Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Causing harm?

Written by: on February 14, 2015

Our modern lifestyle is moving at a pace in which people often find it difficult to have and maintain healthy social structures. Bauman, in Collateral Damage, examines social inequality and the implications, or cost to humanity. We should, and must, intentionally consider the choices that we make and how they impact others. As we consume more, we don’t always consider the downstream impact. I believe that people want to do the right thing by others, but we have become complacent to the dangers of our lifestyles. As a society, we have placed value on things over human lives. Bauman states, “We now need to extend the issue of inequality beyond the misleadingly narrow area of income per head, to the fatal mutual attraction between poverty and social vulnerability, to corruption, to the accumulation of dangers, as well as to humiliation and denial of dignity.”[1]

Bauman uses the term “collateral casualty” as he explains that marginalized people, or those living in poverty, are more susceptible to suffer from disasters.

  • Consider the pace at which we buy and throw away technology – somebody has to deal with the trash and pollution caused from this. Causes International reports that “Large amounts of e-Waste are sent to China, India and Kenya where lower environmental standards and working conditions make processing e-Waste more profitable. It is reported that 80% of all Asian children have elevated levels of lead in their systems.” [2]
  • In a 2014,The Guardian ran an article about a UN report on climate change. The article indicated that people who do the least to cause climate change, the poor and weak, are at the greatest chance to be negatively impacted. For example, poor villagers in the Philippines were forced to deal with the aftermath of the 2013 typhoon and storm damage.[3]
  • In NYC there is so much garbage shipped from the rich to poor areas that children suffer from asthma and other environmental disorders.  Yet, garbage sent through these areas has not decreased. [4]

This list could go on and on… Jeremiah 2:7 says, “I brought you into a plentiful land to eat its fruits and its good things. But when you entered you defiled my land, and made my heritage an abomination.” Too many people sit in their comfortable world, aware that our consumer driven society hurts vulnerable people and defiles God’s creation. Yet, many Christians are unwilling to sacrifice their way of living to start making significant change. We read the news and when disasters happen, we pray for those involved. It isn’t enough!

Just this week, I received a newsletter from a local church that has decided to do good in their community. They are spreading a little love with valentine gifts that they will distribute through the community. What good will this do when some of the people in their community can hardly buy food and pay their utility bills? My first thought was, “what a sad waste of time and money”. What would happen they made their ministry decisions with the welfare of others in mind? Maybe they would spread love by passing out real food or gas cards instead of valentine’s candy. We fool ourselves every time we buy a little gift to cheer a friend or even write a check for a good cause. “Shopping becomes a sort of moral act (and vice versa: moral acts lead by way of the shops). Emptying your wallet or debiting your credit card takes the place of the self-abandonment and self-sacrifice that moral responsibility for the Other requires.”[5]   Would we even know how to take care of each other in a world without money?

The world’s issues can’t be fixed by money or prayer alone, rather we must start doing the right thing and making the right choices as a society on a broad and signficant scale. Change won’t be driven by governmental action, politics, nor economic systems. In fact, it is difficult to even articulate the changes needed given the modern liquid society in which we are immersed. Bauman’s case for change is well founded, and I agree that it will take “a lot of good will, dedication, readiness for compromise, mutual respect and a shared distaste for any form of human humiliation; and, of course , a firm determination to restore the lost balance between the value of security and that of ethical propriety.”[6] I have to ask myself if this is a feasible expectation. Is this the world we can expect to live in until Christ returns? What is our responsibility, as Christian leaders, to push for change in the face of such obstacles? Do we give up and succumb to the ways of the world? Do we all become tree huggers and sacrifice all of our worldly goods to save others? There aren’t simple answers to these questions. Yet, we must ponder our individual responsibility to the greater issues and what we can do to reflect Christ in our day-to-day actions and decisions.

[1] Bauman, Zygmunt (2013-04-18). Collateral Damage: Social Inequalities in a Global Age (Kindle Locations 430-432). Wiley. Kindle Edition.

[2] https://www.causesinternational.com/ewaste/e-waste-facts

[3] http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/mar/31/climate-change-poor-suffer-most-un-report

[4] http://www.euro.who.int/__data/assets/pdf_file/0003/78069/E93670.pdf

[5] Bauman, Zygmunt (2013-04-18). Collateral Damage: Social Inequalities in a Global Age (Kindle Locations 1506-1508). Wiley. Kindle Edition.

[6] Bauman, Zygmunt (2013-04-18). Collateral Damage: Social Inequalities in a Global Age (Kindle Locations 1388-1390). Wiley. Kindle Edition.



About the Author

Dawnel Volzke

Christ follower, wife, mom, teacher, student, professional...my passion is to serve Christ and my calling is to help organizations become great at fulfilling their mission.

9 responses to “Causing harm?”

