Thursday, March 08, 2012

Thoughts on the most recent viral video ("Invisible Children")

One of our CRBC students sent me a link to this Invisible Children video (over 32 million downloads when I watched it today) that has gone viral over the last few days, dealing with bringing justice to Joseph Kony, leader of "The Lord's Resistance Army" in Uganda.  I also heard a brief report on the video on the BBC international broadcast early this morning.  I realize that just by virtue of doing this post I am adding to the video's now largely successful effort to make Kony "famous" (or, rather, "infamous").

Anyhow, our student emailed the following:  "The video I'm linking to is taking the U.S. by storm. It has a very good premise, but I'm wary of it for some reason. I really want to get your opinion so I hope you can set aside half an hour to watch."  Here is the response I sent him (with some slight expansion/editing):

I did get around to watching the video. Who would not be touched by the plight of children suffering due to war?

Like you, however, I do have some concerns from a spiritual perspective. Though heartfelt, the video also is naive and utopian. For one thing, it assumes all the problems in Uganda can be solved by arresting one man. From a Christian/biblical worldview we know this is not possible. Remove one dictator/terrorist/criminal and another will likely spring up. In fact, we would say that the peaceful film-maker and his adorable son are capable of the same horrific sins as Kony or any other sinner. We are only restained by the grace of God. Jesus said there will be wars and rumors of war, but the end is not yet (Mark 13:7). The film assumes problems caused by human sinfulness (including man's inhumanity against man or sin against his neighbor) can be ended via political and humanitarian efforts. Truth is, the root problem is spiritual, and it will not end till Christ returns. This sort of film must be watched alongside meditation on Spurgeon's Catechism (especially the questions on sin; cf. the Westminster Shorter Catechism).

On the other hand, this does not mean that Christians (and others merely by virtue of their humanity) should not also be willing to stand up for justice. Here too, however, the film is terribly simplistic and probably does not fully understand the reasons why Kony rose in power and has stayed there. Many Americans do not understand longstanding tribal and ethnic divisions in other nations and project a naive "can't we all just get along" answer to conflicts made most difficult by the twisted nature of human sinfulness. The film naively celebrates the sending of 100 US troops to Uganda. What good will this do in a nations of millions? The film also presents a typical Western approach to solving social issues.  Namely, it implies that we can solve all problems by having a rally, passing out bracelets, and putting up posters. Put up all the posters you want, and sinners are still sinners.

One final line of questions about the video's closing promotional push: How do we now that this organization is reputable? Are they non-profit? Who is on their board? How many employees do they have and how much are they paid? Who profits from the sales of posters, banners, bracelets, in the starter kit? Couldn't someone just make these things on his own?

Food for thought.

Grace, Pastor Jeff

Note: After writing my response, I also ran across this article by Michael Deibert which points to some of the more complicated backgrounds for the problems in Uganda which the "Invisible Children" video ignores.

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