The week before Christmas, the flu took me down. I expected to take naps, be bored, to be isolated from family so they would escape this year-end side-lining.
What I didn’t expect as I lay on the couch was a rising sense of frustration in my gut. Frustration that turned to simply getting mad at the state of the world. Instead of optimism, anger and despair wracked my brain. I should have known better than to watch CNN’s wall-to-wall coverage of the terrible murder of yet more innocent school kids – this time on the Pakistani military base.
And so my reality for 2015 is this: I am mad. And the more mad I get, the more I want to spend time being mad, especially with those around me who are angry, too.
I mean, how many more headlines do we need to see? How many more can we see? We are numb. I am numb.
Right in the middle of grieving over the memory of slain children in Newtown, evil shows up again in a Pakistani schoolyard. Ebola ravages West Africa, taking advantage of countries riddled by corruption that already face doctor shortages. ISIS/ISIL, killing their way through Syria and Iraq. And don’t get me started on Boko Haram in northern Nigeria, killing hundreds as they ravage a single community with grenades, gunfire, and torches. Medieval stuff – but not “mid-evil.” Rather, it’s totally whacked-out-on-hatred evil.
Run through this list of headlines, and you’ll see a common thread emerge – nation states hijacked by money or eviscerated by evil, leaving nothing but victims in their wake. It’s evidence of the incredible killing power of corruption that snuffs out lives, opportunity, and worst of all … hope.
I want to be a believer in a just, merciful, loving God. But it can be really hard to maintain that belief when earthly headlines are filled with pain and suffering, leading to generational trauma and violence. Whatever your view of the Bible, the cries of the Old Testament’s oppressed – from Lamentations through Psalms and right into the Prophets – can still be heard today. Centuries have passed, but has there been progress in the condition of the human spirit?
Thankfully, sober reflection on stories that don’t make the headlines allows hope to seep back in. Sometimes, we just hear about more evil than we did before. But consider these statistics: Poverty around the world has been halved in the last few decades. Malaria deaths are down. And as far as economic strides, 6 of 10 of the fastest growing economies in the last decade are in Africa, with continued strong outlook from the IMF today. Work can bring hope, though it can be easily quenched by corrupt or neutered official structures.
For hope – and the people who carry it – to flourish, enough people in enough places are going to have to have enough anger and courage and conviction and integrity to face down evil, and to take on corrupt local officials and institutions.
So in 2015, I’ll hang out with the angry people who carry “Jesus in the temple” kind of mad. The angry, courageous, convicted, high-integrity crowd. They come from all walks of life, from many worldviews and driving passions. I want to walk with all of them, especially those focused in Africa, for that is where I found my heart and my anger.
It is this passion, this heart – and yes, this anger - that drives our team at African Leadership, Mocha Club, and Know Think Act. We’ll be launching new initiatives to foster healing in the deep and tumultuous wake of inconceivable acts of humanity that have a traumatic impact on a person’s soul. We’ll get our hands dirty in these situations that are playing out from Ebola in the West to sex trafficking in the East to endless civil wars throughout. In each situation, we’ll strive for hope to come out of the anger, progress to replace corruption.
I want to spend this year walking with those who have that tantalizing mix of anger and hope. There’s enough despair in the world. But a healthy dose of anger mixed with hope and vision and strategy seems like a good place to start.
Will you get angry with me?
Join us in 2015 by supporting Africa’s servant leaders who know best what their communities need to thrive.