  1. Travis Biglow says:

    Amen Dawnel, as you were saying about how people are giving out valentines gifts to people who cant pay their bills i agree with you on that. I agree to the fact that people have things mixed up and many people have become so consumerized that they get all caught up in the holiday and not the real issues. I am glad you bought that up. I thank God i dont wait to Valentines day to get my wife flowers or candy. I do it on any occasion because its hard for me to really get into any holidays. On easter its hard for me to preach a easter message because i really pray for a word each week and people may not need to hear an easter message. Maybe as i age God will help with that but thats the way it is with me! Blessings!

  2. Nick Martineau says:

    Thanks Dawnel…”we have become complacent to the dangers of our lifestyles.” This is so true. I as well think people have good hearts but complacence has consumed most of us. Many don’t even realize how a complacent lifestyle impacts those around us. This ties in to the quote Phil shared in someone else blog post about efficiency hurting relationships. Going the extra mile and thinking through how to really love someone is more and more rare.

  3. Brian Yost says:

    “We should, and must, intentionally consider the choices that we make and how they impact others.”
    Dawnel, this encapsulates such a critical truth. It is one thing to become informed of the problems, it is quite another thing to intentionally change the way we do things for the sake of others.

  4. Dave Young says:

    Dawnel, (and Brian),
    So the main question for me is “What do I do?” This week I got hit with a $650 car maintenance bill, $600 increase to me car insurance, thanks to my little girl getting her license, $160 fee for may daughters to be a part of the school play, $400 fee for registration for our family to go on a summer missions trip (of which is this less then 15%), $425 for my elder daughter to go to ‘girls state’ this summer. I also bought my air for or HK trip, which I’m adding Hanoi to for research (I don’t even want to say how much that was) I grant you it wasn’t a normal week. I’m rich, and I know I’m rich. I want to do what Jesus would want me to do and that includes helping the poor, but another few weeks like this and I’m going to be back on the welfare dole.

    • Phillip Struckmeyer says:

      Dave, Yikes. Sorry to hear your name wasn’t one of the three for the 500+ Million of the powerball. You would of used it well . . . or at least I could of sent my stupid rose money your way:). My prayers are with you.

    • Dawnel Volzke says:

      I feel your pain Dave! The sad truth is that life in America costs way, way too much and is getting worse. We have lost all sense of priorities, and it won’t be easy to get back to reality. Take, for example, the $160 fee you mention for your girls to be part of a school play. I’m guessing this is likely the school system trying to keep their wealth by passing on the costs to the parents?? So, what about the kids who want to participate, yet their parents can’t afford it? Right now, we are at the point in our economy where everyone is feeling the pinch and looking to profit from one another, no matter what the cost to the other person. Our government taxes us without providing much added value in return, our schools keep charging us more and more for “free” public education, utilities and food costs more than what many people can afford, etc.

      The bottom line is that consumers are willing to pay the cost. Until mass numbers of people refuse to live this way, it will continue. It is sad that the Christian community has lost it’s voice – what would happen to governmental and corporate greed if Christians banded together and spoke by turning away from consumerism? Until something changes, I think we will see more and more middle class and elderly in line at the local food pantries.

  5. Phillip Struckmeyer says:

    Great thoughts and it is crazy how “individual responsibility” is the best shot and seeing change. I appreciate your call to action that we must at least begin to consider the downstream reality of our actions and yet how most of us just sit in comfort, not even making the effort to become aware. Also, it is truly disappointing to see how ineffectively we tend to help one another in ways that are needed and meaningful to the other. We are so bent in our culture to help others with the time, talent and intent that really serves us many more times than really helps the issues of our neighbors. The day to day challenge is tough, but it is where change must begin. I have been interested in becoming more involved in public square, community organizing and am interested to see what I learn from getting more involved???

    • Dawnel Volzke says:

      Thanks Phil,

      When I speak on Creation Care topics, I’ve observed that people have a hard time connecting their individual response to the greater political machine that we call democracy. I like the fact that Public Square and other organizations are presenting facts and representing alternatives to Christians. However, I find that the day-to-day decisions that people make are often disconnected from the realm of greater happenings in America and the world. To them, one thing doesn’t correlate to the other. So, even though awareness is raised it isn’t always translating to action. Hence, I agree with you that there is a need for community organizers to begin grassroots movements to get the action needed for sustainable, positive change. Kudos to you for wanting to get involved in community organizing. Is there something in particular that you have a passion for – is there an injustice that you want to correct?

      My family and I attend a church that is making a difference, but it isn’t the norm. They have stepped out in an act of faith and are doing everything intentionally to “make it count”. This includes everything from buying coffee for Sunday mornings from a ministry that is helping to rebuild Rwanda, to giving to $1 to a local food pantry for each person that comes to church on Sunday morning. The concept is to “make it count” in all areas, including family, work, politics, purchasing, learning, relationships, etc. It is a new way of thinking for many people. “Making it count” is a mindset.


      • Jon Spellman says:

        The frustration is that it seems that our best efforts amount to what seems like a drop in the ocean. I switch over to driving a Prius and everyone else jumps in their Tahoes and drives farther and faster! The spirit of consumerism has become so rampant as to be essentially insurmountable I fear. So it begins to feel like “why bother?” We aren’t making real change after all, might as well enjoy yourself!

        (I don’t really drive a Prius…)

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