Archives For david-quinn

Asleep on a BenchYesterday, I wrote about what it means to love our neighbors and help those in need. Today I will continue with some additional thoughts.

Another factor pulling on us in this discussion is how much more connected our world is than it was during Lewis’s time. Many people, especially in our American nation made up of immigrants, see the rest of the world as “our people.” We are all part of the human race, right? So, why shouldn’t we want to help when disasters strike elsewhere or when we become aware of a famine in a distant land? I’m not saying that we should care about Americans more than we care about Mexicans or Canadians. It is not really about whom you love more. You should love everyone. It’s more about who is closest to us. My neighbor is closest to me and Jesus told me to love my neighbor. The child in the village in India is not really my neighbor until I come into contact with him. He is someone else’s neighbor. And that Christian neighbor, if he has one, is the one with the responsibility and the call to love him. You may actually make it more difficult for Christians in other places to love their neighbors by competing with them and their limited resources.

Do you know that you do not need to have an abundance of physical resources to love someone? You may actually be challenged to get creative or to really sacrifice something of your own to love someone. That’s what Christians are doing in India and China and Uganda. That’s when love really shines in contrast with the darkness of self-preservation.

You may be overwhelmed by all the troubles of the world today. You may feel overwhelmed because of the way people are suffering on an island 3,000 miles away from you. Do you trust that God is sending people and already has people in a lot of the places about which you are worrying? Today, there may even be someone 300 miles from you who is worrying about her sister, who is also your next door neighbor, and you are the one God has placed in your neighborhood to serve her. Don’t allow the problems of the whole world to blind you and make you feel like you have to pass by the man in the road who was beaten and lost everything to thieves. Don’t allow your politics to get in the way of loving the alien who lives in your neighborhood and works the fields everyday to care for his family, and provide fruit and vegetables to your table. When you get very good at loving your neighbor who you can see, then maybe you will be ready to understand how to love your global neighbor who you can’t see.

The second part of Lewis’s quote is also a good reminder that worrying about the rest of the world will do very little to actually confront or solve the problems. If you are so consumed with the problems of the world that you have no joy, or are unable to enjoy the good things God has given you, you won’t be much help to people who are suffering. They need hope and they need a picture of what it looks like to live the abundant life with God. Don’t lose sight of the hope of the kingdom to come; and keep praying for that kingdom and God’s will to be done in both your neighborhood and the slum across the ocean, as it is in heaven.

PovertyC.S. Lewis is easy to quote because he almost always gets it right, and he has a way of saying things that forces us to think more deeply about everyday issues. Many of us are involved in donating, volunteering or working for organizations with stated missions of “caring for the poor” or “serving people in need” in other countries. The news we see everyday and the clamoring by thousands of nonprofit organization for our attention communicate to us that there are never-ending global problems which can only be solved if we would simply get involved by giving our time, effort and money.

On the issue of local versus global charity Lewis said,

“It is one of the evils of rapid diffusion of news that the sorrows of all the world come to us every morning. I think each village was meant to feel pity for its own sick and poor whom it can help and I doubt if it is the duty of any private person to fix his mind on ills which he cannot help. (This may even become an escape from the works of charity we really can do to those we know).

A great many people (not you) do now seem to think that the mere state of being worried is in itself meritorious. I don’t think it is. We must, if it so happens, give our lives for others: but even while we’re doing it, I think we’re meant to enjoy Our Lord and, in Him, our friends, our food, our sleep, our jokes, and the birds song and the frosty sunrise.” -from The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis (Volume 2, Letter of Dec. 20, 1946)

This whole movement to feed people or build infrastructure for people in other nations besides our own, with or without their help, is actually a very modern development of the past 60-75 years of world history. The idea that we need to help all people everywhere is often driven by a wartime mentality. It is also often influenced by an arrogant assumption that the world’s problems will not be solved unless we are involved. The modern movement to do international charity work is largely a result of the aftermath of our wars. Older organizations like the Red Cross and the Salvation Army have been around for over 100 years, and they were also started in the midst of war and conflict, or with a wartime mentality. Even the name “Salvation Army” makes us think of fighting a battle.

