U.S. Aid Is Disastrous to Haiti’s Economy!

U.S. Aid Is Disastrous to Haiti’s Economy!

Six years ago, Dr. Dambisa Moyo, an internationally-known Nigerian economist , published a brilliant and well-researched book entitled, “Dead Aid: Why Aid Is Not Working and How There Is a Better Way for Africa” (2010). Her main thesis was this : International Aid has worsened the human condition in Africa and correspondingly decreased the economic progress in Africa.

While we encourage temporary Aid relief Efforts in time of emergency, people in Africa and Haiti cannot be sustained on permanent economic dependency. If the Euro-American NGOs take the financial aid, which they amassed from different sources, back to their respective countries and do not invest in the respective countries they claim they’re assisting, the ensuing result of their work will inevitably lead to “failure” and the “destruction” of Haiti’s economy, for example. The profit is theirs, and not ours.

In this respect, Euro-American-based NGOs have become economic-booster agents, that is their work contributes enormously to the economic inflation of their countries of origin. American-based NGOs have failed Haiti in this respect.  While many NGOs (i.e. Red Cross, U.S. AID, etc.)  have helped many people in Haiti and transformed their living conditions, the general conclusion is that U.S. aid is disastrous to Haiti’s economy and not contributing substantially to social and economic justice and human flourishing projects in the Caribbean nation!

Take a look at this video to get a better understanding of my argument:

 

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The Work of Racial Justice and Reconciliation is Hard!

The Work of Racial Justice and Reconciliation is Hard!

One of the most depressing activities to be engaged in in the American society is the work of racial justice, and the imperative of racial reconciliation and harmony in Christian churches in America. Sometimes, it seems to be an isolated or lonely journey. (You will lose friends, and people will call you names, stop talking to you or will not interact with your work.) However, racial justice and racial reconciliation are a necessity for human flourishing, to heal America’s “sick soul,” and for the triumph of the Gospel message of grace in our society.

While we must continue fighting together against systemic oppressions that seek to tear us apart as a people, and those that devalue human life and dehumanize the image of God in targeted racial groups and ethnic communities in our culture, we also have an equal responsibility to teach little black, brown, and white boys and girls about the success and triumph of these underrepresented individuals  and communities in our society. Their triumph and success is also ours and ultimately America’s triumph and success.

The little white girl needs to know it is okay to have a black hero.

The little Asian boy needs to know it is fine to have a black heroine.

The little black boy needs to know it is all right to have an Asian role model.

The little white boy needs to know it is acceptable to have a Hispanic/Latino/a role model.

They, too, sing America!

In The Vocation of the Elite, published in 1919, Haitian intellectual Jean Price-Mars discusses the importance of affirming the contributions of other peoples and nations in the process of creating a new humanism and move forward toward a more promising human society. He writes perceptively, “Our task at the moment is to contribute to a national way of thinking indicative of our feelings, our strengths and our weaknesses. We can do so by gleaning ideas generated by ideas contained in the masterpieces which are the pride of humanity’s common heritage. This is the only way in which the study and assimilation of the works of the mind play an indispensable part in the enrichment of our culture.”

It is a very unfortunate phenomenon that in American Evangelical circles, the racial factor and sociological ties are stronger than the spiritual bond that should have been the catalyst or the fuel to ignite the inextinguishable flame toward intentional unity and friendship, and a relationship of mutual reciprocity and selflessness. Gospel reconciliation ministry is a doing and a practice. We need to do more of it and write less about it.Although we Americans have never been a “united country” and “united people,” we have to strive together for unity and common understanding. Unity regardless of our race, ethnicity, social class, economic status, gender, sexuality, and religion is what this contemporary American society desperately needs. On the other hand, we understand that  genuine unity and reconciliation will not happen among us until we learn to talk to each other, listen to each other, and bear one another’s burden. We are a society of profound wound. A lot of us are hurting. A lot of us are suffering. It is time for healing. It is time for unity. It is time for repentance. It is time for forgiveness.  It is certainly the time for reconciliation.

Churches that continue to be silent on the problem of race, gender, and ethnicity, and ignore the painful  experience and history of the black and brown christians and other disadvantaged peoples in our culture are not Gospel-transformative and human-senstive communities of faith. These congregations will soon be  declined in the twenty-first century American culture. Their ineffective lies in their consistent refusal to help heal the wound, suffering, and pain of these people.

