Kevin’s Conversations: When Is Social Advocacy Called For?
Michael has kept us updated here from time to time on the antics of Saeed Abedini.
The stories manifestly grow stranger and more disturbing and the behavior and assertions and accusations from Saeed seemingly grow more and more bizarre and delusional and desperate. I have no personal contact to the situation, nor do I have any expertise to render a definitive judgment of any kind, but it would appear that there are some serious issues with Saeed. One way or another, there are some decidedly wrong and distressing circumstances happening around or involving the man.
Many of us here are more than aware of the public advocacy that took place for Saeed while he was imprisoned. Much advocacy that took place on this very blog. Plenty of us undertook what we believed to be a very just cause and were looking out for a man who we believed to be a brother suffering through a wrongful imprisonment and terrible maltreatment. While it is still wrong to imprison someone on the basis of their faith, I now wonder if Saeed deserved that imprisonment for so many of the other things he has reportedly done or been accused of doing.
The advocacy for Saeed hit national levels and could be partially, if not mainly credited for his ultimate release from prison and Iran. We now know that at least some of the items we were told and rallied about in his advocacy were lies and deceptions. I do not blame Michael or the other men here who were primarily involved in his advocacy through this blog as they have shown themselves over the years to be upstanding and trustworthy. I do not believe for a second that they knew of the lies and deceptions. I am not going to make an issue of Saeed’s now former wife, Naghmeh, as she was living in an abusive marriage and there needs to be much consideration for that.
However, there were those who were part of Saeed’s advocacy and were in positions of power and influence and knew of at least some of the lies and troubling accusations against Saeed and chose to either ignore them publicly or even helped to promote them. Others who may not have been involved in the advocacy, yet knew of at least some if not many of the lies and problems with Saeed, seemingly chose to stay silent. And so a great advocacy was built on a good many duplicities and falsehoods and many of us undertook this advocacy when we very well may not have if we had known the whole truth.
Last week I wrote on the topic of whether or not and how we give second chances to those with histories of domestic violence or animal abuse or the like, using the case of a football player as a jumping point. While my given choice of questions and/or analogies caused some dismay, I was attempting to generate thought and discussion around what we consider in determining how we act on these situations or how we think they should be handled. One of the thoughts in my mind that came up in discussion was if and when and how society should take action when they believe proper justice hasn’t taken place in the justice system or by the ruling authorities.
In the case of Joe Mixon, many think that justice wasn’t served in the courts and so society should step up to hold him further responsible. The rallying of public awareness in Mixon’s case is pretty easy to do because of the existence of his video. For the sake of a comparison, there have been plenty of other football players who have been convicted and/or accused of domestic violence who we don’t know nearly much about since we lack the same publicly available visual evidence. Some of them may have done things even worse than Mixon, but we’re just not as easily aware of them. And so, for the most part, the public advocacy to bring justice to their situations is significantly lesser.
In one case of great societal attention, Saeed’s, there was public and societal advocacy in support of a man. In another case of great societal attention, Mixon’s, there is public and societal advocacy against a man. In Saeed’s case we found out that many things weren’t as they were made to appear. In Mixon’s case, we have the video and so the potential for overwhelming deception would seem to be little to none.
What about all the other cases for which there has been great public advocacy for justice, whether for or against an individual or group or organization? Ostensibly, society has gotten it right many times. However, there are other times where society may have been wrong to some level of significance and/or went harmfully overboard in their advocacy. Cases where there was a misleading spirit or where not all the facts were known or where the momentum of a cause unwisely trumped the veracity or substance of itself. Cases such as something as old as the Salem Witch Trials to something more modern such as members of the 2006 Duke University lacrosse team who were accused of rape and along with university officials suffered much fallout due to public pressure, when in fact they were later proven to be innocent in the court of law.
By no means am I saying that society should not ever get involved in publicly advocating for justice for or against an individual or organization. But how do we make that decision as to when we get involved? Where do we draw the line? How do we know we’re getting the whole story and aren’t being deceived? To what degree are we willing to take risks to advocate for or against someone or some cause?
I know that if my wife or daughters or parents were ever to be wrongfully imprisoned in a foreign country and subjected to much abuse and seemingly not much of anything was being done about it, I would want the whole country to rally for the cause to gain their freedom and end their suffering. Or if some perpetrator who happened to be famous or powerful had committed a terrible crime against them and got off scot free or just a slap on the wrist in the justice system, I would want the world to know that the perp still deserved justice. But why should every Tom, Dick, and Harry believe me? Why should they trust me and advocate for my cause when they don’t know me and previously knew nothing about me or my family? With all the responsibilities they already have and everything else going on in their lives, why should they choose to get involved in my cause?
I think our biggest concerns and focus should be with those already in the circle of our lives in one form or fashion. More times than not we can have a bigger impact in our local situation and/or with those whom we already know. But can we then just ignore everything else? I don’t think so, but how do we make those decisions as to when and how much to get involved? From the lowest level of involvement such as simply expressing an opinion on a situation that may influence someone else’s thoughts or actions on it, to our own full-blown participation in an advocacy, we do often take actions on these situations.
