Monday, December 20, 2010

The Deadliest Year?

Maybe it is just my current state of mine, but in the grand scheme of history, I haven't been to impressed with the "naught" decade-- 2001-2010.  We started with 9/11 and we end with the news that more people died from natural disaster in the year 2010 since the Ethiopian famine of 1983.  Over 1/4 million people this year have died from earthquakes, hurricanes, etc.  

I remember the Ethiopian famine.  Along with the Mexico City earthquake of 1985, it was one of the first events that gave me a real sense of suffering in the world.  When I think about events that have shaped who I am, I have only recently begun to understand how important these "news" items were in shaping who I am.

I don't know why at eleven years old I cared so much, but the media hype from the formation of "Band-Aid" in 1984 and the release of "Do They Know it's Christmas" caught me.  I was taking a journalism class through an enrichment program our school system offered at the time and wrote an article about the effort and spent much of my time in the winter of 1984-85 following the song as it charted around the world raising money for famine relief.  American musicians followed suite in 1985, releasing "We Are The World" and in July I was glued to the sofa watching the spectacle of "Live Aid." 

This was the event that introduced me to U2, and the idea of a social conscience.  I had saved ten dollars that summer and when the Mexico city earthquake struck that fall, our church took a special collection for the tragedy and I didn't hesitate to give all ten dollars to the cause. 

Over 200,000 of the deaths this year were a result of the Haiti earthquake in January.  On January 3, our church packaged over 30,000 meals for world hunger relief and days later, tragedy struck Haiti and every one of those meals were sent.  As much as I hate tragedy, it seems to bring out the good in people.  We respond when others are hurting, but too often we find it easy to ignore the suffering in humanity.  Marx said that "religion is the opiate of the masses" but he was wrong.  Comfort is the opiate of the masses.  In 1985, Bono sang a cutting, ironic line in the song-- "but tonight thank God it's them instead of you." 

Christmas, 2010- enjoy your family and friends and presents, but don't ignore the reason that Christmas is so important.  Our world is broken and can only be fixed through the advent of Christ.  Enjoy peace, joy, hope and love, but in seeking these be mindful of how these can be pursued and shared together; a humanity bound in suffering but able to overcome.  I pray that this "deadliest year" will impress upon some eleven year old in the way it impressed upon me in the 80s.  Merry Christmas.

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