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Whoever loves money never has enough;
whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income.
This too is meaningless -- Ecclesiastes 5:10

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Friday, August 17, 2012

When Empathy Is Greater Than Real World Wisdom

To understand this post, you must first read the journal entry part of this link. The entry was written by Rachel Corrie when she was around 12 years old and comes from the book, Let Me Stand Alone. This is a book of her journal entries.

When I showed this entry to my best friend, she was amazed that such empathy could come from such a young child. When I showed this entry to a business professor, the professor marveled at the human insight this child had.

But not all have given rave reviews here. Whenever I have shown this journal entry to a Conservative Christian, the response has always been an unfeeling yawn. Perhaps, they do not know that they have already become victims of a society bent on dehumanizing its people (see here for an explanation).

This journal entry is about both the homeless and us. Corrie notes that the homeless know the score. They know that society could care less about them and assigns no intrinsic value to them. At this point, every Christian should be taken back. Why? It is because we are scornfully neglecting those made in the image of God simply because they have not monetarily proved themselves worthy.

But, as Corrie's journal points out, it is isn't just an abstract society that has turned its back on them, we, ourselves, do the same while pretending to care. For when Corrie writes, "We love them when they are far away and we are snug and warm," she is describing us. She is shoving a mirror in each person's face so we can see how we want our cake and eat it too. We want to feel like we are good people until we are up close and personal. We want to think of ourselves as compassionate until we have to be with them. In reality, what we want most is for the refuge of society to disappear. This is why she writes, "We battle them with loose change, Trying to send them back out of our minds."

Perhaps, the part of this entry that spoke most to me was how Corrie described us when the homeless ask for our help. Here, she writes:


        We are brutally well behaved. 
        Even when they speak to us, call to us, beseech us, We do not answer or call back.

In these lines, Corrie describes how important it is for us to maintain "good form," as they would say in the story of Peter Pan, as we sin. After all, appearances are everything to the hypocrite.

Finally, Corrie gives the best appeal as to why we should care. It isn't the appeal of authority telling us what to do; it is the appeal of identifying with others telling us how we should feel. And so she closes with "They are us. And we could as easily be them."

Why could a 12 year old see what the wise of this world cannot? Why could a 12 year old feel a kinship with the unwanted while the movers and shakers of this world are numb? Why could a 12 year old care for those whose lives have been thrown away while so many of us are so full of ourselves with pride and religion that we can only see what is in the mirror? Wouldn't the world be far more Biblical if we possessed Corrie's concern for people who are in need?

For those who do not know, Rachel Corrie grew up to be an activist who was killed in the line of duty. She was run over by an Israeli bulldozer as she attempted to protect a Palestinian home from demolition. Perhaps, those of us who are Christians should ask ourselves if Rachel Corrie imitated Christ more than we do today.

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