So when is it right or just or wise for society to rise up in advocacy for or against an individual or organization? How do we decide what we are going to do about it individually, if anything at all? I don’t have nearly all the answers or acumen on the questions at hand. I am sure others have some good thoughts and insights, and so I ask.
Whenever and however we choose to act or not act in these situations, may God give us wisdom in doing so.
Good thoughts, Kevin.. and amen to your last comment. “May God give us wisdom”.
It does seem that there are causes demanding our support and energy all around. There are only so many hours in the day and so much money to live on and then donate to various needs and causes. The current marketing methods of harassing donors blows me away. If I give $10 to Steve Brown’s “ministry” or Samaritan’s Purse, I will receive monthly letters of begging for at least 2 years until I ask to be removed from the mailing list.
They more than burned up my 10 bucks harassing me for more money.
Having been largely disempowered in my own life, I am now convinced, for my 2cents, that my ‘ministry’ is my home and neighbors, adult kids and grands and people I interact with at church and the grocery store. The main “ministry” to just trying to not be a jerk. And maybe taking a meal to a family in distress. That’s about it.
Either God is in control of His Universe or He’s not. I believe he is.
If He puts a need in my path, I will do my best to help.
Well said, Paige!
“Having been largely disempowered in my own life, I am now convinced, for my 2cents, that my ‘ministry’ is my home and neighbors, adult kids and grands and people I interact with at church and the grocery store. The main “ministry” to just trying to not be a jerk. And maybe taking a meal to a family in distress. That’s about it.”
That sums up what I think too.
Kevin’s wise words (and folks’ responses here) give me hope for future of the country…
we do live in a strange world where people earn their living producing propaganda that slants toward their employer’s benefit (that includes the Federal Government) and others of no faith whatsoever earn a good living hustling bucks for Christian causes – i give a small (in Paige’s ballpark) once a year donation to an Indian (Native American) school and another to St. Jude’s – no other “causes” get money from me, but the people they pay to raise money for them send me stuff – you should see my collection of greeting cards, calculators, calendars, daytimers, pens and keyrings (no i don’t send them back, i didn’t ask for them in the first place) – they go to Goodwill or Salvation Army (don’t know what they do with them)
it’s probably a generational thing, but jumping on the bandwagon of public causes, not my own has always made me uncomfortable… unless it’s just hunger or thirst, it’s hard enough to care about the near and dear without becoming a busy-body 🙂
If I was ever inclined to send money to one of these ministries it would be a 20 dollar bill in an envelope with no return address.
“When Is Social Advocacy Called For?”
When I know the situation personally, as in, not only online.
Another question I thought of which is wrapped up in your thoughts, Kevin, is How do we know when we are not trampling all over God’s chastisement of or graciousness toward an individual or group?
Maybe God intended to jail Saeed to let Satan deal with him (I dunno, maybe?) and maybe God has been gracious toward Mixon for reasons unbeknownst to us. Seems when the masses get behind something, we are usually duped in many regards.
I guess patience and diligence are two possible answers.
I can not even get my head around this question. When is it “called for”?
It’s called for whenever there is injustice.
Financial support is a clear way of advocating for or supporting some person or organization or cause. That can come with its own hang-ups as has been mentioned here.
When it came to Saeed, I never gave a dime of money, but I spent time raising awareness of his plight and even took the time to contact many governmental leaders on his behalf. So I did not spend money, but I spent time.
What about when we do something as simple as voice an opinion about a situation? If I were to say to my friend that I don’t think Joe Mixon should be allowed in the NFL, then in some small way I could be influencing the way he thinks about it or possibly even what actions he may take on the situation. If I express the same thing in the comments of this blog, my opinion reaches a few more. If I write it into an article, it reaches even more. Now my opinion may have very little sway, but there is the potential it could affect how others think and act. So even though I may have not taken any real action on a situation, in a small way, couldn’t even expressing an opinion on one of these situations even be a form of advocacy for or against someone/something? And we do that type of thing all the time.
It is possible when we get behind one of these causes, we could be working against God’s designs. But it is also possible we could be working with God when we join a cause.
When the masses get behind something, certainly there have been times where they have been duped. I don’t know if I would say that this is the case “usually”.
A couple things come to mind. Yes, we should always be against injustice. But we just can’t get involved in every single scenario we hear of where there appears to have been injustice. What things do we consider when choosing which ones to get involved in?
And secondly, how sure do we need to be of the “injustice” before we decide to get involved? Not everything is always as its made out to be.
