Chris Heuertz, the executive director of Word Made Flesh, came to Asbury to speak in chapel today. When I was a student at IWU, he made a stop - preaching there for an entire week (I remember him, because he (1) brought a fresh view the world and (2) because he wore jeans in chapel.) - and both times I've encountered his teachings I have walked away changed.
His ministry works with the most vulnerable people in the world: women and children in the sex trade, AIDS victims, those enslaved in sweatshops, those literally under the boot of injustice. His takes on many issues were hard and made me very uneasy - as they should. Here are some of the things that he talked about that made me think:
1 - Clothing Tax: He has a relationship with an Indian family with 5 girls who work in a sweatshop. One time he wore a shirt from the Gap when he was with them. The girls looked at him and said they worked in the shop that made that shirt. What's sad is that shirt cost him what they get paid in 6 weeks of work. That's tough because clothing made in sweatshops makes up the majority of products in the states. The only way to avoid buying it is to make your own clothing (a la Shane Claiborne...who by the way is going to be at Asbury, Nov 4). So every time he buys clothing like this, he imposes upon himself a tax, which he sends to that people in India.
2 - We need to change our language. We should be careful not to dehumanize those being oppressed; often this objectification starts with how we discuss people. This means we do not call people "prostitutes;" instead people being forced to prostitute themselves. We don't say the poor, but people who are poor.
3 - Short Term Missions Trips = Voyeurism: When short terms missions teams go into places around the world to see the places of great oppression, this should be seen as voyeurism. Social justice is the 'cool' thing to talk about in the Christian world, and people want to see the bad side of injustice. The problem is that the people on the underside of power are just that people. There is really no difference between a missions team going to a brothel, "just to look around" and a peeping tom. (The last line is mine; don't assume that Heuertz thinks this)
4 - The Wounds of Christ: He spoke in chapel on the wounds of Christ. He said that the only way to recognize the glorified Christ and the corpse in the tomb is the wounds. He made a very brilliant play on the story of Thomas. His point was that Thomas didn't believe because until he saw the wounds. There are so many people in the world who don't believe the church because the body of Christ is not evidencing the wounds.
5. - Righteousness and Justice> Chris made the point that our lack of righteousness leads to injustice around the world. He talked about how the way that we live effects the rest of the world. Our greed results in sweatshops in India. Our lust results in the trafficking of young boys and girls all over the world. Our partying results in foreign corruption and mob activity. If we were to become righteous in these areas, these injustices would go away.
What do you think?
(Asbury podcasts all of it’s chapels. Search for Asbury Theological Seminary at the iTunes Store.)