Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Like dominoes

The moral arc of the universe bends at the elbow of injustice.
Martin Luther King, Jr.

High-quality literary fiction is key to aid the soul in its nightly unwind, if you’re me. Lately I’ve been languishing in the less cerebral, squeaky-clean No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series. Despite the odd name, it manages to be well-written, and almost as fetching, takes place in Botswana (another Bantu language-speaking African nation). So I resonate with the cultural understandings now and again.

But lately my brain has muttered, wow. Living in Botswana sounds nice. So I’ve explored this random little emission of my subconscious. (Now, when I first started driving in Kampala [which seems like it should have more of an assertive term; when I first started combat, perhaps], my subconscious kept drifting toward peaceful images of coasting down I-430 in Little Rock—pothole- and boda-free 430, with nature whizzing by.) At any rate, I think the odd pull toward Botswana, which I’m not at all inclined to indulge, is simply because according to the author, it’s still Africa—but without the corruption.

When John and I discuss the causes of so much of the pain here, inevitably the word “corruption” bubbles up again. It’s like seeing the Psalms played out in front of you: all those verses about the wicked who are oppressing the poor and walking away unscathed. The adoption “business” alone is enough to make me sick—the wide and deep exchange of money on the backs of orphans, who are sometimes even being sold into orphanages.

But one of the unexpected effects of corruption here is more slyly subtle, more erosive. Corruption affects work ethic; it corrodes people trying. If you learn that from the top down, working hard doesn’t get you money or justice, but getting money in the fastest, slickest manner increases quality of life—well, why would you work hard?

Unfortunately, it affects the life of faith, too. “Health and wealth” gospels thrive here for obvious reasons. If the “big man”, the mkulu, in the pulpit with his photo on the marquee outside tells you to simply trust God for that house, job, and car you wanted (you can ignore the entire books of Proverbs, Job, etc.)…well, personal responsibility is eliminated while people lean against the thresholds of their huts for their ship (God’s ship!) to come in.

Do I sound cynical? I hope not. But I realize that a few people shoveling in cash as fast as they can has a lot of stark effects on these hospitals with no medicine, these roads that prevent food from getting through, these incredible taxes, these swollen costs of education—honestly, to these poor who are silently dying.

Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of wickedness,
to undo the straps of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free, 
to break every yoke?

Isaiah 58:6

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