In a recent article, “Many Americans have no friends of another race: poll” (Reuters, August 8, 2013), it  is observed that “About 40 percent of white Americans and about 25 percent of non-white Americans are surrounded exclusively by friends of their own race, according to an ongoing Reuters/Ipsos poll.” The author of the same article affirms that  “Younger American adults appear to confirm this, according to the poll. About one third of Americans under the age of 30 who have a partner or spouse are in a relationship with someone of a different race, compared to one tenth of Americans over 30. And only one in 10 adults under 30 say no one among their families, friends or coworkers is of a different race, less than half the rate for Americans as a whole.” Evidently, there is not only a crisis of American friendship, there is tremendous problem to be relational in the American culture.

We need to validate each other, rejoice in one another’s accomplishment, and bear one another’s burden. Without being relational, interconnected, and interdependent, we will not move forward as a community of faith and as a nation. We need to cultivate more interracial and interethnic friendship in our churches, communities, workplaces, and neighborhoods. The work of racial justice and reconciliation is hard, but it is very rewarding at the end.

Prophets and Poets: Langston Hughes and Habakkuk in Conversation

Prophets and Poets: Langston Hughes and Habakkuk in Conversation

As a literary scholar and theologian, I often find myself turn to poets and prophets for words of hope, insights, wisdom, and understanding. Both prophets and poets posses the rhetorical skill and an incredible discernment to precisely diagnose the human predicament, and tell us exactly where and why it hurts. They also tell us the “what” and the “who” and eventually, they will prescribe the right medicine to heal the wound–both personal and collective. Both poets and prophets always portray themselves as the conscience of society. They call us to sympathize with human suffering and pain, to do justice, to walk humbly, and to create emancipative future possibilities.

Prophets and Poets are deeply concerned about the value and meaning of human existence. They also write about the fragility of life and the miscarriage of justice in society. Like us, they also struggle with the problem of evil in the world, and protest against injustice, human oppression, and theodicy. In this essay, we bring Langston Hughes and Habakkuk in conversation on these sensitive issues. We will analyze Hughes’ excellent and provocative poem, “Let America Be America,” and the rhetorical language of selected passages in Habakkuk. We shall attempt to highlight literary parallelisms/connections and shared ideologies in both writings.

Langston Hughes (1902-1967), an African American poet, Habakkuk, an Israelite Biblical prophet lived in two different historical periods. They did not share the same cultural milieu and historical trajectories. While Habakkuk claimed the call to the prophetic ministry in order to channel  the will and message of God to the Israelites and orient the people of God to live righteously, walk in obedience and holiness before God, Hughes had appointed himself as the mouthpiece of the people, as we love to call him “The Poet of the People.” Habakkuk was chiefly concerned with the task of magnifying God among his people  and the nations. The supremacy of God in all things occupied the prophet’s conscience and doing. Hughes’ desperation involved exclusively the dignity and emancipation of his people (the African American population) in the American society. Arguably, Hughes’ poetic verses are anthropocentric; by contrast, Habakkuk’s prophetic words are theocentric. Yet, we would argue somewhat they complement each other in their respective duty. One cannot fully understand the predicament of man in the world unless he/she has a good understanding of the God who created them both male and female in his image. Man is not an autonomous being. He is intrinsically connected with God and depends on him for his life and everything else. As Apostle Paul urges his first- century audience,  which is also a reminder to all of us today, “‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, “‘For we are indeed his offspring’” (Acts 17:28). What establishes a link between God and human, the prophet (Habakkuk) and the poet (Hughes,  is this: “We are his offspring.”  Humans are the special work of God their Maker.

Both Habakkuk and Hughes longed for justice, national renewal, and transformation–both at the individual and collective level. Their calling as poet and prophet and their commitment to human flourishing and freedom is what distinguishes their vocation to that of other individuals. Their audience was impressive and inclusive because Hughes and Habakkuk attempted to reach out to all people: men and women, the poor and the rich, the sick and the healthy, the religious and the non-religious, the educated and the non-educated, etc. This sense of multicultural audience and the diversity of the human experience is well articulated in these poetic lines by Hughes:

I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,

I am the Negro bearing slavery’s scars.

I am the red man driven from the land,

I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek—

(Hughes, “Let America Be America Again”)

Perhaps, we should use the terms prophet-activist and poet-activist to reflect both the specific nature of Hughes and Habakkuk’s vocation and their active engagement with people. To call Habakkuk a prophet-activist means that he had employed both the written and spoken word as a catalyst to redirect the people of God to the moral vision of the Covenant; he had also appealed to all human faculties to challenge the people of God to live according to the divine design for them. Primarily, Habakkuk is an activist for God. He is also an activist for the people of God. In his first complaint in the first chapter, the prophet challenges God to remember his distinctive divine identity and to remain faithful to his covenant with his people.

