WE ARE DOOMED! SOMEONE IS DOOMED! THE NATION IS DOOMED! DOOM!
This may be true, but what to do?
Some very clever people get paid a lot of money to stir us up. They raise money (sometimes for good causes, sometimes for grift). They get us to do things.
Meanwhile, our local school could use paint and books. There is a lonely elderly neighbor who could use a phone call and a nice long chat. Someone sick could use some funds. A local leader, someone with competence and character, is going to lose because all the money is going national.
Who should we help?
When I was a boy, there were a few general principles, drawn from the Bible and wise heads, that worked (fairly) well:
- If a neighbor needs and wants help, help them.
- If you see a problem and can and should fix it, do so.
- Do justice with mercy.
- When it comes time to vote, do so if there is someone you can support. Local races and primaries matter most.
Meantime: Mind your own business.
This was not a call to selfishness, but self-examination. Tending to our own souls, our own faults, and helping the people God put in our lives is a lot to do. Failure to tend to our own duties is often why other people cannot mind their own business and end up having to help!
Sometimes, sadly, we cannot “mind our own business. ” We need help and so God has ordained family, church, and state to help. Generally, local help is best, because such aid can be best directed and does not destroy culture, customs, and community. There are times local help fails, because the systems are busted: think of “Jim Crow” laws that stifled liberty through local social, religious, and government power. The central government had to intervene!
A problem has developed with these (decent) guidelines: we are told so much more now. If we wished, we could find out the news, good and bad, for neighborhoods all over the world. Since everyone is a child of God, what should we do? The needs are so many, so overwhelming, that we, or at least I, am unsure what to do and this is dangerous.The big problem across the world can cause me to miss the problem next door. There is little I can actually do about the famine over there, but the pictures might cause me to miss the kid who could use a free lunch here. Social media and 24 hour news can make everything my problem and everything cannot be my problem.
Of course, I am not saying we should not help distant lands and peoples. Most of us, however, cannot be helping all the time. If we did this, there would be no food grown to distribute, no clothes made to wear, no culture to help us flourish. Doing our jobs with justice and mercy helps indirectly! The business leader that creates jobs, builds, and makes communities has done God’s work even if he or she does nothing else. The parents who raise strong children are helping the city.
Yet this must not be an excuse not to help. Christians are called to love their neighbor, so I return to the tried and true general rules. Who am I helping here in Houston? What are the needs in my community? What of the homeless under the bridge near my house? How best to help break down racism or end abortion in my neighborhood? How can I cultivate a love of all human life in myself, so I can do justice with mercy to those around me?
I build and help locally primarily. Yet as a citizen, I must take time to serve nationally at least a few times a year. As a member of the universal Church I can find a project “over there” to support best I can as wisely as I can usually by finding someone local to support.
The quiet reformation that could make our globe better will most often start locally, stay local, just in millions of localities all over God’s earth. There are times we should be stirred up, but hopefully, naturally, effectively, and not because of the manipulation of those who profit by our pain.