DMINLGP

DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Style Your Friends and Change the World

Written by: on February 17, 2020

“If you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.”

Isaiah 58:10

This is the foundational Bible verse for Noonday Collection, which was founded by Jessica Honnegger in 2010 after a transformative trip to Uganda, where she met Jalia and Daniel, jewelry artisans who dreamed of “using fashion to create dignified jobs in their community.”[1] Noonday Collection creates global change by empowering and enlisting artisans to create fashion accessories that are sold in the United States by Noonday Collection Ambassadors. Fair tradepractices produce sustainable growth initiatives that enable vulnerable communities to thrive as they move from poverty to purpose. What began with an adoption fundraiser, has turned into “a $17 million business that is economically empowering over four thousand artisans all over the world.”[2] The Noonday Collection Impact page shares that by empowering women, cherishing children, and creating dignified work and connection, they have fostered opportunity with 33 business partners, in 130 community workshops, impacting 4,500 artisans, 20,400 family members, employing 2,000 Ambassadors, and supporting 4,200 adoptive families.[3] It’s evident, Noonday is making a difference around the globe.

Noonday employs key world changing criteria, where story is used to convert people’s hearts and minds so they will have right values, make right choices, and change culture.[4] While these initiatives are noble, they also employ capitalist mentalities and levels of white savior industrial complex.[5] In his 2012 article, Teju Cole reflects upon Invisible Children and the Kony2012 video. Sharing tweets and analysis, Cole points out how “a nobody from America or Europe can go to Africa and become a godlike savior or, at the very least, have his or her emotional needs satisfied. Many have done it under the banner of “making a difference.””[6] Cole argues that activism needs to begin in a different place, namely within “the money-driven villainy at the heart of American foreign policy…(where) The White Savior Industrial Complex is a valve for releasing the unbearable pressures that build in a system built on pillage.”

Clearly, Christian good intent is closely woven together with the capitalistic and damaging political endeavors found within our religious and cultural milieu; the solutions are anything but simple.

Considering power, politics (and indirectly American foreign policy) James Davison Hunter remarks Christians already see politics and policy as means to achieve faith-based ends.[7] But he argues, Christians have “embraced strategies incapable of bringing about desired ends, (because) they have failed to understand the nature of the world they want to change and failed even more to understand how it actually changes.”[8]

For both conservative and progressive Christians, their worldview dictates their actions. For conservatives, battles ensue as the world seeks to distroy their biblically grounded perspectives within all systems, including political, educational, entertainment, law, economic, and artistic.[9] Such demise reveals “American is clearly going in the wrong direction,” [10] and their language reflects the loss of the mythical Christian ideals of position and power established in the foundational documents of America.[11] Conversely, progressive Christians, bent on equality and community, have developed liberation theologies to bring biblical understanding to social justice issues. Like conservatives, they desire to seize political power to bring about social changes that align with their particular worldview.[12] Hunter argues both uses of political power are ineffective in bringing about world change, because our understanding of power is skewed.

Examining the social power of Jesus, Hunter highlights Jesus’ work which counters human tendency of abusing power by modeling complete intimacy with God the Father; total rejection of status, reputation, and privilege; humility and love through degradations; and unprejudicial, noncoercive compassion toward those outside the Jewish faith community.[13] It is only though embodying such values that Christians can impact the world around them.

What does this look like practically? Hunter notes, “In formation (the changing of lives), it is the culture and community that gives shape and expression that is the key. Healthy formation is impossible without healthy culture embedded within the warp and woof of community.”[14] Based on evidences that the culture surrounding Christians is decidedly unhealthy and significant change is impossible, or minimal at best, Hunter proposes an alternative way of living through the theology of faithful living. This theology acknowledges “God’s faithful presence to us and his call upon us to be faithful to him” as we participate in Christian worship traditions, welcome all people, and remain present and committed to our tasks and spheres of social influence, so all may flourish.[15] Hunter concludes, by the power of Christ and his victory over all oppressive institutions, anything is possible, thus Christians are free to “actively, creatively, and constructively seek the good in their relationships, in their tasks, in their spheres of influence, and in their cities.”[16]

