A few years ago, while I was still very pregnant and a student at Bethel Seminary, I remember reading an article at work that talked about the AIDS pandemic in Africa. This particular article shared the story of various women and other people who were dying from the disease as a result of not being able to access anti-retrovirals, a drug that suppresses the effects of HIV/AIDS. However, the question that I asked as I read this article was what the reporter was doing about this problem. Were they just reporting it to show the perspective and the story of the people suffering from this awful disease, or were they engaged in seeing this thing eradicated?
This is the same question that I asked as I watched ‘the Help’ this past weekend. In all honesty I thought it was a good movie with a great plot, yet I left it having some nagging questions that I am not sure I will find the answer to. The main protagonist in the film, Skeeter Phelan, sets out to tell the perspective of the help, black maids who serve white families through services such as cleaning, cooking and child rearing. And as the movie shows it, these maids are treated awfully. And so I get Skeeter wanting to tell this perspective, but for what purpose? Is it just a good story that needs to be shared with others in order to sell books? Or is it a story that is supposed to propel others to take action on behalf of the stories characters?
I find that in many cases, our storytelling and reporting has no end other than that – storytelling and reporting. Perhaps in doing so, we are raising awareness of certain issues that plague different communities and societies, but we cannot stop there. Awareness in and of itself does not invite people to take action to change systems and situations that suppress the rights and livelihood of the people in those systems. It can only take people so far, perhaps invoking a sense of pity and maybe even a little charity. But pity and charity do not change the status quo; only compassion to the point of identification does and so much so that you are willing to become the person that you are advocating for. Jesus mastered this well!
Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Philippians 2.5-8, NASB)
Thank you Jesus, for not just taking pity on me and telling the story of my sinful estate. Thank you for putting on flesh and doing something about it!