i could not begin to number the emails, telephone calls, personal visits, and facebook invitations, that i have received pertaining to some kind of petition or another. these causes range from changing the speed limit to protecting child sex slaves in Rwanda. name the issue and there is some kind cause or movement trying to change it. superficially, this is encouraging. it is exciting that along with celebrity gossip and pornography, communication freeways are also spreading awareness about social injustices all around the world and we, the people, are moved by it. after fancying myself a social activist for a few years, i realized that my awareness and outrage over these issues translating into nothing more than a periodic donation and clicking on the button that says "sign up here." anymore, social activism costs very little while rewarding us with a t-shirt or bumper sticker to go with the satisfaction of knowing that we're "changing the world."
the trouble is, the world isn't getting any better. i read an article recently that said that in 2007, the United States passed a law prohibiting military assistance to countires known to tolerate child soldiers (http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bill.xpd?bill=s110-1175). praise God, what a victory! sadly, i realized that, though this shows the u.s.'s concern for this horrible practice, it will not end it any more than the death penalty will prevent the murder that will happen tomorrow (especially considering that the enforcement of such legislature slightly questionable). i will not pretend to fully understand the nuances of international policy or that i know a better way for our government to combat social injustices overseas, however i do know that without exception, wherever there is a law there will always be an army of lawbreakers. the sad fact is that there is absolutely nothing we can do as a government, coalition, or individual to prevent one person or group of persons (especially one several countries away) from victimizing another.
some would say that awareness, activism, and even our laws help shape our social mores. activism played an important role in changing our views on ethnic discrimination. awareness combats the ignorance that often propagates what may be an accepted evil. but did the civil rights movement end racism or simply redirect it? while the majority accepts that it is wrong to (overtly) judge someone based on their gender, the color of their skin or their cultural practices, but would anyone dare say that discrimination is any less prevalent now than it was 100 years ago? do we not judge someone based on their physical shape or their use of poor grammar? the evil that has been largely 'defeated' still lurks, as strongly as ever, in the shadows of human behavior.
i'm not suggesting apathy or inactivity, rather i would say that petitions and legislature are inappropriate treatments resulting from misdiagnosis. people do not wrong one another because we allow them to do so; because there are no laws preventing it. rather, people wrong one another because we are sinful and wicked. while well-meaning and perhaps marginally effective, the world's response to wickedness can never be truly effective because it does not even understand sin.
it's not enough to contain sin with laws, ethics or even morals. if you live in the world long enough, you will realize that you (or another) can spend your entire life avoiding "bad" things and still manage to kill and maim the people around you. there are common practices within humanity which are far more devastating and cause much more damage than murder, rape or child abuse. but how would you legislate love? respect? unselfishness? and we know by experience that laws have no hope of preventing the corruption that plagues our economy. sin encompasses an array of activity and inactivity that cannot possibly be anticipated by man let alone enumerated by a lawmaker.
we flatter ourselves when we think that we can change the world. we cannot change the world anymore than we can change ourselves. how can i hope to prevent a monster from putting a gun in the hands of a nine year old when i cannot even prevent myself from spreading a malicious rumor? how can i help Rwanda remove the speck in its eye when i can't even see around the plank in my own? sin is not combatted by raising awareness or by writing a letter to my senator nor is a child saved because i send him $50. wickedness is stopped by a changed heart, hearts are only changed by the power of God.
that said, God can and often does use the voice of an individual or the actions of an organization to speak to the heart of another. there are times when God may use my bank account to fund his work. but God changes hearts in times of silence and static and there are times when He sends bread from heaven and pure water from a stone. our participation in His work must begin with prayer. there is no greater weapon that we can employ to combat the injustice around the world. the thousands of swords in the hands of a multitude of mighty warriors were powerless against the giant that God defeated with a small stone. yet we still insist on running the forges overtime and overcrowding our barracks.
i do not sign petitions because, for me, it a cheap excuse for inactivity. it gives me reason to feel good about myself while not costing me more than a moment of my time. i do not march in protests because it is an inefficient use of time that should be spent in a secret place of prayer.