by doing very little and worse, knowing very little. It continues to fuel the problem with the West's predominant style of AID and activism that runs miles wide and half an inch deep. Slap another band-aid on Africa, feel better, move on. A lot of the social activism I see these days is subtly and eerily narcissistic.
My biggest complaint with the actual content of Kony 2012 was when the founder told his son that the reason Kony hasn't been caught is because no one knows about him. I agree that more people knowing about Kony will put on the pressure to arrest him, but it doesn't guarantee it. How long did we hunt for Osama Bin Laden and everyone knew exactly who he was? This over-simplistic approach to understanding conflict can be dangerous. Narrowing in on Kony only does so much.
Here are some other questions to be asking. Why do madmen like Kony gain power in Africa to begin with? What happens to the children who are rescued? How does a community rebuild after 25 years of trauma? How do we treat Ugandans during our involvement with them? Like kids? Like a cause? Are we looking at surface solutions or digging for more thorough answers?
Several years ago as we stood before the disappointment of an initially exciting project, Theophilus, our Ugandan partner, said "I am no longer getting excited."
I am no longer getting excited.
He still repeats those words to this very day. This isn't said out of cynicism. This isn't said out of hopelessness. What Theophilus means is that he's no longer getting hyped up. Hype only does so much. Hype only lasts so long.
Two thousand years ago there was a lot of hype in Israel. There were big expectations for the Messiah and what he would do, the movement he would lead to right the wrongs and restore Israel to its place. Instead He came through a poor virgin and lived a modest, humble life. He was despised and rejected, a man from whom we hide our faces, dying abandoned and alone in a public execution.
In our efforts to follow Him are we enthusiastic one day, only to wander off when things grow complicated and difficult? When they don't work out the way we expected? Are we like the Palm Sunday crowds clamoring in praise, only to deny Him before Pilot days later?
I am a crusader by nature, but I am no longer excited. People tell me I am passionate, but now I understand that word in a new way. The term "passion" springs from a Greek word that means "to suffer." It came into use to describe the afflictions of Christ and later those of the martyrs. It is rarely used that way today, and I know most who use it toward me don't mean it in that way, that I am full of affliction. But I welcome that term because I now see that real passion leads us to pain and pain shapes us more into His likeness. When we are like Him we are most effective for Him.
Scott and I attended a wonderful orphan conference this past weekend. A wise panelist who has been in the work of serving the fatherless for decades said "embrace suffering." There is no Easter without suffering. And I would add to that be willing to suffer long. The Lord has shown Himself to unfold His work and will slowly and patiently.
Long-suffering isn't glamorous. Long-suffering doesn't sell bracelets or put up posters. Long-suffering makes us wait and ache while we look at ourselves and others in a way that can easily break resolve. Long-suffering digs for the truth and thrusts down its roots. It keeps on loving and believing when there is no reason for hope. It repents and keeps serving. And it perseveres through misunderstanding, persecution and loneliness. Long-suffering isn't the popular road.
But death isn't the end of Jesus' story or of ours. Easter is coming. It came and it is coming, the day when all things will finally be made new. In the mean time I am striving to walk the redemptive road as faithfully and honestly as I can, and while that means hurt, it leads to such overwhelming joy. It leads to Him.
As Christians I would encourage us to be hesitant to jump on and off of bandwagons. That is distracting stuff that leads to exhaustion and shallow impact. When this massive wave, and it is a wave, of enthusiasm dies down, there will still be much to do and few actually doing it. I urge you to go to the hard place. Think long term, give your heart long term, lay it open and invest. Be willing to be stripped of your securities-and truthfully the emotional and mental securities are the hardest ones to let go of.
Kingdom building is a complex, marathon of a journey that requires training, endurance and commitment. But I know that when we reach the finish line we will see the fruit not just about us, but within us.
Posted by Jamie Laslo at 11:33 AM