Transforming fantasies

Photo: Marko Pakoeningrat on Flickr via Creative Commons

Photo: Marko Pakoeningrat on Flickr via Creative Commons

My church includes as one of its foundational directives the idea that we believe that all things are spiritual. As we state on our website:

We believe that all of life – food, friends, work, money, pleasure, sleep – is spiritual. We do not fragment out lives; we live with a growing understanding that everything we do relates to God.

This directive was in fact one of the first things I encountered at this church that made me think that maybe I’d found a place to stay for a while.

I’d been introduced to the idea of all things being spiritual by Shane Claiborne in his Irresistible Revolution in my twenties. I had plunged into a world of social justice and intentionality and active, tangible love. I lived in a consumerist world of modern Evangelicalism where the divide between material and spiritual, flesh and spirit, was still cavernous. One was evil, the other divine. One was to be repressed, the other magnified. Which was which just depended on whether I was in church or watching television. Claiborne shone a light on the darkness in both of these ways of approaching life, guided me back to the truth of Jesus that was small and seemingly insignificant and had changed the world.

Eventually, as happened to many of my peers, I fell into a kind of compassion fatigue. I had spent so much energy trying, mostly alone, to live with such active love and intention that I overwhelmed myself. There were so many issues, so many hurting people in so many ways, and I became increasingly aware of my smallness in the face of it all. Without a community around me striving toward the same goals, I was adrift and drowning. Eventually I flipped the switch of engagement and my energies drifted elsewhere.

Coming to my current church and hearing that they believed in this idea of all things being spiritual stirred those old convictions and passions. I met some people who had experience with various organizations fighting human trafficking, one issue that had been particularly important to me. We started meeting, watching documentaries and sharing our hearts in this matter. Eventually we evolved into a little group that holds awareness and fundraising events to channel resources to the different organizations we are all eager to support.

One of these is, a site that allows you to view ratings of major companies within an industry in relation to their efforts to ensure no slavery is involved in any part of the supply chain for their product. I absolutely believe that in a world where we have so much, we have a greater responsibility to know where our consumer products come from and make efforts to not contribute to injustice through our ignorance or our spending. At the same time, venturing into a lifestyle of such global responsibility feels overwhelming, exhausting, like a lost cause even. An effort born of futility and entombed in fantasy.

Yet, if I understand him correctly, Peter Rollins seems to speak of a transformation of fantasy that can in the end be powerfully real. If we can move from a mentality that establishes the realization of our fantasy as the locus of desire fulfillment to a way of thinking that reattaches that desire to the process of working toward some such realization, then we may rob the fantasy of its destructive potential. In my case, the fantasy may very well be a world free from slavery in which I can live free from any contribution to systems or businesses that employ such barbarism. The acknowledgement of this goal as a fantasy, in the past, led me to weariness, discouragement, and disengagement.

However, if the question is broadened something changes. What if I stop asking what the ethical or moral or just decision is, and just ask what the loving decision might be? What if I fully embrace the futility of striving for such global change, while at the same time living more and more in line with love regardless of the result? The fantasy tells me that satisfaction is stored at its fulfillment. Maybe satisfaction, though, is actually found in living more lovingly regardless of the result.

If I change the way I spend my money, specifically on food and clothing and electronics, it will be challenging and tiring. It will require a lot of shifting of priorities and even practical shopping habits. It will be frustrating. And all that effort may make no difference at all in affecting the global issue of human slavery. But I can make those choices anyway to increase love and not out of any other moral obligation, regardless of any other result, because I believe that love matters. Because I choose to live in a way that loves the child in the sweatshop and the indentured slave in the coffee field and the mistreated migrant worker picking tomatoes. They may never know I tried to love them, and that love may do nothing to improve their situation. I loved them anyway, as best I could, because love matters. And I’m told that love never fails.


1 Comment

  1. viclyn7 said,

    May 19, 2015 at 2:11 pm

    Oh, my friend. Love indeed never fails. This post is beautiful and I am grateful.

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