Social media has become a bit of a scary thing in the last several months. The amount of hate, anger, fear, and animosity floating around in cyberspace is brutal. The most gut-wrenching part of the social media nightmare has been the fact that the loudest voices in the hate campaign have often been those who profess Christianity. It would seem that some have completely missed the Christ of Christianity in their frantic search of Scripture to clobber their neighbor and annihilate their enemies in the merciless war of us-against-them.
Hostile environments are poison to the human soul that craves love and acceptance, and possesses the distinct need to be valued. Up until recently, my experience of hate was confined to social media and I could just turn it off when it got to be too much. This is because, living in Toronto, I was fairly insulated from the madness by a friend circle of like-minded social justice enthusiasts, activists, and advocates. Kingdom minded individuals who love Jesus and love people wholeheartedly and without reserve. But moving away from my little community has been a rude awakening of sorts. Because even as a follower of Jesus, my questioning of status quo (see my previous few posts) has been strictly frowned upon. And the loss of a safe space to be myself has been painful.
Speaking of pain and struggle, some of the issues that have been at the forefront of my mind lately are the Black Lives Matter movement, the LGBTQ+ struggle, and the Syrian refugee crisis. All I know is that Jesus taught us to love our neighbor, to treat others the way we would want to be treated. And as it stands, I can only imagine what it would be like if I was a refugee, or a young black man, or a lesbian, or a part of a group that is systemically and systematically marginalized and alienated. If my questions about faith have raised a ruckus that I could not have foreseen amongst those who claim to be the most spiritual, I can only imagine what my brothers and sisters are going through in their struggle to be seen, heard, and valued.
And so, I want to add my voice to those of the few dissidents who preach another way, a shift away from the dichotomous rigidity of who’s right versus who’s wrong, towards a revolutionary understanding of the Kingdom of God espoused by the revolutionary Jesus of the Gospels. The same Jesus who loved all people including the children, the outcasts, the transgressors, the nobodies, the weirdos, the misfits, the untouchables, the unworthy, and literally everyone He came into contact with—or we could say He orchestrated contact with.
Jesus regularly crossed social boundaries and smashed religious customs to demonstrate a new Kingdom that revolves on “an axis of love expressed in forgiveness”, and valuing people no matter what their social location. The same Jesus denounced the religious leaders and self-righteous teachers of the law and deliberately demonstrated mercy and grace. Jesus revealed the truth that God the Father is not full of wrath and vengeance, but God is Love. Jesus showed us that God is Abba, merciful, gracious, and tender-hearted towards His children.
So why do I care about social media? Because it reflects real life struggles, and real life wars that being waged daily, and real human fear expressed as anger against real human pain. And because social media can be a tool for social justice and be force of incredible good in the world. And every so often, you will be presented with an opportunity to show love and make a tangible difference in someone’s life. You can’t solve every problem, but here’s one that you can do something about. And so, my original intent in writing this post (before I went on a bit of a tangent) was to highlight a brilliant opportunity. It’s a campaign that has been popping up on my social media feed lately called “If Not For Love”.
“If Not For Love” addresses one of the three issues I mentioned earlier—the Syrian refugee crisis. This campaign is a refreshing change from all the fear and negativity that seems to otherwise be a constant. Esther is a family friend and we briefly went to middle school together way back when my family lived in Portland, Oregon. She is also a singer songwriter and has been involved in some amazing work. I would encourage you to check out the “If Not For Love” campaign here. And get yourself, and a sister or brother seeking refuge, a sweater in this one-for-one type project. They deliver to almost anywhere so you can order if you live in the U.S., Canada, India, etc. I’m heading over to the “If Not For Love” Kickstarter page right now to do what I can. As some of you know, I am taking a sort of sabbatical and have no income to speak of, but this campaign is one bright spot in an otherwise dark situation. And so, I’m going to do the little bit that I can. And I encourage you to do the same.
A couple final comments. First, I’m generally not in favor of one-for-one campaigns (e.g. Toms, etc.) because pumping consumer goods into another country’s flailing economy is more harmful than beneficial. However, here’s what I found under the FAQ section, in answer to the question “Who is distributing these sweaters?”
“Our contact on the ground, Julia. She has been living in Germany working at refugee camps for some time. She has recently moved to Bulgaria and is aiding people in multiple places. She will personally be receiving the shipment and ensuring it not only gets to where it should go, but is handed out with the heart that we have. This has been one of the most incredible and special parts of the project.”
Basically, the sweaters are going to someone on the ground with firsthand knowledge of the people and the issues. Furthermore, I think the refugee crisis is a unique situation. And most importantly, Esther is not a corporation looking to score brownie points for social awareness. She is an individual looking for a way to make a real and lasting impact both for the refugees who are in need and the people who have a heart to help in any way they can. So there you go! There are two weeks left on the campaign and you still have time to be a part of it!
Lastly, the sweaters look awesome. And they come in a cool bag. And you even get a digital copy of the song “If Not For Love” written and performed by Esther herself. AND you get your name and selfie on the wall of thanks at ifnotforlove.com. So do it for the sweater, do it for the song, do it for the bag, do it for the people who could use a warm sweater this winter, and do it because you believe in Love. Because in a world full of hate and fear, love is the only antidote.
Grace and peace.