The creation and proliferation of nonprofits in America didn’t really start to take off until after WWII and then again after the Korean War. Lewis wrote this statement in a letter in 1946, after the end of WWII, when news of all the world’s problems was streaming in like never before. The British were also hit like never before on their own island and saw the devastation and suffering all around them, in addition to news about the rest of their country and the world at large. People who felt compassion (or maybe guilt) felt the need to help the suffering children and families of Europe.

We often want to help in areas where we believe someone or something else was the cause of people’s suffering; but how often do we look to make the personal or communal changes necessary to promote justice and mercy in our own communities where we and our neighbors are the causes of, or contributors to suffering? You may have noticed that Lewis is not saying we should not be involved in helping with problems far away, or supporting those who do. He, and I in agreement with him, are only saying that with all the information we are gathering to ourselves about all the evils going on in the world, we should be careful that we don’t deceive ourselves into believing that we need to be involved in helping in all of those situations, or that it is better than doing something for someone in our own community. He also warns us against the danger of imagining that our great knowledge or anxiety over all the problems is equal to being involved in providing solutions. Worrying about all the problems doesn’t do anything to fix them. It actually becomes more difficult to help people in your own neighborhood or right in front of you because you will become so overwhelmed with all of the other problems of the whole world.

Remember the story of the Good Samaritan? Think about the men who passed by before the Samaritan stopped. They had too many excuses or other things to do that they used as reasons for not helping the one in need right in front of them. You may be so heavily invested in devoting your thoughts, time and money to a charity or towards the thought of helping someone far away, that you miss a real opportunity you have to personally help someone living in your neighborhood. If you really want to help and give your life to someone far away, the best thing for you to do is probably to move there or partner with someone who lives and works there among the poor.

We’ll conclude these thoughts with another post tomorrow. Stay tuned…

What’s wrong with YOLO?

David Quinn —  November 26, 2012 — 2 Comments

yoloThis post is a response to one of the suggestions we’ve received on the blog. Here’s the question:

“How does a Christian respond to the popular YOLO (you only live once) philosophy? Do you only live once? How many times do you live, if not? One? Three? I’ve heard some funny things on the matter, from Christians and others alike.”

First, allow me to provide a little background for those of you over age 25. You’ve probably never heard the saying unless you work with high school or college students. You may want to begin by reading, “What is YOLO? Only teenagers know for sure” for some background. Urban Dictionary defines YOLO as “carpe diem for stupid people.” When I was younger, I received my healthiest dose of this maxim from Dead Poet’s Society, in which the unorthodox professor (Robin Williams) encourages his students to push beyond the boundaries of their youth and the status quo to seize the day. It’s so powerful I still cry every time I watch the [spoiler alert] final scene.

The idea behind carpe diem is to live life to its fullest and make your life count by doing something extraordinary because we all die eventually. It sounds similar to the desire of the Psalmist who says, “Teach us to number our days, that we may present to you a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12). YOLO, however, is far less honorable. It’s more like saying, “your one life is short, so do whatever you want and don’t listen to what anyone else says.” The first is very intentional with a view to the future, while the second is short sighted and selfish. The rise of the YOLO philosophy is reflective of a youth culture that highly values new experiences. The experiences themselves do not need to have an aim or a goal in order for them to be worth trying out. YOLO fits perfectly in our culture because it’s all about having an experience without thinking about consequences.

There is a significant problem with a YOLO outlook on life. It reveals how easy it is for us to arrive at wrong conclusions about things based on limited facts. Is life short? Do you live only one time? Even if the answers are yes, they don’t tell us how we should live. Yes, we need to seriously ask the question of whether we live only one time. After finding the answer, we need to ask other questions as well. If I only live one time, how should I live? The answer to that question is where YOLO falls apart.

