If you’ve been in the youth ministry world for a while, it is likely that you were aware of Invisible Children before the #StopKony campaign blew up the internet yesterday. I didn’t know anything about the campaign until one of my youth posted the video on FaceBook yesterday at about 7:30am. A few clicks of the mouse and it was obvious this thing was taking off, so I decided we would talk about it last night. Unfortunately, we have a truncated schedule due to Lent, and over half of my kids hadn’t actually seen the video. But they had heard about “this Kony thing.” So, I took up thirty minutes of our time and watched the video, which I hadn’t planned on doing. After that we had a brief discussion and then had to dismiss. Hopefully we will pick it up more later.
Until then, I have some random thoughts (sorry this is long… there are other good links to read at the bottom):
- Sometimes white people can do good things in Africa. I’m well aware of the history of colonialism, racism, and oppression in Africa. I don’t take it lightly, and I think we have done harm in many places. I’m also wary of thinking that only (white) America can save the world’s problems. But to say that because we are Americans and because we are white (this is being touted as a white movement) that we are unable to do good in the world is myopic. It does mean we need to carefully weigh what we are doing and act thoughtfully, rather than triumphantly. But I am reminded of a man who once said, “To whom much is given, much is required.” It’s hard to sit idly by when we do have resources at our disposal just because we have a history of colonialism. The question is not “should we use our resources?”, but “what is the best way to use our resources?”
- It’s “cool” to be on either side of the issue. Of course, most people are jumping on the Stop Kony bandwagon. And then there are others who are jumping on the bandwagon against people on the Stop Kony bandwagon. So, don’t let yourself, your teenagers, or people you know think that they are sophisticated, thoughtful, and measured because they are opposing this campaign. Essentially, unless you don’t know anything about Kony, then you are on a bandwagon. Sorry, that’s just the way it is.
- I wish I was a pacifist, but I’m not. Some people are making a big stink over the fact that Invisible Children supports military action and that some of their leaders were photographed holding guns. The reality is that we live in a complex world filled with evil, and sometimes evil has terrible consequences. We’ve seen those consequences for 26 years with Kony. It’s been far too long already. He deserves to be held accountable for his actions. There will be likely be collateral damage, but I don’t see how inaction is the correct solution to the problem.
- This isn’t the world’s biggest problem. It’s horrific, Kony needs to be brought to justice, but there are other things out there that kill more people and affect more lives. On the other hand…
- This is one guy’s cause. God bless him for not resting. This is as much about the filmmaker, Jason Russell going to Uganda 10 years ago, making a promise to a young boy, and following through as it is about anything else. For Jason Russell, this is not an overnight sensation. This isn’t something that he found one day on the internet and decided it was worth changing his Facebook profile picture. He has dedicated his life to this. Many people would have given up long ago and thought that a regular person can’t help catch one of the world’s most-wanted fugitives. But he decided that he was going to use the skills and talents he has to try and bring about good in the world. And he’s been working at it for ten years. We have much to learn from him in that.
- Pick a cause. Don’t rest until you’ve seen it through. That’s what Jason Russell did. It doesn’t have to be Kony. It can be malaria in Africa, economic development in India, workers rights in China, evangelizing Muslims, whatever. Just don’t bounce back and forth between all these great causes but never actually commit yourself to helping make something happen. So, if you are going to support this campaign, don’t rest until Kony is arrested, the LRA is gone, and there are structures in places to help rehabilitate those who have been affected by Kony. It’s about more than wearing a bracelet.
- Awareness is good. Some people have said that raising white people’s awareness of Kony doesn’t do any good. I would say in general, that is correct. I would venture to guess that 99% of the people who did not know who Joseph Kony was until yesterday won’t do anything measurably constructive as a result of this. But, when you are educating millions of new people on an issue, chances are that a few hundred of them will own this as their cause and work with their lives to make it right. That’s a good thing. Sometimes the only way to reach the few is to broadcast to the masses and see what sticks.
- Speech is an act. On the other hand, awareness and communicating what is going on does do something. I’m a subscriber to speech-act theory. Basically, it says that when something is said, it causes something to happen. It isn’t just an empty transfer of information, like moving data from one computer to another. Instead, there are effects of a speech act, and this video is definitely a speech act. So, to those who say that this video “doesn’t do anything,” I would disagree. But it’s probably too early to tell what it is actually doing.
- Read up. As you are probably aware, there are detractors. And there are euphoric supporting teenagers. And famous supporting tweeters. So, do your homework. Here are some good articles:
- The hub of critical review – Visible Children.
- Invisible Children’s response to the criticism.
- A student at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service has some thoughts.
- Thoughts from a PhD student in International Relations at the London School of Economics specializing in the effects of the ICC on peace processes and negotiations in northern Uganda and Libya.
- A professor in the Department of War Studies raises some issues.
- “On the Heels of Kony: The Untold Tragedy Unfolding in the Central African Republic” (Long article, with link to pdf)
- LRA: A Regional Strategy beyond Killing Kony (note: there is a link to the full pdf report in the page’s sidebar)
I’m interested how you are approaching this in your ministry, what you plan to do with your group, and how you may participate on April 20.