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A Sojourner’s Lament – Prologue

July 13, 2014

Language is so elastic. The meaning of words changes at an ever-accelerating pace. To avoid confusion it becomes increasingly necessary when writing to define the terms one uses. The country to which I have for a few years now devoted much of my life, Haiti, was not long ago referred to as a Third World nation. More recently the designation Fourth World has come into use to describe the world’s most poverty-stricken nations, those that like Haiti are marked by very low GNP per capita and great dependence upon foreign economic aid.

A couple of posts back I indicated I would tackle the topic of how far removed my First World native home is from the Fourth World in which I lately spend half of my life, how uncaring of it. Out of respect for how incendiary this subject can be, I thought it necessary to begin with a preface to introduce some qualifiers.

The genesis of this blog series is far in my past. My notice of and concern with the inequities of this world is longstanding. This has shaped my thinking, to some extent determined the direction of my life, and in large part, forged my understanding of the Gospel. By extension, it has a profound affect on how I approach this subject (or any other, for that matter). The indignation that has smouldered in my heart for years has been fanned into flame by the doleful winds of Haiti.

My compassion for “the least of these” is something God has laid heavily upon my heart, but, I fully appreciate, not necessarily on yours. For as Eugene Peterson, whose idiomatic translation of the Bible, The Message, I highly value, so aptly put it, “God does not send us into the dangerous and exacting life of faith because we are qualified; He chooses us in order to qualify us for what He wants us to be and do.”  I have seen things, lived things, suffered things, that few of my compatriots have, and consequently own an atypical perspective. If I am to remain faithful to the substrate of beliefs upon which it is built, that perspective will necessarily be poured out in what I write.

Although my own weltanshauung, my worldview and understanding of my place in it, is deeply rooted in the rich soil of Christianity, every major faith incorporates a clear mandate to care for the less fortunate. Even if one professes no religion at all, basic humanity demands the same. So perhaps my perspective needs not be all that different.

Unfortunately, the requisite brevity of a blog post sometimes leads to generalization.   I do not mean to suggest that all my commentary applies to everyone. In particular, my criticisms of the Church do not appertain to every Christian or every congregation or every denomination. The truth is both simpler and more complicated than that.There are many who apprehend what our Lord taught and exemplified, and try their utmost to follow his lead. But one would, I think, have to be in total denial not to see much of what I will discuss here.

I entreat you not to presume I have appropriated a morally superior stance, setting myself somehow above the attitudes and actions about which I write. Our societal mindset is so inculcated that sometimes I wonder if it is possible to totally free myself from its iron grip. I am acutely aware that in uttering judgment on these issues, I myself am under my own judgment. Indeed, regrettably, I must declare with Pogo, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

Some may find this series of posts scathing and perhaps may be offended. Many times I seriously considered deleting everything I had written, scrapping the entire undertaking. Yet although I have no wish to foist my own opinions and beliefs upon others, I do not think myself bound to conceal them. Accordingly, I ultimately resolved to forge ahead, making no apologies for unflinchingly speaking my truth.

In part, this series will be my way of dealing with the grief and loss I experience whenever I leave Haiti. I will experience the grief and loss again when I leave Canada to return. It’s part of the price of what I have been called to do. There are no rituals for this type of grief, so I must create my own. I have no one to remember with save God. So please bear with me in my lament.   If you listen closely, you may see me a bit more clearly, for in our grief we reveal ourselves.

Give sorrow words. The grief that does not speak
Whispers the o’er-fraught heart and bids it break.

—Malcolm, from William Shakespeare’s Macbeth

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