In the days leading up to Artreach, someone approached me about the event and said that a friend of theirs wasn’t coming because she didn’t believe that the profits would actually made it back into the hands of the artisans who made the products. I was a little dumbstruck. And sad. It stuck with me that whole week, the thought of how easily cynicism can take hold of our lives and our ministries.
Cynicism breeds inaction. If you’re a cynic, you think, “The world’s corrupt. Nothing works. Why bother?” I know this because I’ve been there and still struggle with those thoughts from time to time. In Irresistible Revolution, Shane Claiborne returns home from a summer spent alongside Mother Teresa in the slums of Calcutta and begins working at one of America’s largest megachurches. He writes, “Sometimes I just got cynical. That was the easiest thing to feel, as cynicism takes very little energy.”
His words were convicting. It is easier to see what’s wrong in this world than to do something about it. In fact, a whole bunch of things are wrong with this world and they break my heart. But as Christians, we have a larger view. I ran across this anonymous quote recently, “Sometimes I would like to ask God why he allows poverty, famine and injustice when He could do something about it, but I’m afraid He would ask me the same thing.”
We don’t follow an inactive God. He is alive and active through His church, which is His body, His arms and legs. And cynicism has a crippling effect on what His body can accomplish in this world.
The antidote for cynicism? Hope. Simple (but often hard to hold on to) hope. Dr. Salai, HCHT’s beloved translator, has become a hero of hope in my life. His story humbles me. In 2001 at the age of 73, he stood in his academic regalia (he has a doctorate from the University of Wisconsin in agriculture) in a one-man protest against the oppressive regime in his homeland of Burma. After decades of working to improve the lives and welfare of Burma’s ethnic minorities, he stood up to the powerful government. He was promptly imprisoned and sentenced to 7 years in the notorious Insein Prison. While in prison, Dr. Salai staged a hunger strike in order to have access to his Bible. After 18 months of tireless efforts by his family, he was released. Dr. Salai has had a lifetime of experience from which to grow cynical. But he is one of the most hope-filled people I know.
In the pamphlet he shared with Artreach visitors, Dr. Salai writes, “In fighting injustice, there should be no neutrals. The neutrals are with the oppressors. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. Many people have taken up arms to fight injustice. But there is another way to acquire democracy peacefully. I believe that prayer changes things.”
As we enter the Christmas season, the word “hope” is thrown around ad naseum. After a while, it loses meaning. This year, I’ll be reflecting on eradicating cynicism from my life. And replacing it with real hope, real action in the face of injustice, and real faith in the power of prayer.
“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”
On another note, thank you to all who came out to Artreach this year. It was another wonderful day of celebration of ministries and artisans from all over the world. Thanks to your generosity, we were able to give paychecks to 18 women this month. They are small amounts in the world’s eyes, but they make a big difference in the lives of these families. Thank you!