struggling through the complex

I wrote the other day about the need to engage with the complex. It’s important that we dive into it rather than simplify the issue so we don’t need to change.

But how do we do that?

We’re busy and complex issues are well……complex.

How can we engage with them?

These are less steps as much as they are a few things I’ve found really helpful to consider when I’m looking at large complex issues. These aren’t absolutes and won’t apply in all situations but they are valuable as starting points. When the spectrum of the issue is beyond me and I can’t possible get my head around the entirety of it what do I do? Well…

  •  No absolute statements – I’m not an expert and to speak in the absolute encourages arguments and not discussion. It creates a space ripe for us vs them and I’m coming to believe an us vs them perspective is one of the most dangerous ways for people to view a problem
  • Does this encourage change or support the status quo? The status quo in the west is sadly one built upon exploitation.
  • If the change doesn’t mean less for me then its probably not what God wants me to do. If this change isn’t about me as a privileged white male releasing some of my privilege and power than there a good chance I’m working towards maintaining it. The maintenance of my privilege and power is often at the expense of the already marginalized.
  • I don’t get to talk about my rights. Jesus calls us to die to ourselves, so my rights die with him. This is way bigger than it sounds too. We are raised to fight for our rights and encouraged to stand for them. Jesus calls us to stand for those who have no rights, no power, no place and in most places that means me relinquishing rights of my own.
  • Ask those with lived experience. Confession time, I don’t do this enough. I make really great excuses why but ultimately I just don’t try hard enough. But I don’t understand what it’s like to be poor. I have glimpses and can imagine, but the daily grind of never having enough is something I cannot understand. Nor can I understand what it means to be marginalized minority. I just don’t get it. I want to and I understand much more than I ever have how much privilege my gender, orientation and skin colour afford me, but I’m still worlds away from understanding what it’s like on the other side. I’ve found the more often an issue has a face that I trust the harder it is for me to continue in my ignorance, willful or otherwise.

I’m sure there are way more things I’m missing but it’s a start. When it comes to the most important and complex issues we cannot over simplify them, but in reality few of us have the time or skill to see the totality of the issue. Because of that I consider the things above as a way remaining humble and working as hard as I can to place others first.

If I may simplify my process for not oversimplifying the complex it would be this.

How does what I’m doing/advocating for show those who are on the margins love?

choosing to change or not

I was talking with a friend and she asked “couldn’t we just talk about the weather? Sometimes you are exhausting.”

She’s right.

I can be …….. a lot.
I’ve written about it before. Everything is something and that something is fascinating. I needs to be thought about and considered. It needs to be poked, prodded and examined in every which way.

And there are times when this is profoundly helpful. Times when this idiosyncratic part of me finds things that are interesting and in some exceptionally small circumstances even enlightening for people.

But my goodness can I make simple thing complicated.

We all do it from time to time don’t we?

The simple, obvious answer or choice is right there but we complicate it.

I wrote not long ago about how we create op-outs for our love. How we take something super clear like “love your enemies” and affirm it in our words but then slip these little opt outs on the end. These qualifiers.

“Of course you love your enemy, BUT if my family is in danger…”

“Of course we need to love everyone, BUT they need to be trying to change…”

And when a truly complicated issues arises? Far to often we refuse to even engage with it. To think about the implications and the way we are a part of it. Complicated issues involve other people in other parts of the world. We don’t need to get into it.

What are we doing?

We complicate the clear so we don’t have to act and we simplify the profoundly difficult to justify how we act.

The simple call to love your enemy is unbelievably difficult so we complicated it. We spend a lot of time trying to define exactly what is an enemy is or who our neighbour is. And until we get it sorted we feel fine loving no one. We don’t know who we’re supposed to love. We need to figure it out.

And the more we complicate it the longer we put off doing the things we know we are absolutely supposed to.

In almost the exact opposite way, we take the outrageously complicated and simplify it to reinforce the way we see things and the actions we are already taking, rather than do the hard work of changing our current behaviours.

Systemic oppression is still a huge issue in our society. But rather than understand the complexity of the systems and impact those systems are having on the people being oppressed by them, we simplify them.

“People are poor because they are lazy” simple, clean, easy. Let’s not let any context or understanding of one of the most complex issues facing our society creep in. It’s all about effort, making it entirely their fault and since it’s their own fault they can fix it themselves.

No need to get involved. No need to see how we are actually supporting that oppression. No need to be part of the change. The answer is easy, go get a job.

We do this over and over and over. Creating ways of thinking that do nothing more than reinforce the norm. A norm that often benefits us at the expense of the very people we are called to love.

In the end both of these ways of thinking do exactly the same thing. They stop us from changing. They stop us from loving.

They stop us from being Christian.