January 20, 2010

A Hope for Haiti
by Katherine Britton, Crosswalk.com News & Culture Editor

"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me." - Matthew 25:40

Matthew 25:40What is your first reaction to tragedy on the TV? 

Fear? 

Concern?

Shock?

How about your second reaction to tragedy on TV: Sadness? Turning away? Thankfulness that it's not you? 

Maybe even that learned apathy? 

When those familiar images of death and destruction flash across the TV, I find my own self-centeredness blocking the picture. We live in a society that has brought close the deaths of those far away, while the LCD screen shields us from the pain behind the images. I want to know what faces those who are hurting, but on my own terms. I want to get back to whatever movie I rented from Netflix soon enough. 

One of the most telling reactions to Haiti's devastation came to me over the radio, when a reporter was trying to describe the scene before his eyes. This veteran journalist was watching a little girl whose lips were shivering from cold and trauma. Every other moment he would stop to take a deep breath and steady himself before going on. Finally, however, the sight before him was too much, and the reporter's voice broke as he cut the interview short. 

Later that day, people wrote and called in their responses, some of them berating the reporter for not maintaining a professional distance and impartial tone. I have yet to report a tragedy like that firsthand, but I was appalled at those demanding an "impartial tone" from a man staring at a hurting child. Journalism certainly deserves to be called out for sensationalized reporting at times, but only because that distorts the true picture. At its best, journalism pieces together truth we might otherwise miss. In this case, it was easier to miss the truth than hear something so heartbreaking. 

It's so much easier to debate Haiti's "curse" than it is to face thousands of hurting faces. To say the homeless guy on the corner will spend the $5 on drugs and alcohol than to acknowledge that he has no place to sleep tonight. To distract ourselves into self-absorption again. 

Jesus' own example encourages us to weep with those who weep, even though we know something better is on the other side (John 11:35). Part of redemption comes from acknowledging that "all creation groans" until Christ's return (Romans 8:22). And isn't part of denying ourselves looking to our brothers and sisters in need? The faces of Haiti show us who and where we could be but for God's mysterious grace. That's a grace that should humble us deeply, and shake us out of our distraction. 

Intersecting Faith & Life: I don't know how God is calling you to respond to last week's earthquake in Haiti. Maybe it's through giving, maybe through prayer, maybe through a long-term sponsorship of a child, maybe in weeping for a fellow human being. But I do know the mandate of "doing for the least of these" means I'm not allowed to insulate myself against human suffering. Join me this week in praying, supporting, and weeping for our brothers and sisters in Haiti. And let's be ready to rejoice with them at the promise of resurrection.

Further Reading

Live with Haiti in Your Heart
Does God Hate Haiti?