Are you not from everlasting,
    O Lord my God, my Holy One?
    We shall not die. (1:12)

In the opening verse of the second chapter, the prophet reiterates his concern to God about the welfare of God’s people, a candid indicator  of his activism and solidarity with the people:

I will take my stand at my watchpost
    and station myself on the tower,
and look out to see what he will say to me,
    and what I will answer concerning my complaint. (2:1)

The prophet’s longing for God’s hesed-lovingkindness toward God’s people is made known in a prayer of lament in the third chapter of the book:

O Lord, I have heard the report of you,
    and your work, O Lord, do I fear.
In the midst of the years revive it;
    in the midst of the years make it known;
    in wrath remember mercy. (3:2)

On the other hand,  the “I” in these poetic lines by Hughes bears the sense of collectivity; this realist stanza expressively declares the poet’s ethic of solidarity and human relationality, and a politics of activism regardless of one’s occupation/vocation in life:

I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.

I am the worker sold to the machine.

I am the Negro, servant to you all.

I am the people, humble, hungry, mean—

Hungry yet today despite the dream.

Beaten yet today—O, Pioneers!

I am the man who never got ahead.

(Hughes, “Let America Be America Again”).

The spirit of communitarianism and human solidarity is evident in the oeuvre of Habakkuk and Hughes. To move this conversation forward, it is good to note at this point that the  people of Habakkuk’s time experienced a devastating exile from their homeland; they also went through a terrific  moment of starvation, drought, and social alienation as a result of the collective sin of idolatry and disobedience, and  the grievous sin of autonomy and disbelief resulting in God’s deliberate withdrawal from them. Thus, Habakkuk complaint to God is crafted in this rhetoric of anguish:

O Lord, how long shall I cry for help,
    and you will not hear?
Or cry to you “Violence!”
    and you will not save? (1:2)

The people of God had belittled God’s glory in their midst and among the nations, and brought great shame and damage to God’s name, his majesty and splendid transcendence. God’s abandonment of his people creates catastrophic effects in society and alters human behavior to violence, deceitfulness,  and great moments of darkness.

Why do you make me see iniquity,
    and why do you idly look at wrong?
Destruction and violence are before me;
    strife and contention arise. (1:3)

 So the law is paralyzed,
    and justice never goes forth.
For the wicked surround the righteous;
    so justice goes forth perverted. (1:4)

The prevalence of evil in Habakkuk’s society compels him to reinterpret his understanding of  God’s most-praised virtue: holiness; in the same line of thought, Habakkuk’s historical witness of the tragedy of humanity, his complete depravity, and his desire to do nothing but evil leads him to lament over God’s refusal to intervene in the affairs of men to eradicate evil in their midst and prove himself to be the “Holy One of Israel.”

You who are of purer eyes than to see evil
    and cannot look at wrong,
why do you idly look at traitors
    and remain silent when the wicked swallows up
    the man more righteous than he? (1:13)

As the guardian of God’s holiness  and the one who clarifies God’s distinctive character and virtues to the people of God, Habakkuk is surprised by God’s indifference or lack of response to the plight of his people.  On the other hand, the African American people in Hughes’ era had suffered tremendous destructive social oppression and social death; they also endured immeasurably racial violence, lynching, racial segregation, and social inequality.  Consequently, Hughes’ clarion call for racial justice, equity, and wholeness is well crafted in this stanza:

O, let my land be a land where Liberty

Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,

But opportunity is real, and life is free,

Equality is in the air we breathe.
(There’s never been equality for me,

Nor freedom in this “homeland of the free.”)
Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark?

And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?

(Hughes, “Let America Be America Again”)

Prophets and Poets question God, authorities, the nation-state (s) the individual, the people. They even interrogate those who have economic-political power and status to create the boundary of life, and establish societal structures and infrastructures. They are fierce individuals who are not afraid to question, to doubt, to laugh, and to die. They always stand for something greater than themselves and are ultimately committed to a cause.

In the following verses, Habakkuk showcases his prophetic wage.

8 as your wrath against the rivers, O Lord?
    Was your anger against the rivers,
    or your indignation against the sea,
when you rode on your horses,
    on your chariot of salvation?
You stripped the sheath from your bow,
    calling for many arrows. Selah
    You split the earth with rivers.
10 The mountains saw you and writhed;
    the raging waters swept on;
the deep gave forth its voice;
    it lifted its hands on high.
11 The sun and moon stood still in their place
    at the light of your arrows as they sped,
    at the flash of your glittering spear.
12 You marched through the earth in fury;
    you threshed the nations in anger.

