I am very much looking forward to the start of baseball season this year. It isn't because I am a rabid sports fan. I learned not to be that kind of fan when I realized that being a rabid fan is just another way of being a manic-depressive. Rather, I am looking forward to the start of baseball season because I regard it as the rainbow of winter. For it not only signifies the end of winter, it assures us that winter will not destroy us.
But I am also looking forward to another Spring event. That event will be when my family and I see the movie on César Chávez (click movie website and short bio) to celebrate my birthday. Chávez not only risked everything to organize the farmworkers, he sacrificed a lot as well (click here). He did all of this because of his own history and the plight of his people. The farmworkers lived in poverty as well as in brutal and abusive conditions. They were treated as equipment and "beasts of burden" and were regarded as disposable. Many of these farmworkers were children (click here). But it wasn't just the suffering of the farmworkers which caused Chávez pain, it was the plight of his fellow Mexican-Americans who lived in the cities of Southern California.
Now had Chavez been a member of a Conservative Christian church, he would have taken all of the pain lying down because he the only solution he would see was to wait for people to change. For the approach of the Conservative Christian Church is to put all of their eggs of hope for change into the basket of the conversion of enough individuals who would then tweak the system. At least this is what I heard from a para church college worker as we ate lunch outside of Zuccotti Park when Occupy Wall Street (OWS) had its encampment. And that wasn't his view alone, it was the view of a well known minister he followed and it is the view of many Conservative Christians I've spoken with.
Martin Luther King Jr. encountered that view a number of times. He called approaches like that, 'gradualism,' and he rejected it. Why? He rejected it because he and the people he cared about were suffering greatly. And neither he nor his people could afford to spare any urgency in having their grievances resolved.
Why King rejected gradualism also gives us a heads up on those who favor gradualism. They feel no urgency in having things change. Perhaps, that is because they are at the other end of the whip. It isn't that they use the whip; it is that they are not the target of its lashes. And when you combine that with the belief that all of the injustices one has received will be reversed so that one will be honored and rewarded rather than scorned and punished, then there isn't much motivation to change the status quo especially since changing the status quo involves risks.
However, we should note that some who joined King were sympathizers who were working solely for the benefit of others. So why were there sympathizers who also rejected gradualism? It has to do with how wide is one's circle of compassion. Those who were gradualists back then had a small circle of compassion. That circle only might have included family and friends. They were too busy and preoccupied with themselves to care about those in need.
We should note that Chávez was no gradualist. He knew that to change the way things were and to bring some measure of relief to his people, he would have to take action, he would have to help the farmworkers organize. For it was only in organizing that they had any hope that things could change (click here). Being passive or relying solely on prayer was not going to do it.
So what should we say to America's Conservative Christian Churches? For when it comes time to relieving their own suffering or that of fellow believers, they act as if faith without works is dead. But when it comes time apply the Gospel in lifting the oppression off of others, they are gradualists. And it doesn't matter whether they are gradualists because they are not the ones who are suffering or that their circles of compassion are too small to care and act, that they don't act with any degree of urgency puts significant stumbling blocks in the way of those who hear the Gospel. But not only do they interfere with the faith of others, they show themselves to be sinners in this matter.
Chávez understood what was required to change the status quo. He learned his approach from people like King and Gandhi and then went out and acted. In contrast to this, there is a group of churches that claim to know the way to heaven but who don't care enough about others to be any earthly good. And because of that, not only will fewer people be helped here on earth, fewer people will be willing to even listen to the Gospel being preached. But at least these same American Conservative Christians will feel sanctified and good about themselves.
|This Month's Scripture Verse:|
Whoever loves money never has enough;
whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income.
This too is meaningless -- Ecclesiastes 5:10