I spent a goodly amount of time reviewing the Rwandan genocide last week for one of my classes. That focus continues this week as we dissect further what led up to the slaughter, and the complicity of leadership in Rwanda, the U.N. and the U.S. (I’m looking at you, Mr. Clinton). These people were victims of those in power who played them like a violin.
And yet, even the oppressed in this situation were able to move towards liberation. Thousands upon thousands of women, children and men were killed (800,000 Tutsis) and yet the people were able to overthrow the Hutu regime and end the genocide (no thanks to many who stood by and watched).
These are victims of a situation not acting like victims. They acted like those who had nothing left to lose. They acted like people who realized that although there was an attempt to remove all choice from their reach… that they had a choice.
Two years have passed since the Occupy Wall Street movement began. I saw echoes there of liberation theology – people taking back their ability to make decisions and to use their voice against that which they felt imprisoned by. In many ways, the Tea Party movement has a similar impetus. In both cases you have individuals choosing to act. Choosing to not be victims.
And then there are the victims who play at being victims. They have choices. They have options… and yet they choose not to act. I realize in some cases it is due to feeling overwhelmed by what the world has thrown at them, but when I hold them up against those who have made the choice NOT to be ‘choice-less’, it’s hard to find sympathy.
And yet, in reality, so many of us have chosen to not act. So many of us have chosen to not have a choice. Instead of doing the hard work of making difficult choices, we turn on our favorite form of entertainment – be it Netflix, Pinterest or the magic of the interwebs. There are days I choose this drug as well (and I have no sympathy for myself when I do so). We think that signing a petition is enough and then moan and complain about how the injustices of the world continue.
Please understand I realize it isn’t always possible for a victim to fight back… and I give thanks for the caregivers in our society who help those truly victimized to find wholeness… however, there are times when we (read: I) choose to be victims simply because acting requires more energy than we choose to give.
This Sunday’s Gospel is Luke 16 – the parable of the shrewd manager. Like most preachers, I find this one of the most difficult passages to preach. This time around, however, I’ve seen something new. I’ve begun to think it’s not the actions of the manager that Jesus asks us to emulate (um… he was a bit of a cheat) but instead the attitude of ‘shrewdness’. Shrewdness is the ability to use your wits to better a situation. Shrewdness is the ability to take what you’ve been given, and to not be limited by what you have.
I see that shrewdness in the work of Paul Kagame in the rebellion against the Hutus. I see that shrewdness in the Occupy movement… and in the Tea Party. I see that shrewdness in one of my DayCare parents who has managed to piece together a living in spite of layoffs and governmental failure. I see that shrewdness in the church as it tries to balance a budget.
And like Jesus, I find myself applauding.
The notion that a faithful response to life’s conundrums involves using our minds and our wits, even if that means scrambling and breaking some rules, is certainly challenging– as it’s much easier to dwell in “there’s nothing I can do about it.” I would love to read your sermon on this text!