The founder of Noonday, as well as those of other Christ-centered organizations and churches, believe their actions are biblically based and Spirit driven. They profess to be prayerful servants of God and desire to be faithful ambassadors of reconciliation in the communities in which they exist. Their motives are established on biblical precedence and practice, if even selectively, and they are working to live the Gospel in a God-honoring way. It’s clear though, that despite best efforts, Christian formation and actions are inherently flawed because the cultural, religious, and political systems we exist in are flawed. This framework causes a negative feed-back loop of imperfection and an inability to create sustainable change.

While Hunter’s proposed antidotes are hopeful, their simplicity feels less than helpful. But maybe that simplicity is closer to the life Jesus led than the ones we keep trying to establish within our cultural Christian paradigms?

“Anybody can make the simple complicated. Creativity is making the complicated simple.” Charles Mingus

 

Be faithful and attentive in the small.

Try to do no harm when working for good.

Trust God to mind the gaps.

 

Photo by Ignacio Campo on Unsplash

[1] Noonday Collection. About: Our Story page. Accessed Feb 15, 2020.

https://www.noondaycollection.com/about/our-story/.

[2] Michele Martin. “How This Woman Built $17M Global Business Empowering Women.” Forbes.com, July 31, 2018. Accessed February 15, 2020.  https://www.forbes.com/sites/michellemartin/2018/07/31/how-this-woman-built-a-17-million-global-business-empowering-women/#14f272fc379b.

[3] Noonday Collection. Impact page. Accessed February 15, 2020.  https://www.noondaycollection.com/impact/.

[4] James Davison Hunter. To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2010) 10.

[5] I do not believe the intent behind Noonday is malicious in anyway. I do believe they exist within a particular Christian and cultural construct that influences their “prayerful” decisions. Success in the endeavor is evidence of God’s favor upon their works, thus their works and reach grow, with positive and negative consequences.

[6] Teju Cole. “The White Savior Industrial Complex.” The Atlantic. March 21, 2012. Accessed February 15, 2020. https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2012/03/the-white-savior-industrial-complex/254843/

[7] Hunter, 95.

[8] Ibid., 99.

[9] Ibid., 111.

[10] Ibid., 115.

[11] Ibid., 131.

[12] Ibid., 147-149.

[13] Ibid., 187-193.

[14] Ibid., 227, 236-237.

[15] Ibid., 243-247.

[16] Ibid., 286.

About the Author

mm

Darcy Hansen

13 responses to “Style Your Friends and Change the World”

  1. mm Joe Castillo says:

    Examining the social power of Jesus

    Power is an unavoidable historical reality, which cannot be demonized, but with an important tax and coercive proclivity and, therefore, one must know how to administer and control so that its use is socially positive. The power can be backed by an authority, whose nature can be very different, or, simply, can rely on mere force. The authority may be devoid of socially regulated power and yet exert a social influence, even decisive.

    • mm Darcy Hansen says:

      The power Jesus exerted was subversive because it was submissive, first to God then to others. Being a servant leader carries little weight in our culture, and it certainly isn’t valued. Still, those who try to live in such a Jesus way hope that small changes might move us all closer to shalom.

  2. mm Dylan Branson says:

    John 13 and Philippians 2 are the two images that come to mind as we think about power. We see that in both of these passages that Jesus’ power is found in His servitude, not in His God-given authority. He chooses to put this to death on a cross and to be obedient to death, to wash the disciples’ feet, and usher in a kingdom that’s turned on its head. His words in John 13:34-35 speak loudly and with a tenderness: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

    The solutions are simple, so simple that it’s ludicrous. But we have a tendency to prefer the overly complicated scenarios (maybe it’s a pride thing). It’s only when we look back that we realize how simple the solution could have been.