The letter written to the Hebrews says, “it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment” (Heb. 9:27). No matter how much you like the idea of reincarnation or zombies, each person lives once and dies once on this earth. But that doesn’t in any way tell us how we should live. We need to look elsewhere to answer that question. The Apostle Paul encourages you to “make the most of your time, because the days are evil” (Eph. 5:16). Or, as another writer says, “don’t waste your life.”

wonka_yoloHow you live during your one life will have a big impact on what happens later in your own life and after you die. It will also have a huge impact on the people who live with you or after you. If you don’t think this is true, then ask a mom with two kids how the man they depend on impacts their lives when he goes to prison for one bad decision. Ask a husband whose wife left him because she had a one-night stand. Talk to the guy dying of cancer because he drank and smoked incessantly in his youth. We all have the potential to do great good and great evil during our lifetimes—sometimes as a result of single decisions.

Far from inspiring you to waste your life, an understanding of life’s brevity should give you a desire to make the most of it. Knowing that you live one time should inspire you to pursue a meaningful life.

Maybe we should add one more question to this whole discussion. What is the purpose or meaning of my life, or what happens after I die? If you believe your life has no purpose other than experiencing everything imaginable, or that nothing happens after you die, YOLO will make a lot of sense as a philosophy. If you believe that God created people and will judge them, leading to two very different scenarios after death, then you should want to live with the intention of knowing God and living according to His purposes in your lifetime.

Consider Solomon’s advice to young people, which applies wisdom to the freedom that accompanies youth:

“Rejoice, O young man, in your youth, and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth. Walk in the ways of your heart and the sight of your eyes. But know that for all these things God will bring you into judgment” (Eccl. 11:9).

Remember that judgment awaits us all. Consider your future judgment and submit every area of your life to Jesus. It will mean the difference between living a short ruinous life, and living an abundant life. We will all experience resurrection and judgment in the end, some to eternal life and some to eternal separation from God. The great tragedy would be to run around saying YOLO after every thoughtless thing you do in life, and lose your soul.

Finally, the Bible has a lot more to say about living for the moment with no thought to the future, which you can look up on your own. It has many creative ways to call you a “fool” if that’s the way you’re going to live. Read the book of Proverbs and you will see hundreds of examples. Your future (should you live to see it) will be full of regrets, pain, suffering, bad relationships, and a few stories you can tell people about the stupid things you did when you acted without thinking. At that point, you’ll probably be trying to tell some young person why he should not live the same way you did when you were young.

Al MohlerIf you’ve read our blog consistently or if you’re familiar with the vision of our school, you already know that we’re pretty passionate about the student debt issue. It’s killing missionary passion before they can even get to the field, it’s shackling our future Christian leaders, and it’s generally debilitating our nation.

Recently, Dr. Albert Mohler, President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kentucky, spoke out against educational debt during the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee and was quoted as saying,

“If your concern is to get young people into the churches or on the mission fields, the greatest enemy other than Satan himself is educational debt, because there are far too many young people graduating who are slaves to that debt when they need to be unfettered slaves to Christ.”

If you’re interested, you can read the rest of the Baptist Press Article.

We got curious and decided to investigate further into the financial aid practices of SBTS. It sounds like Dr. Mohler agrees with us that this is a vitally important issue, so we wondered if any students are graduating from his school with debt, and if so, how many. The statistics for a graduate degree from the seminary show that it’s extremely affordable at an estimated $4,360 a year. The publicly available statistics we found involving debt are related to Boyce College, the undergraduate college of SBTS. The total expenses for a full-time beginning undergraduate student in 2011-12 range from an estimated $16,570 to $21,670 a year, with an average net price of $18,877 according to the National Center for Education Statistics. The school does not participate in the the Federal Student Loan Program known as Title IV, and we applaud them for that unconventional position. 41% of all undergraduate students at the school receive aid in the form of grants and scholarships that do not need to be repaid. But how many of the students in attendance receive aid in the form of other loans (debt) to attend the school?

