29 November 2011

If You're Not Dead...

If Youre Not Dead by ethurphotos
In my roamings around the internet, I stumbled across this. I can't endorse the group, because I don't know enough about them, but the question they pose is interesting: Who would you give a second chance?

It's a question I've been mulling over since a conversation with our front office staff. We were discussing the fact that the U.S. is deporting a lot of Haitians at the moment. Human rights advocates in the U.S. are shocked and appalled by this, because of the earthquake-damaged-poverty-stricken-hell-on-earth-nature of Haiti (that's their opinion, not mine, by the way). But it turns out that my coworkers were upset for a different reason...

THEM: Living in the U.S. ruined those people, so they should just keep them.

ME: What do you mean, ruined? Like, made them spoiled so they can't live without their iPhones?

THEM: Yeah, spoiled. Spoiled. But spoiled because of drugs and crime. They never would have done drugs here. Drugs come from other places, so it's their problem if those people are rotten now. The U.S. has big prisons and we don't, so they should just keep them.

ME: They're not as big as you'd think.

From there, we continued a political discussion which I won't recount here (because I hated talking about it enough the first time). Suffice it to say, the outcome of the conversation was this:

"Those people are rotten."

Spoiled, like an apple is spoiled when eaten by worms. Like milk that's curdled. Like bread that's molded. Spoiled in an irreversible sense, something deep down in the nature of who they are.

I resented that. I told them so. I told them "those people" can and do change.

They disagreed...which broke my heart.

And since then, I have been thinking about human nature. I've been thinking about psychology, about prisons, about drug rehab programs, about foster homes. I've been thinking about the trash heap that these "spoiled" people grow up in. I've been thinking about how to dig them out.

I've been thinking of K, a friend here. He got deported from the U.S. after having grown up there. He lives here now (but he speaks English like a New Yorker, which makes me giggle). He has some problems...but he started coming to my church a month ago. "There's nothing like this in Haiti," he tells me. "This guy is real," he says, pointing to Seige, our pastor. "He's simple, and he preaches the Word. It's like, wow. And I watched them to see how they'd treat you, if they were asking you for stuff. But they didn't." I asked him if he was coming back, and the look I got in return told me that was a stupid question.

I'd say he's changing.

And more than anything, I've been thinking about Christ's power over life and death, over change and stagnancy. That picture at the top of the page sums it up for me: "If you're not dead, you're not done." If I don't believe that, then I don't believe the Gospel...because everyone made in God's image can find it again. We know that in God's kingdom, the deadwood gets cut down--but it doesn't take much of a bud on the branch to keep you around. If you want life--real life--you can find it there.

But on the other hand, my friends were disturbingly correct. If I won't accept God's help to change, I won't change. My vices and addictions may change, but I won't. If I remain a fan of Jesus instead of a follower, I get out of my faith what exactly what I put into it: nothing. How do I know? I've tried it. And it was a huge waste of time.

What am I trying to say? I'm not sure. Maybe just that I can't give up on those curdled milk, wormy apple, moldy bread failures. Maybe just that, as one of them, I won't.

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