You’ve heard of #100HappyDays? Well, I stole the idea and adapted to fit my blogging schedule.
Every day is filled with reasons to be thankful. And yet the majority of my day isn’t spent being thankful. That’s got to change. God sent his son to save me - HUGE reason to always be thankful. And I’ve been freed to live a new life through Christ, released from fear, doubt, shame and self-reliance, equipped with love to serve others and blessed with all kinds of daily tasks and jobs to express my love. And that’s just the big stuff.
This is #100ThankfulWeeks to praise Him. I’m sharing one simple thing I’m thankful for each week. Because there can never be to much thankfulness.
Week 40: Literacy
I was reading an article from the BBC and another from the Telegraph about the use of children in warfare for suicide bombings, intelligence gathering, etc. I was doing some fact-checking after watching an episode of HBO’s Vice on the same topic. The episode made my cry; the articles left me feeling powerless and frustrated. You can read them for yourself or watch the Vice video.
I’m frustrated over the laundry list of atrocities which offer a partial explanation for how a situation could develop where children strap bombs to themselves and blow themselves up. There’s religious radicalization, brainwashing, death of loved ones, forced foreign occupation, remote drone strikes, civilian causalities, government corruption and oppression. Then there’s the more nebulous reasons like revenge, hatred, fear, greed and self-interest.
But to me, listening to the kids talk about how they were brainwashed, the lies they were told and the promises they were made, I realized it could have been me. Easily. And not because I’m gullible or evil or treacherous - that’s too easy. It’s because they’re kids. Like me, they grow up being influenced by what they see and what they’re taught. Like me, they listen to the people they trust. These kids are seeing loved ones being killed, homes being destroyed by human-less drones and foreigners occupying the streets. They hear religious leaders teach about what is right and wrong, what God says and God wants from us, what is just and unjust, moral and immoral. And it’s not like there’s uncensored news or internet where these kids could do a little fact-checking. And even if there was a way, many have never been taught to read.
So while I read for myself about how the Taliban brainwashes and trains these kids for warfare, these same kids are not reading for themselves. They’re listening and watching - and eventually believing. And why should they believe otherwise? Their leaders are older and wiser. Their leaders know what God wants because, unlike the kids, the leaders have read it for themselves. Their leaders know the history of atrocity, know the solution and know how kids can help. That’s what these kids grow up hearing. Why should they NOT believe?
I’m not saying there isn’t a certain attractiveness to militant radicalization of religion - some kids may see an opportunity for revenge and/or glory. And maybe any group, movement, organization or set of beliefs that embraces violence as a means of change is always attractive because it offers a physical outlet for frustration and leads to measurable results. I don’t believe violence is ever the real solution. And I don’t believe in vengeance. But then I was privileged enough to be able to read and my world wasn’t blowing up around me.
And it’s not like I live in such an enlightened world. There’s plenty of violence and plenty of atrocities in the United States - and most of us CAN read. What’s our excuse? Our world isn’t blowing up. We have the internet where we can fact-check to our heart’s content. We can read about it for ourselves. And if one source seems biased, there are a hundred more. And in case it’s still not clear, there are opinion pieces for just about every debate or controversy. Lots and lots and lots of information to enlighten us to move beyond violence.
Except all that information just means lots of confusion over what to think and who to trust. Pick a topic - climate change - and there’s people and opinion to support just about every perspective. Plenty of arguments, op eds, conspiracies, facts, statistics, myths, hoaxes and flat out lies. Or take the Baltimore riots - some say justified and necessary, some say violent and unnecessary. There’s plenty of facts and stats offered up to support either perspective.
But information - facts, stats and opinions - doesn’t result in truth. That’s something each of us has to sort out. I’m incredibly blessed to be able to read - and to have so many sources and perspectives. I don’t have to listen and accept as truth an opinion because it’s the only one offered. I can challenge opinion - even my own - with new information and perspectives. And that exchange of information can be incredibly powerful. But in the end, the truth isn’t in reading information - it’s in me.
That sounds really arrogant, and maybe it is, but it’s not like I’m the only one with the truth or that I have some special third eye that mystically tells me what’s true and what isn’t. What I’ve got is what we’ve all got: Jesus. He is the way, the truth and the life. He sends his Spirit to those who believe and his Spirit teaches us all things. About his love for us and about loving each other. And that love - his love for us and our love for each other - teaches us the truth. It’s a truth that information alone is incapable of teaching.
You can read this. And because you can read, you can challenge this. You can read what others say. You can do research. Or you can dismiss my own radical craziness on love. But the point is, you and me, we CAN read this. That’s an incredible blessing in a world where kids die with bombs strapped to their chest because they have no reason not to believe the lies. They will never read about this love or the truth it brings. They will never even have the option to read about it. Or anything else. That’s unbearable.
Have you watched this episode of Vice? If not, I encourage you to do so...