Among full-time beginning undergraduate students, the answer is 20%. The average amount of aid received by that 20% is $10,354 each, which is about half to two-thirds the cost of attendance according to the estimated expenses listed previously. You can check these numbers at the NCES Financial Aid Report for the school. I know what you might be tempted to think. 20% isn’t a large percentage. It’s a lot less than most other schools, but it’s still debt. If this issue is so import to Dr. Mohler, then why does the school direct students to apply for loans from Sallie Mae, Fifth Third Bank and KHEAA? Why even provide the option? They won’t direct you to accept federal funding, but they’ll direct you to borrow from a bank. And if a bank is an unfavorable option to you, they will allow you to obtain a loan directly from the school with an annual interest rate of 7%. All this is made clearly available on both the Seminary Student Loan Page and the College Student Loan Page of their website.

We applaud Dr. Mohler and agree with him that educational debt is an enemy that the church and Christian institutions of higher education need to fight. We admire his courage for standing up and speaking out against this problem. We are encouraged that SBTS is more affordable than many other schools like it. We wonder if the school would consider going further, and reducing the costs even more? We would also like to take this opportunity to call on all other Christian Institutions of Higher Learning to ask for consistency and a demonstration that the issue is important enough to say to your students, “You can decide on your own whether you will take out a loan to attend our school, but we will not encourage you or help you do it.” We are asking schools to stand with us and demonstrate with your policies and practices that which you idealistically espouse from your speaking platforms. When will more theological schools and colleges stand up and say, “We will do everything in our power to train leaders, and help them graduate debt free”? Dr. Mohler, will you help lead the charge to change your school’s written and publicly advertised student loan policies to reflect the inspiring words you delivered about educational debt? We agree with you and we’re praying God will give you, your board, and your administrators the courage and the financial provision to continue this fight! We hope that leaders of other Christian Colleges will follow this example and demonstrate the same courage and commitment to send graduates out into the world to accomplish God’s mission – debt free.

So, you heard a story about a man who is kidnapping children and forcing them to fight in his personal army and you want to help bring it to an end. Have you considered methods beyond the ones suggested to you from a single source?

Have you asked why Kony might be doing these things?
Are you aware of the history and politics of the place where it’s occurring?
Is the situation the same today as it was 5, 10, or 20 years ago?
If we petition the U.S. government to get involved, how do you think U.S. leaders and military will respond based on their record?
Are there Ugandans already helping?
Are other African nations or agencies involved?
Why haven’t previous efforts produced the intended result?
Who should receive your money, your time, or your voice?

All of these questions and hundreds more need to be asked before you can determine what methods you should use to respond to a problem like the one which has been raised in Kony 2012. Our ideas of how to best help someone in the U.S. could produce an entirely different result if done in the same way in a different culture.

I’ll use this final post to direct you to people who are presenting some other thoughts and ways for you to consider what is going on, what others are already doing, and what you can do to learn more and decide if you should act.

A few responses from some thoughtful people living and working in Uganda:
Kony 2012 and Social Media: Think Before you Post
Kony 2012: A Survivor’s Perspective

A list of organizations I trust, operating in Uganda:
Africa Renewal Ministries
New Hope Uganda
International Justice Mission

A list of organizations that promote nonprofit accountability and transparency. Search their databases to learn more about a particular nonprofit and compare it with others:
Charity Navigator
Guide Star
Ministry Watch
Better Business Bureau

The most humbling thing for us to consider is whether we are really even needed in this, or in any given situation. We are often being drawn into someone else’s cause or mission. There are any number of things you can do in a day or decide to devote your life to accomplishing. We are aware of many things that we simply cannot do and it makes us feel powerless. We love to hear that we are needed and that we can make a difference. There are things in our personal lives we know we should do and we often do not do them. It is humbling to realize sometimes that God is accomplishing something with other people and he has a different job for us to do. Your mission may not be glamorous and it may not capture the attention of the masses, but you are called to be faithful with your time and place in God’s story.

I’ll leave you with one final thing to consider from Colossians 3:23-25.

“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. For the wrongdoer will be paid back for the wrong he has done, and there is no partiality.”