— Colum McCann, TransAtlantic
"What do you make of the situation in Egypt?" Owen asked.
I fumbled my words. “I … uh … I mean, it’s bad, right? You know? Egypt. Crazy, man.”
I don’t talk like that. What was I saying?
I waited a beat before admitting, “I … guess I haven’t been paying a whole lot of … uh … attention to what’s happening there.”
"What about Edward Snowden?" Owen asked.
C’mon. Ask me about something I can form an intelligent response about … like the NBA Draft or the best things to do in Disney World. Before I had to again claim ignorance, I did my best to change the topic to something I felt knowledgeable enough to discuss.
"What’s for lunch?"
But Owen’s questions continued to gnaw at me throughout the day. I was reminded of a Scripture passage I had read the previous week. It’s from Luke’s account of the last meal Jesus shared with his closest friends. (It’s Luke 22:14–23 for those of you playing along at home.)
At that meal, Jesus teaches his disciples that the bread he breaks is his body, given for them. And the cup they share is Jesus’ blood, poured out for them. “It’s the new covenant,” Jesus says. At this meal, Jesus essentially tells his disciples that’s he’s going to suffer and die. For them. One might expect that the dinnertime conversation will center on this subject; however, just the opposite takes place and the conversation becomes about something else entirely.
Verse 23 says, “… [the disciples] began to ask one another which one of them it could be who would [betray Jesus].”
Instead of lingering on the words of Jesus and discussing his teaching, the disciples point fingers, gossip, and search for the salacious details, missing the point entirely.
This may be hard to imagine, but let’s say (hypothetically speaking, of course) there was a celebrity chef facing accusations over alleged racist comments. Instead of discussing why these comments are wrong and hurtful or having substantive conversations about our own complicity in the racism that plagues our life together, we resort to picking sides, shouting at each other and assassinating this celebrity chef’s character — spewing all sorts of our own hate because of her brokenness.
Or imagine a crowd that gathers weekly on the steps of the State Capitol in Raleigh to protest laws that affect (or will affect) tens of thousands of our brothers and sisters. And then imagine that the only reports we hear about these protests concern how many arrests have been made and who’s been arrested and how many people are there and who’s shouting the loudest and who’s been called “angry, aged former hippies.” All this instead of why these protests are happening in the first place in an attempt to understand what’s really at stake.
This one might be a stretch. Imagine an NSA employee leaks secrets about his government’s questionable security efforts and flees the country. He’s a hero or a traitor depending on which 24-hour news network you happen to surf to, but we don’t know where he is and the media ends up playing gumshoe to this young man’s Carmen Sandiego. And we still don’t know why the government needed this info or whether it procured it through legal means.
Or imagine that the president of Egypt is ousted in a military coup while we instead work hard to keep up with the Kardashians and excitedly declare, “George Clooney is single again!”
Perhaps — just like the apostles — we, too, are missing the point.
So what do we do?
That’s the million dollar question. Honestly, I have no idea. I wish I knew. But maybe it starts with an awareness that we’re missing the point when we shout or point fingers or are too quick to take sides.
Or perhaps when we listen more — really listen — to someone we don’t often agree with, we can begin to have a substantive conversation about these issues and find common ground.
Maybe it would help to check out a website we wouldn’t be caught dead looking at — like the Huffington Post or the Drudge Report — just to get a different perspective on an issue.
Or perhaps turning off our iPhones every once in awhile to avoid the constant barrage of interruptions that plague us day in and day out will help us clear our minds and focus on what really matters — and what we’re being called to see — in our homes, our communities and around the world.
Earlier in Luke’s Gospel, Jesus comes across a blind man. Jesus asks the man, “What do you want me to do for you?” This blind man, in an incredible petition of faith responds, “Lord, let me see again” (Luke 18:41).
This has become a daily prayer for me as I watch the news, get caught up in my busyness and lose sight of the big picture over and over again. It’s my prayer as I point fingers and gossip and care more about the salacious details than the way these events affect my communities and my brothers and sisters around the world.
Lord, let us see again …