If you have a Facebook or Twitter account, chances are you’ve seen the viral Kony 2012 video that has been making its rounds on the Web. It’s produced by an organization called Invisible Children. Their mission is to capture Joseph Kony, a man accused of forcing children to become killers in what Invisible Children describes as a 20-year genocide effort.
When I saw this video, I immediately began to share it on a number of social media platforms. That is, until a friend brought a few articles to my attention that questioned the film maker’s intentions. Among the most interesting is an article on Alternet that explores whether the “Invisible Children” campaign is rooted in a covert religious motive.
The Alternet article features a video in which Jason Russell, founder of Invisible Children, is asked at a Liberty University event: “How do you motivate hypocritical, apathetic Christians to get in the fight?”
Portions of Russell’s answer are good. For instance, he acknowledges that the Good-Christian vs. Hypocritical-Christian debate is not a particularly helpful one. But other portions of his answer are not-so-good.
Russell seems to suggest that his work isn’t totally free of an Evangelical agenda. I had some trouble deciphering the degree to which he was advocating such an agenda because honestly, there were times when it seemed as though he was just telling the room what they wanted to hear… But when I saw the Liberty University video, I couldn’t escape the… well… crappy feeling it gave me.
I was reminded that there are numerous religious organizations that enter the most poverty stricken, politically damaged, seemingly hope-deficient places that one can imagine with an ulterior motive. There are “ministries”, both here and abroad, that force hungry people to listen to a sermon before being fed… There are “pregnancy intervention services” that force scared teenagers to watch abstinence videos before administering a much-needed pregnancy test. And there are religious groups that go into places where genocide is under way with the ultimate intent of converting remaining sufferers.
In the Liberty University video, Russell’s exhortation to “apathetic Christians” is this:
People are scared of Liberty University… They’re scared because they see the power and potential in this room, the conviction you have, the connectivity you have. And they look at this arena and they go, “that’s scary – if they realized what they could do, it would revolutionize the world.” That’s why you’re here…
I think that’s why a lot of people fear Christians, they fear Liberty University, they fear Invisible Children because they feel like we have an agenda. They see us and they go, “You want me to sign up for something, you want my money. You want, you want me to believe in your God.
And it freaks them out. So figure out a way [to get in the fight] you know…
I would agree that people really are afraid of the Evangelical Christian fundamentalist machine– but only because we know that fundamentalism sees its own works as a “fight” on God’s behalf to eradicate all of the “evils” that don’t fit inside its sphere of approval. Such “fights” have always carried heavy consequences and don’t always aid the cause of social progress.
I believe missionaries do wonderful things overseas. Many take food, water, medication and education to regions of the world that may not receive them otherwise. But there is a downside to some missionary work, too. For instance: Just this week, I spoke to an African woman who is afraid that her region of the continent is losing its indigenous spiritual identity to the growing influence of Christian missionaries who wish to erase her native religion from the land. That’s a legitimate fear for a lot of African people, and it’s not a “we-are-too-naive-to-know-what-we’re-missing” kind of fear. It’s a “my-people-have-lived-here-for-thousands-of-years-and-we’re-losing-our-identity” kind of fear.
A few final words about this topic: There’s a difference between improving the world and taking over the world. Christianity should focus on the former, rather than the latter. Just a thought.