I think part of the problem is that we lack a “truth filter”… especially for some of us that are older. We became used to the idea that the government and government officials lied about Vietnam and the bombing of Cambodia. Then Watergate, Iran-Contra, Mr. Clinton and his intern, WMDs in Iraq… the list is exhausting. So often we are asked to make judgements about situations in which, as they say, “truth is the first casualty”. When, however, injustice is blatant and/or proven we are faced with another situation – “What do we do about the truth we now know.” In the latter instance, I think we bear a responsibility to advocate for justice and integrity. Unfortunately, these days it comes down to either popular protest or actions that hurt the “bottom line”. Have no doubt, if management believed that the drafting of Mixon would hurt the bottom line, he would not have been drafted. It is a sad commentary on contemporary society that they did not believe that it would.
I’ve deliberately taken a vow of silence on the Mixon discussion given the college connection.
However, I will say that comparing a one-time act of a person who had been a legal adult for two days (no matter how heinous) and the repetitive, consistent behavior that has been reported concerning Saeed seems like a poor comparison. I understand it since Mixon is the trending news story given the draft.
Frankly, I ask myself how it is that Penn St has a football program or North Carolina (and Roy Williams) continue to be slobbered on by college hoops analysts at ESPN – given the nature and duration of the scandals at those “great institutions of higher learning”
I guess I just can’t win in my choice of examples or analogies.
The point of comparing Saeed and Mixon was threefold. One, they are both stories that gained national attention and with which we are familiar here at the blog. Two, one (Saeed) was a case in advocacy for a person while the other (Mixon) is a case of advocacy against a person. And three, one (Saeed) is an example where the public was deceived to a significant degree while the other (Mixon) would seem to be pretty unambiguous with the existence of the video. The comparison was not to say that the cases were similar in nature.
Penn State football and North Carolina’s sports programs can be justifiably questioned.
I feel your pain!
Well…..I did say I understood the comparison. 🙂
You just thought it was a poor one.
Does that mean you’re going to undertake an advocacy for the pain I have experienced? 🙂
Please forgive the expression of my thoughts, Bob. 🙂
(Actually, Kevin, I think the juxtaposition of the two stories – the for vs. against, the video evidence vs. none etc. is very well stated and developed)
Kevin FWIW I thought your analogies work well, as Steve W has pointed out being the armchair plaintiff, judge, and jury is very tempting.
It’s always nice to get an apology from you. ?
I know this most likely is heretical maybe even demonic but here goes. There is nothing at all prophetic, spiritual, God ordained about a nuclear exchange, even a limited one. One thing happens in a nuclear exchange, people die, that’s what happens. Children, women, men, elderly, disabled, etc. Die, horrid awful lingering deaths. Land in damaged for decades if not centuries, water the food supply air etc. I understand fulfilling some rhetorical made up “profit see” is more important than say 20 million people’s lives but maybe it should not be.
I would proffer that the context within which the lying is occurring is also important. Within government, or in what are supposed to be institutions of higher learning, it is disconcerting at the least and has caused many to become discouraged and jaded. However, these cases of lying do not carry quite the weight of evil–or the penalty– as do those who deliberately confuse or obfuscate the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
When “laundering” the truth is done inside the Christian community, it is far worse. It is done, not just before men–but before God. Unfortunately, when this duping of the brethren becomes public, it also reinforces stereotypes of the easily-led believer surrounded by Charlatans who control their ever-willing saps. As one who has been mis-led in the past by some within the “Christian” community, I can attest that this is painful. It is why I don’t apologize for stringently questioning things or being uber careful as I age. Sadly, and perhaps worse, the other effect of these duplicitous dealings is to cause and even encourage the enemies of God to blaspheme because these heinous acts were, indeed, committed in the name of Christ.
I contend that, the shortest distance between two points is still a straight line. By far it is also the easiest route. If we want to know if something is “Kosher”, we must be willing to do inquiry. There should be a list of reasonable/Scriptural questions to be asked before there is any commitment to help and we should be unashamed about doing so. Since we are finite and not omnipotent, it is the best we can do while here on earth. For those that follow behind us, it is the responsible thing to do. Equally important, and never to be negated of course, is humble prayer before the Lord. It would seem that anyone who is doing the right thing (whether true advocate or true victim) and is suffering for it, they would not mind the scrutiny. The Bereans were commended by Paul himself. There’s a clue there somewhere.
If I may, I will add commentary about what I see as some grace in all of this. I like the story about the widow’s mite. She gave to a corrupt system, but did it from her heart. Christ commended her and we still tell her story. (As Christ predicted.) You can follow all the rules and do everything right and still be taken. People lie and are unpredictable, so that will be as good as it gets until we die and leave this earth. However, God knows that which is done in innocence. My conviction would be no loss of reward for those that gave with a true heart based upon the best knowledge they had at the time.
John 3:20&21 says, “Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.”
“If I was ever inclined to send money to one of these ministries it would be a 20 dollar bill in an envelope with no return address”
if i ever get my hands on a counterfeit bill, that’s what i’ll do with it 🙂 cuz i’m betting the person hired to open that envelope wouldn’t put cash on the stack of contributions – dunno