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Ok….Anything Else We Can Do?

April 27, 2010

Have you ever had someone come to you with a thorny situation, ask your advice, and then act less than enthusiastic with the advice you give? The conversation might go something like this:

Them:  Can I talk to you about something?                                                                                              

You:  Sure. What’s up?

Them: I’d like to be a doctor and I’m wondering what I need to do.

You: Well, you probably need to consider majoring in pre-med or some science-related subject. Then, you’ll need to take the aptitude test to get into medical school, go for 4 years, do a residency, take the medical board licensing exam and then find a permanent job.

Them: Hmmm…that sounds like a lot. Any other way I can become a doctor?

There’s also a version of this in the Bible. Christians know it as the story of the ‘rich young ruler’, and it relates an account of a young ruler who comes to Jesus asking what thing does he need to do to have eternal life. Jesus responded that he needed to keep the commandments. Feeling in pretty good shape, the ruler presses the issue and says, ‘Yeah, I already do all that. What else do I need to do?” Jesus says he needs to sell everything he has and give the proceeds to the poor. The erstwhile eager beaver goes away ‘sorrowful’ because he had alot of material possessions. Like so many of us, he wanted the end result, but was less than enthusiastic about what was required to obtain that result.

I know how Jesus felt, and at some point in your life, you probably have too. Last week, I attended a pro-life conference that was intended, among other things,  to bridge cultural, denominational, and theological divides as it relates to the pro-life issue. There was a specific emphasis on educating people about the horrific way in which abortion is decimating the Black community. Many sincere, passionate people were there. The most common question posed by participants was “how can we (caucasians) help get the message out to the Black community about abortion?” I, and other panelists for the day repeatedly stressed the importance of building relationships within the African American community because culturally, we are relationship-driven people. We suggested things like becoming involved in issues in their local communities that particularly impact their Black neighbors. For example, violence and crime, racial discrimination in housing and employment, domestic violence, etc. After each such suggestion, there would be silence, another (caucasian) hand would go up, and the question would come again…this happened several times. There was clearly a disconnect. The looks on our caucasian brothers and sister’s faces belied their dissatisfaction with our answers. They were in essence, saying…hmmm…relationships…ok…is there anything else we can do?, the implication being…something that doesn’t involve that kind of time and investment…something that’s more of a quick fix….with a more immediate impact.

The inconvenient truth is that building and sustaining relationships across longstanding barriers is absolutely vital to making inroads on abortion and the related issues that surround it. There’s no shortcut.

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