Ending poverty, ending violence

Locust Effect bannerMost people don’t live under the shelter of the law, but far from the law’s protection.

– United Nations


About seven years ago, I first learned about the horrors of human trafficking one Sunday at Ecclesia Hollywood.

Nearly 30 million people are currently enslaved.

About six years ago, I first read International Justice Mission President Gary Haugen’s book Good News About Injustice, and learned of the phenomenal work his organization is doing to combat modern day slavery and systemic oppression.

4 billion people are unprotected by the law … in
fear of everyday violence like rape, forced labor, and police abuse.

About five years ago, I first interned with Oasis USA, another anti-trafficking organization, and got even more educated about the issues, even more exposed to the brutality of bonded labor and sex trafficking.

For women ages 15-44, the odds of experiencing physical harm or death due to gender-based violence is greater than cancer, motor accidents, war, and malaria combined.

About four years ago, I moved to DC to work at Sojourners, an poverty-focused advocacy organization; I immersed myself in issues of justice and poverty, including systemic injustice and trafficking, and along the way, made a lot of friends who work(ed) at IJM.

Metro Cebu in the Philippines saw a 79% reduction in the availability of children for commercial sex after 4 years of IJM and local law enforcement partnering together.

Every year, I’ve learned something new, either about the brutal realities of injustice that plague people all over the world or about the tremendous work that is going on every day to bring light into dark places.

Gary Haugen’s new book, The Locust Effect: Why the End of Poverty Requires the End of Violence, is out today, and it’s a good one, delving deeper than just quick fixes or band-aids, and challenging us both with the reality of how interconnected poverty and violence are and with the opportunity to change things for the better not just on an individual level but on the systemic level.

My old boss Jim Wallis likes to use the analogy of rescuing babies from a river. If you keep seeing babies floating down the river and you keep jumping in to save them, at some point you need to head upstream and stop whoever’s throwing them in!

This is the work of justice: not just rescuing those who are currently living under threat of poverty and the violence that accompanies it but also making sure that others never have to experience that life.

So what can we do? Awareness is the first step; action is the necessary second. Donors and development institutions can help by supporting the work of building professional and accountable police, and modern, functioning prosecutors, courts, and child welfare agencies.

  1. Awareness – Buy the book. Read it. Encourage others to understand the problem by doing the same. Check out the website.
  2. Spread the word – Tell your mom, your professor, and your barista. The global conversation needs your voice.
  3. Tell world leaders – Ask the world’s leaders to make this a priority. Start by signing the petition to the UN.
  4. DonateGive to help stop violence by donating to IJM’s life-changing work.

In short, I highly recommend Gary’s book and I strongly encourage you to go buy it.

Locust Effect badgeBONUS: If you buy your copy of The Locust Effect THIS WEEK, a generous friend of International Justice Mission will give $20 to IJM for every copy sold to help fight violence against the poor. What’s more, all the proceeds of the book’s sales will go toward the same cause.

Get educated. Get the book. Get involved.

Please.

Gordon Cosby (1918-2013)

GordonCosbyGordon Cosby, founder of Church of the Savior, a church which began in our DC neighborhood in the 1940s, passed away yesterday morning.

Four years ago, just before I moved to DC, Church of the Savior was featured in a Washington Post article as its time as a church came to a close–“Activist D.C. Church Embraces Transition in Name of Its Mission.” Over its sixty years of existence, though it never grew to more than 200 people, the church had an amazing way of birthing communities of people that cared about their neighborhood: Christ House, Jubilee Housing, Jubilee Jobs, Potter’s House, Christ House, Mary’s Center, Samaritan Inns, to name just a few of the dozens of ministries that were created to see more of the kingdom of God in the neighborhoods of Adams Morgan, Mount Pleasant, Columbia Heights, and beyond.

Jim Wallis, my old boss at Sojourners, once described the Church of the Savior as having had “more influence around the country than any other church I know about.” Without Gordon and Mary Cosby’s commitment to Christ and to our neighborhood in decades past–long before it was a safe or popular place to be–Jim and Sojourners would not be who they are, our neighborhood wouldn’t be what it is, and neither The District Church nor I would be who we are.

I had a chance to meet and pray with Gordon last year (with Aaron). It was amazing–and amazingly humbling–to be in the presence of such a good and faithful servant, and I’m grateful that I got the opportunity to spend some time with him.

Thank you, Gordon, for your life and your faith; I walk in the path you carved and I follow in the footsteps you’ve left. Rest in peace.

Others have also written (far-more-eloquent) tributes to him, including:

Photos from Q DC

I got to attend my first Q Conference this week, and what an experience it was: so many great ideas, so many people doing such awesome work, so many things to ponder. For now, here are some of the pics from the last couple days:

Gabe Lyons
Obama's welcome
Jim Wallis & Richard Land
Q from the balcony
Andy Crouch
Miroslav Volf
Anthony Bradley talks Kuyper
Sandra McCracken
Bryan Stevenson talks justice

And for more on Q: Ideas for the Common Good, check out their website.