(Habakkuk 3:8-12)

Trusting in God’s covenant faithfulness and sustaining abundant compassion, the prophet cries to God for the freedom and shalom of God’s people, and for God’s retributive justice:

 I hear, and my body trembles;
    my lips quiver at the sound;
rottenness enters into my bones;
    my legs tremble beneath me.
Yet I will quietly wait for the day of trouble
    to come upon people who invade us.

(Habakkuk 3:16)

The praise song that brings a closure to Habakkuk’s prophetic ministry and activism is crafted in such a way that the people of God will always remember the faithfulness of God and God’s intervention in historical past; in the same vein, this song of human celebration of the mighty acts of God in history is also a letter to God in order that God will never forget what he had done for his people. As the people of God will forget God’s past deeds, God will always remember his people and maintain his covenant faithfulness toward them.

17 Though the fig tree should not blossom,
    nor fruit be on the vines,
the produce of the olive fail
    and the fields yield no food,
the flock be cut off from the fold
    and there be no herd in the stalls,
18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord;
    I will take joy in the God of my salvation.
19 God, the Lord, is my strength;
    he makes my feet like the deer’s;
    he makes me tread on my high places.

(Habakkuk 3:17-19)

In the verses that follow below, Hughes displays the magnitude of his poetic anger. This is a long song of incredible lament with an emancipative intent or goal:

To build a “homeland of the free.”
The free?
Who said the free?  Not me?

Surely not me?  The millions on relief today?

The millions shot down when we strike?

The millions who have nothing for our pay?

For all the dreams we’ve dreamed

And all the songs we’ve sung

And all the hopes we’ve held

And all the flags we’ve hung,

The millions who have nothing for our pay—

(Hughes, “Let America Be America Again”)

The poet cannot keep his silence; he wants to be heard. Yet,  he is very optimistic about the American future, which will bring democracy in black, and the potential future when America will keep her covenant and fulfill its promissory note to all of her children–white, black, brown, red, mixed, etc:

Except the dream that’s almost dead today.
O, let America be America again—

And yet I swear this oath—

America will be!
Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,

The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,

We, the people, must redeem

The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.

The mountains and the endless plain—

All, all the stretch of these great green states—

And make America again!

(Hughes, “Let America Be America Again”)

Finally, poets and prophets speak, write, cry, mourn,  lament, sing, protest, and rejoice. They always hope for another and a better world. Prophets and poets are men and women who hope and dream, but they also individuals who create the hope and the dream they long for.

Let America be America again.

Let it be the dream it used to be.

Let it be the pioneer on the plain….

Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed—

Let it be that great strong land of love

Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme

That any man be crushed by one above.

(Hughes, “Let America Be America Again”)

 God, the Lord, is my strength;
    he makes my feet like the deer’s;
    he makes me tread on my high places.

(Habakkuk 3:19)

———————————————————————————-

 

I am tired!

I am tired!

I am tired of those individuals who are insensitive to human suffering, pain, and death.

I am tired of those individuals who misinterpret the words of Scripture/Jesus to devalue life and dehumanize people.

I am tired of those individuals who are afraid to change, forgive, and repent of their sins.

I am tired of those individuals who appeal to human depravity and social sins to justify the miscarriage of justice and support the mistreatment of those who are hurting.

I am tired of those individuals who are/ have been silent and use their power and status to shut the mouth of those peak against injustice, inequality, oppression, and social evils.

I am tired of those individuals who appeal to human reason to rationalize and counter the fact and the evidence so that they can feel good about themselves, and prove the world that they’re rational and brilliant.

I am tired of those individuals who are not bold enough to practice social justice, love their neighbor, and defend the innocent and their right to exist.

I am tired of those individuals who deny the social implications of the Gospel and Christian responsibility in the public sphere.

I am tired of those individuals who area afraid to suffer and be humiliated and alienated for the cause of love, justice, truth, and peace.

I am tried of being traumatized by fear, fear of death, and fear of social alienation.

I am tired!

The “Shooting-Back- At the Police Method” is Wrong!

The “Shooting-Back- At the Police Method” is Wrong!
The “Shooting-Back- At the Police Method” is a dangerous strategy for the peace-making and racial reconciliation process in America. The way of violence or violent retribution is always  a serious threat to the way of love, peace, and social justice, and a deadly attack on the sanctity of life. As a nation, we do not humanize life by taking away the life of another individual; we can’t move forward toward national peace and celebration of life by dehumanizing some lives and preserving the life of other individuals simultaneously. As a people and nation, we need to confront the implications and meaning of human existence and affirm that any life is worth living, preserving, and defending. The “Shooting-Back- At the Police Method” is not only wrong; it is a dehumanization of life and the denial of peace and love.

God does not take pleasure in the death of anyone, even the wicked; therefore, we should not rejoice over the death of anyone–even our supposedly enemy.