In light of the looming approach of the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, and the imminent Olympic torch relay beginning in our fair city tomorrow, I have been thinking about injustice. (By the way, I don't think this post is for the faint of heart... There are lots of links, and I encourage you to check them out.)
I'm sure some of you wonder at the juxtaposition of the Olympics and injustice, but I will get there in a moment.
Some of my friends believe the best and right way to respond to something you disagree strongly with is peaceably, without force or violence. They believe that is the Jesus way.
I have other friends who are activists, very willing to use whatever means necessary to oppose what they see as wrong. They believe active evil requires active resistance in response.
I'm not sure where I put myself on this. I haven't studied it, but at the same time I'm not sure how willing I am to either put my neck on the line, or get involved in civil disobedience. I don't see myself as a pacifist, but neither do I see myself as a subversive rebel.
I suppose it would make a difference if I felt strongly enough about the issue. I have marched in a few parades (fun, but perhaps not too effective). Would I be willing to be arrested for my beliefs? I don't know.
The third group of people I perceive are those who go along with the status quo, and don't see the evil in the particular situation. Many Christians appear to be in this camp. For one reason or another, they are quite content to support the activity in question, even if there are suspicious undertones.
This third response is easy. It doesn't require standing out as against something. For them it may well be the best thing to do, and it isn't my purpose to be the voice of God to tell them they are wrong. (I would just encourage them to not be naive or unaware.)
Ok. Now for the Olympics.
In a very general sense, and on the surface, it probably seems like the Olympics are promoting positive things like sportsmanship and international cooperation. I expect the hope is that they rise above politics, nationalism, prejudice, greed and other ills of society. I hope that each new location starts out with those ideals in mind.
However, over the years we have definitely seen things to the contrary. Enormous debt for the host country is normal. Decisions are based on greed and political gain over the value of the athletes themselves. Some countries, specific sports and certain athletes have become notorious for increasing their chances of winning in a decidedly unsportsmanlike manner (Can you say 'performance-enhancing drugs'?)
As a citizen of British Columbia, in a city near to Vancouver (and home of the provincial government), I have seen and heard unending stories of how politics, money and injustice have once again hijacked what might otherwise be a nice way to spend a couple weeks in mid-winter, watching the best athletes in the world.
A group called no2010.com produced a video (Resist 2010: Eight Reasons to Oppose the 2010 Winter Olympics) to express 8 reasons why the 2010 Olympics should not take place. (This provides plenty of occasion to discuss how it might be appropriate to resist—peaceably, actively, forcefully).
These 8 reasons they give are:
--colonialism and imperialism
--no Olympics on stolen land (unsurrendered First Nations territory)
--homelessness and poverty
--impact on women
--2010 police state
Money being spent by the rich on the rich, but the poor and homeless being treated even worse than before. “This is taxpayers’ money, our money. We don’t know exactly how much is being spent. But by our incomplete tally and with another year to go until the Games, it’s more than $6,000,000,000.”
“Yesterday, the city of Vancouver announced that they will begin ridding the streets of homeless individuals to prepare for the 2010 Winter Olympics starting in February 2010.”
Curtailment of free speech:
“The city passed the Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games bylaw in June to restrict the distribution and exhibition of unapproved advertising material and signs in any Olympic area during the Games.”
Free tickets for politicians, but no help for former Olympians:
“Gary Reed has broken records running for Canada at the Olympics, but the proud Canadian athlete can't catch a break scoring tickets to the 2010 games. "
More reading from an indigenous point of view
Interesting insight on where the idea of the torch relay first began (Hitler in 1936):
I know what I feel about the Olympics, but I'm still having to dig deep to figure out what my response should be. I know I'm not supporting the torch relay tomorrow, and I'll probably join some anti-Olympic marches at some point, but as far as being peaceable or forceful, I don't know. I don't expect I'll blow anything up or hurt anybody, but what would Jesus do?
When do you 'turn the other cheek' (Matthew 5:39) and when do you 'kick over the tables of the loan sharks' (Matthew 21:12)?
How much 'activism' is appropriate, and how much is too much?
I'd like to hear your thoughts—not just what you might have been taught to think, but what really echoes the heart of God against injustice. (I think it's time we started searching and thinking for ourselves, and not just repeating the things we have heard others say, but that's for a different post.)
41 minutes ago