There was a very large response to this.
As a result, I had a great idea, or it certainly seemed like one at the time. I wrote: Why not practice what I preach, and use my blog as a platform for a few ethnic-minority guests to answer some questions and say what they don't usually have a chance to say?
I'd name the series something like You Talk, I Listen.
Then came the election, and I was staying away from the Internet just to maintain my sanctification. Then it was Christmas, and then I was spending two or three hours a day finalizing my talks for INSPIRE, and suddenly four months had passed.
I was doing some work behind the scenes, though. And things didn’t go as I had planned. So I reached some conclusions, which I will enlarge upon, eventually.
But first, let’s talk about Causes.
A cause, says Aunt Google, is “a principle, aim, or movement that, because of a deep commitment, one is prepared to defend or advocate.”
Back when I was a young married college student with a bad case of Ella Enchanted syndrome, where I was under a spell that made me robotically do whatever I was told, always, I met two young Romanian men on campus at Chemeketa Community College.
Now maybe this is a stereotype I need to renounce and repent of, but I think Eastern Europeans win all the prizes for being passionate about their cause. These young men were Christians, so we connected on that point, and they had come out of Communism, which increased the intensity of their belief. And they were involved with Youth With a Mission, known as YWAM, [pronounced Wy-Wam] with a completely rabid obsession.
So they would stop me on that lovely quad at Chemeketa, and smile joyfully and talk about the goodness of God and the joy of serving Him, and then they would crank up the engines and tell me about the amazing things happening at their YWAM meetings! The speakers! The miracles! The prayer! The sinners coming to Jesus! The encouragement! Oh, I just HAVE TO COME TO THEIR NEXT MEETING!!!
I didn’t want to go. We lived a good distance away, our evenings were precious, and we were busy with our own church and its activities. But I couldn’t resist those mesmerizing Romanians leaning toward me and waving their arms in their European pullover sweaters, and so, because I felt guilty and unspiritual and under a spell, I said we would come.
I went home and told Paul.
He said, “What did you say?! Y-What? Who are these people?! Where did you say they meet—the other side of Salem?? Are you sure you want to do this?”
“Well...they were just so excited about it, and I felt bad saying no...”
“We have plenty to do without driving 45 minutes to a YWAM meeting!”
“But I kind of said we would…”
“There is no reason we need to go to that meeting.”
And that was that. I know I was kind of Ella Enchanted toward Paul at that stage as well, but it was still a relief to be free from the obligation to attend the meeting.
Of course, it was me and not he who met the Romanians on the quad the next day and tried to explain. But I survived, and I learned something.
Just because someone else is passionate about a Cause and thinks you ought to be also, and communicates this in spiritual-sounding words with great waving of hands and showers of guilt—that doesn’t mean that that is your Cause to take on.
Because we all have our own Causes and callings, and the work of God’s Kingdom on Earth will get done if we all pursue what we are called to do, and it will not get done if we neglect our own calling to half-heartedly help with another’s because we feel guilty and pressured.
God made us so that we can all do something, but none of us can do everything.
He made us with different interests and resources, so we are better suited for specific callings, and not others.
Here are just a few to choose from:
Evangelism and missions
Feeding the hungry
India’s caste system
Volunteering at thrift stores
Habitat for Humanity
No doubt you know people out to change the world in one or more of those arenas.
Our level of commitment can range from mild interest to deeper interest to financial support to sacrificial passion.
You can encourage someone else in what they’re doing without being obligated to join them heart and soul. All you need to do is bless them in their endeavors and continue with your own.
I could give Edith Chastain my leftover fabric for her weighted blanket project without any expectation that I would start spending 25 hours a week sewing them myself, as she does, tempting as that might be.
Sometimes when we have been enlightened on a subject, we want everyone else to be just as enlightened as we are, and we forget that they might not be called to the same level of passion and commitment as we are. Maybe, polite support from a distance is all they are called to.
Also, sometimes a certain cause is a fad, and everyone is leaping on this wagon and riding along together with music playing, and you feel left out and a bit callous and cold if you simply wave as they go by.
Some examples of today’s “everyone on the wagon” causes are health [from Plexus to vaccines], race issues, rights for all kinds of groups, and environmentalism.
Meanwhile, other important causes go virtually unnoticed.
If you post about the terrible war in Yemen, the injustice of a proxy war in that already poor country, the starving children, the destruction of their already shaky infrastructure—the reaction is at most a shrug.
If you go off about malaria, and how the banning of DDT by elitist Western environmentalists led to the deaths of many thousands if not millions of African children, you’ll get a few frowns and a few more, “Oh, but they need to use mosquito nets.” That’s when I start frothing at the mouth, being a bit more passionate about this cause than most. Did YOU ever sleep under a mosquito net on a hot African night?? HUH?? And how many mosquitoes found their way to your ears in spite of the net?! I thought so. The amount of DDT a farmer used to spray on ONE ACRE would protect 100,000 African homes for three months! And it doesn’t enter the food chain the same way because it’s spread on the walls in tiny amounts, not sprayed on the ground in gallons. DID YOU KNOW THAT??
Yes. Well. Deep breath.
So I wrote about race, sort of, which is a popular cause, especially among politically liberal and extra-educated people.
And WHOOSH. In public, in private, by blog comments and email and Facebook message and telegraph and Pony Express, I was inundated with articles and examples and revival-meeting pleas and most of all Information, all from Concerned White People, because they knew that if they just gave me the right facts, then I would join their cause with fervor. They believed in me, that I was a Good Smart Person, and Good Smart People do this, once they Learn and Know.
They were as mesmerizing as the Romanian students of old, and I fell for it.
So I decided to Do Something, namely interview people from other colors and cultures and give them a chance to speak.
A number of people waved their hands in the air and said, “Pick me!!”
So I did. I got acquainted, sent the questionnaire--a long set of open-ended questions designed to not steer the answers in any direction--waited, reminded.
And one by one they all dropped out of the project. Messages and emails went unanswered, deadlines passed, silence prevailed.
Were my questions too complicated? Should I have done phone interviews instead? Was I being all White People Talking and they had no patience for that?
Or was God telling me in this way that this was not the Cause he had chosen for me, that I would be more effective with passions that bubbled from my own soul rather than ones imposed from without?
Was this a cause I should offer friendly support from a distance rather than plunge into myself?
Was it enough to be aware, as opportunities arose, but to focus on simply being a decent person and loving God and the people he put in my life?
Yes, I concluded, feeling like after all these years I had gone just a bit Ella Enchanted again.
So that was almost the end of that project.
Almost: because I did do one fascinating phone interview.
And also because I had an epiphany: so much of today’s writing on race and privilege is like being at a Bill Gothard seminar.
Those posts are yet to come, if God leads thusly.