    • mm Darcy Hansen says:

      I suppose if love was easy we wouldn’t need Jesus to come and show us how to do it. Even still, we struggle. It’s the simplicity of it that is most perplexing. The past three texts we’ve read analyze various complex systems trying to figure out how we’ve gotten to where we are as a people and culture, and then they propose the simplest of solutions in addressing those complex problems. It’s not rocket science, and it makes me wonder if all these books are even worth reading, because all the solutions basically = “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

  3. mm Greg Reich says:

    Darcy,
    Great food for thought! When I read your statement
    “Hunter argues both uses of political power are ineffective in bringing about world change, because our understanding of power is skewed.” My mind went to the trial of Jesus before Pilate in John 18. If there ever was a perfect time for Jesus to be political it was then. Pilate put him to the test and all Jesus could say was “my kingdom is not of this world” and if it were his followers would be fighting for Him. If Jesus refused to use political power to establish His kingdom why do we as His followers think we can establish the Kingdom of God through political power?

    • mm Darcy Hansen says:

      Greg,
      We see power structures making cultural changes all around us. Big companies dictate how supply chains operate, products are produced, infrastructures are built, and world markets are run. Evangelicals have especially benefitted and fanned the flames of such structures, thus it seems natural for us to hop onto the latest power person to try and achieve our desired outcomes of aligning all people to our particular beliefs in the person Jesus Christ. Based on our readings, this has been going on for hundreds of years. Can it change? Maybe? But I think it will take something cataclysmic for holistic cultural change to happen.

  4. mm Shawn Cramer says:

    Thanks for highlighting creativity here. One creative example I saw was from a used car salesman who realized white men were able to get better deals on cars than any other demographic. He decided to simply create a fair margin and not negotiate on the price. While this isn’t “world changing” it is the kind of faithful presence we need.

    • mm Darcy Hansen says:

      I call that being faithful in the small. It’s a holy and hard way of living because it requires being attentive to the Spirit within at all times and often doing that which seems illogical.

  5. mm John McLarty says:

    Your post reminds me of the encounter Jesus had with the rich young ruler. Jesus tells him, “you lack one thing- go and sell everything you have…” The man walks away sad because his wealth was vast. You said Hunter’s proposal’s “simplicity feels less than helpful.” Doesn’t that reinforce the point? The answer is simple, yet profoundly difficult to live into. While what we seem to prefer is a complex answer that only the “special” will understand that requires no meaningful effort or change.

    • mm Darcy Hansen says:

      Yes, it definitely reinforces the point. But how do we live the simplicity of the Gospel in a world that hungers for big change initiated through power and position? Its a daily choice to “to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8)

  6. mm Jer Swigart says:

    White Savior Industrial Complex (WSIC). Now you’re meddling! 😉

    Hey, do you think that Hunter’s idea of faithful presence is understood as a waste of time by those captured by the WSIC? Do we understand it as a threat? What is it about the WSIC that inhibits us from giving our energy to presence?

    • mm Darcy Hansen says:

      The individuals I know who operate in businesses that do this type of work are kind, Jesus loving people. They genuinely love others and believe they are walking out the Gospel. I think they believe their trips to international locations to visit artisans is likely a faithful presence. I keep wrestling with what this all means, because I believe those that are doing this type of world changing work believe they are lead/favored/anointed by God to do it. So then, who am I to critique? But something in me is always unsettled when I hear the language and witness the business models. I also think we like to “do” things in big ways. Traveling the globe to encourage artisans and provide for them a market for their goods is doing a big thing. Those that buy the products get to be part of something bigger than themselves. And the cycle perpetuates.

  7. mm Chris Pollock says:

    What a cool sounding thing, the Noonday Collection. Ethical Capitalism? Aspect of the double movement? Faithful. Living out the faithfulness of God.

    Thank you, Darcy!
    (You are a blessing.)

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