Shooting, Seahawks, and Sudan

Happy New Year to you all! This year’s started pretty busy for me, but I’m gonna say at the outset that I intend to write a little more this year. (Note the use of words that set the bar incredibly low: “intend” and “a little”. ☺)

Anyway, this weekend was a very eventful one, full of emotion and occasion. On Saturday morning, there was the attempted assassination of Rep. Gabby Giffords in Tucson, AZ. On Saturday afternoon, my Seattle Seahawks (the biggest home underdogs in playoff history) defeated the defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints in a shoot out. And yesterday, the country of Sudan went to vote on a supremely important and momentous referendum, one which will decide the future of the country and impact the prospects of peace in a region that has seen decades of civil war and countless lives lost.

My bundling of those three may seem a little trite, a little impolitic perhaps. But they’re the three events that highlighted my weekend and while they are from different spheres, in different places, involving different hopes and dreams and fears and emotions, they all took place in the one world we inhabit, amidst the one humanity that we are all part of, broken and redeemed, shattered and saved. And somehow, one God reigns over all.

I could write a lot on each topic. But many words have already been spoken and written, almost all more articulate and eloquent and thorough than I could produce. So instead I’ll point you to some of those better thoughts:

First, Jim Wallis writes on the shooting in Arizona:

In the midst of tragedy and violence, I believe this means every Christian must ask themselves: “How am I responsible?”

Second, this 67-yard run by Marshawn Lynch that put the game away is the greatest rumble I’ve ever seen in six years of following professional football. You can see highlights of the tremendous upset (that had me as excited as a kid in a candy shop—possibly more, actually) here.

And third, here’s a good concise summary blog from Sojourners on the elections in Sudan. Please be praying.

Whose side is God on? A outsider’s perspective on American Christianity

Original post: October 22, 2008; repost: March 30, 2010.

I don’t tend to react very well when a person claims God for their agenda or their side or their country. As an American citizen, born and raised in Hong Kong, and educated in London, I have somewhat of an outsider’s perspective on the role of faith and American politics, notably in how many view America’s affiliation with the Christian faith with caution and even outright hostility. I remember following the effects of 9/11 and the subsequent Iraq War with my English friends, Christian and non-Christian, wondering—and at times, cringing—at the ease with which President Bush claimed God for the American ‘side.’

In The Irresistible Revolution, Shane Claiborne describes what he saw in America after the events of September 11th, 2001:

Conservative Christians rallied around the drums of war. Liberal Christians took to the streets. The cross was smothered by the flag and trampled under the feet of angry protesters. The church community was lost, so the many hungry seekers found community in the civic religion of American patriotism. People were hurting and crying out for healing, for salvation in the best sense of the word, as in the salve with which you dress a wound. A people longing for a savior placed their faith in the fragile hands of human logic and military strength, which have always let us down. They have always fallen short of the glory of God. (2006:199)

The Christian faith became too easily subsumed into American patriotism, and there were many in the American Church too easily persuaded to support the war in Iraq. Yet Obery Hendricks Jr. argues that this is not an isolated incident but a cultural phenomenon: “in the strange calculus of American political culture patriotism has come to be virtually equated with Christianity. Love of country is extolled in the same breath as love of God” (The Politics of Jesus, 2006:324).

Such an attitude is not only unbiblical, but it undermines the global and universal nature of God’s invitation and salvation. As Jim Wallis comments, “Nationalism doesn’t go well with the kingdom of God. The church is the international body of Christ, and “God bless America” is not found in the Bible” (The Great Awakening, 2008:74). In Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address in 1865, he acknowledged the tragic irony of asking God to be on one’s side:

Both [sides] read the same Bible, and pray to the same God; and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God’s assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men’s faces; but let us judge not, that we not be judged. The prayers of both could not be answered—that of neither has been answered fully. (quoted in E.J. Dionne, Souled Out, 2008:186)

His advice: “Do not say that God is on our side. Let us hope that we are on God’s side” (quoted in Hendricks 2006:193).

It would be easy, especially in a country where Christianity—or some semblance thereof—is so ingrained into the cultural identity and where national pride is so encouraged, for Christians to allow their faith and their love of country to become intertwined, for God to be seen as promoting their agenda—whether conservative, evangelical, liberal. When this does happen, as has happened in part already, the American church’s mission to the world—to demonstrate the love of Christ and the power of the gospel—is hampered by her association with all other things American: “For many in America and around the world, the American flag has smothered the glory of the cross, and the ugliness of our American version of Caesar has squelched the radiant love of Christ” (Greg Boyd, The Myth of an American Nation, 2005:14).