Monday, May 28, 2007

The Diagnosis

Welcome to the blog, this is new, we'll see how it goes. Lets hope I don't neglect it.

As many of you know this summer I am in Jacksonville, Florida interning with a group called 2nd Mile Ministries in the inner city. I am living right in the midst of the inner city and am surrounded by poverty, crime, and an overall stagnation of hope. Many people here view themselves as stuck in their current situation, the American dream is not a realistic possibility to most people here. In fact, this is the type of neighborhood, that I think most people from a background like mine look at an ask: "How is that possible?", "Why are so many people in poverty?", "Why is there no guarantee a child will graduate from junior high, let alone high school?". And I think most people (myself included) can come up with a number of reasons for the situation.

Immediately we are attracted to the concept of blame. As humans, when we see other's suffering we seek an explanation and preferably a nice, neat explanation that does not involve us. For example, a problem like poverty (within the US or worldwide) we might come up with the following explanations: lack of initiative (laziness), unequal economic opportunity, failure of government, poor decision making, corporatization, or an unjust society. While these all can offer some sort of plausible account of the situation, I believe they all fall short of the true problem. I believe that while dozens if not hundreds of factors play into the creation of a problem like poverty the true problem is far broader and far deeper. It is a problem lodged within the human heart. Its not just the cause of poverty its also the cause of all problems in all aspects of human life. It lies behind war, it lies behind disorder in average suburban homes, it lies behind greed, it lies behind selfishness, it lies behind fighting, it lies behind anger.

Humanity has a much deeper problem.

Humanity is flawed.

Humanity has a spiritual disease.

Now by spiritual disease I am not trying to condemn. I'm not trying to be a pessimist. I'm instead intending to offer an explanation for why the world around us looks the way it does. While I do not deny that this world contains unspeakable beauty and that the most amazing of those beautiful moments are interactions between people, no one can honestly take one look at the world or even at their own heart and believe that things are as they should be. Much of what goes on in the world is tragic and often horrific.

Simply, I believe that the world is not the way it should be because of mankind's spiritual disease, which a churchy word for would be sin, but I'm going to try to avoid talking that way.

When I look at a problem like poverty, all the explanations boil down to a spiritual disease in my eyes. Laziness (which from my experience, has very little to do with the problem) is a symptom of a spiritual disease. Governmental and cultural indifference is a symptom of a spiritual disease. Greedy or corrupt economic systems are a result of a spiritual disease. And an unjust society is a symptom of a spiritual disease. I could go on like this, but the point is, no matter the case, a spiritual disease is the root of the problem.

As I said, this disease could be called sin, it could be called selfishness, it could be called pride, whatever you want to call it, I think it infects the human heart to the deepest levels, but thankfully as a follower of Christ, I believe that the cure has already been provided for. And that, in short, answers the question to those who might ask why I am down here living on the poverty-stricken, humid, probably-dangerous Northside of Jacksonville. An answer has been provided for, not just the flawed, problematic whole of humanity, but to the flawed problematic disorder within our individual souls. Each on of us has been offered redemption and new creation and that's worth living and fighting for.

(Note: This is not to say I believe the solution to these problems is as simple as everyone becoming a Christ follower. Clearly all too often Christ followers perpetuate these problems as much as anyone. Christ followers continue to let themselves be affected by the spiritual disease, even though they have been 100% cleared and been given a clean bill of health. However, I do believe that if everyone truly became fully like Christ all of these problems would (and will) disappear.)

(Note2: If familiar with the band Switchfoot you may realize, as I did while writing this, that this lines up pretty well with their song "Ammunition" (lyrics) (video). I like the song but that wasn't intentional.)