When bubbles burst

Aug 5, 2019 by

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We all live in bubbles. That truth hit home this week as I caught up with my friend Eric at Panera Bread. He described in his travel last fall along the “justice road” of the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s —the bridge on the march to Selma, the modest home in Jackson, Miss., where Medgar Evers lived, the motel in Memphis, Tenn., where Martin Luther King Jr. was shot, the new “lynching museum” in Montgomery, with its 4,400 names of African-Americans who were lynched between 1877 and 1950, often with public announcements inviting people to enjoy the occasions with picnic lunches.

Richard Showalter

Showalter

“This movement happened in my lifetime,” he said, “but I never heard about it. Some of it happened while I was attending a Bible college, but we did not notice it.”

“Well, you were in an evangelical bubble,” I said.

He corrected me: “I was in a fundamentalist bubble.” I nodded.

Events of momentous importance had taken place nearby in our corner of the global neighborhood, and as a young man he had been oblivious.

The oblivion of one is the tragedy of another. Sometimes the ignorance is willful, but often it is unsought.

When linguistic, cultural or geographical distance is a factor, the bubbles are harder to burst. Talking with Eric reminded me of my visit this spring to brick kilns in Pakistan, where entire families live in virtual slavery for generations. Children begin making bricks when they are 6 to 8 years old, with no chance to break free from the debt that binds them. They grow up, get married to another kiln laborer, have children and die at the kilns.

Even in their home country, these modern slaves live a world apart from the people around them. Only a few outsiders ever penetrate their world, and most who do are helpless to rescue them. The barriers are too high — too much money needed to buy their freedom, too many slaves, too little time and energy, too little compassion.

Furthermore, for most Christians in other countries, Pakistan is just too far away. Our bubbles do not include enslaved brothers and sisters there. We have too many challenges closer to home.

In the United States, human trafficking — a form of virtual slavery —  is just as mind-boggling and pervasive as that of brick kiln workers in Pakistan. It’s under the noses of Christians in urban, suburban and rural areas, yet mostly unobserved and quietly hidden. Meanwhile, the lucrative trade goes on, fueled by sexual lust.

It wouldn’t have to be this way. Our bubbles could burst, and a new generation of compassionate disciples of Jesus could emerge, setting captives free.

What could burst the bubbles? What would galvanize us to action?

Though knowledge is important, ignoring what I know, or could know, is a convenient way to stay inside my comfortable world.

Yet there is an answer.

It’s a matter of power, the power of God. That’s hard for Anabaptist Christians to receive, because we are afraid of power. Yet Jesus was clear: “You shall receive power” (Acts 1:8.)

Power to accept truth, power to love, power to act, power to give unreservedly, power to release captives.

The power of the Holy Spirit.

Richard Showalter, of Irwin, Ohio, travels as an overseer, mentor, consultant and teacher in the U.S. and global church and is adjunct faculty at Bethany International University in Singapore.


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