I’ll be honest: Today’s news about Invisible Children’s Jason Russell being arrested and then detained for psychological evaluation felt like a sucker punch. I love Invisible Children’s premise – that they fill a void and meet an actual need. Where so many organizations focus solely (and rightly) on individual rehabilitation and on-the-ground programs, IC is and always has been an awareness campaign. They exist not only to work on the ground, but equally to educate, energize, and mobilize young people to do something (lobby for justice) in a part of the world most will never see (Uganda, DR Congo, and CAR) for people most will never meet (literally countless young men and women who were abducted and forced to live as murderous soldiers and/or rebel sex slaves) in an effort to rid the world of one of it’s most horrendous and yet unrecognized genocidal maniacs (Joseph Kony).
I’ve participated in many of IC’s campaigns. They are why I knew about Kony, the LRA, and their evil tactics years ago. They are why I searched for a way to get more deeply involved with victims in Gulu. They lit the fire in my soul that got me involved with Mocha Club and put me on a plane to Gulu, where I met the recovering, owned their stories, and in whose keeping I left half of my heart awaiting my return.
So you can imagine how excited I was last week to see #KONY2012 trending on Twitter, to see his name and the now-infamous video on every major media outlet’s front page. I was ecstatic that the world – yes, THE WORLD! – was finally taking notice and committing to capture and finally defeat this man whose pure evilness can only be compared to Hitler’s.
But then…a different firestorm started. Invisible Children started becoming more famous than the guy they were trying to make famous. Rather than talking about Kony and the horror he’s sprayed on Uganda, DR Congo, and CAR for nearly three decades, people were talking about Invisible Children’s “questionable” finances, political relationships, and the maturity and seriousness of its leaders. Because some were legitimate questions, and because they’re on the up and up, instead of dismissing and ignoring the charges leveled, IC chose to address them succinctly and clearly, in hopes of redirecting the focus back where it belonged: on Joseph Kony.
But it didn’t work. The bullets kept flying. And yesterday, it came to an even more explosive head when Jason Russell, the face of Invisible Children on the video in question and on almost all media interviews, was detained for public intoxication and masturbation and when, instead of pressing charges, San Diego police had him committed.
My immediate response tricked me, though.
I would have expected myself to say, “Oh, come ON!” I’d be angry with Jason for drawing more negative press to an already bogus situation. I would have immediately questioned my own defense of IC up to this point. I would have imagined the firestorm awaiting me on Facebook for defending them so strongly.
But what actually hit me immediately was this: This is bigger than Jason Russell, or Joseph Kony, or gossip. There is a battle of epic proportions going on, and it involves deeper and darker things than mere humans. I don’t say this lightly, and I’ve rarely said it before, but I believe it to be truer than anything else today: I am witnessing a battle between the principalities, between Light and Dark, between the Enemy and the rest of us.
I believe the Enemy is attacking.
He would have us believe Kony is no big deal; that perhaps he’s not even a legitimate bad guy. He would have us believe the problem was solved years ago. He would have us believe Kony is weak and powerless. He would have us believe those who have been working tirelessly for years to capture and bring Kony to justice are of lesser character than Kony himself, and that rather than serving Kony’s victims, they’re serving other evil warmongers. He would have us believe leaders of Invisible Children are a bigger problem than leaders of the Lord’s Resistance Army.
He would have us believe salacious gossip is truer and more relevant than capturing the ICC’s most notorious fugitive.
He would have us distracted.
And, if today’s twitter trends are any indication, we have played into his hands.
I don’t know what I would do if I were Jason Russell or any of Invisible’s other leaders. I can’t imagine giving my life to building an organization from the dust and watching it explode into an incredible global effort, only to then feel it collapse at its pinnacle. I can’t imagine the massive pressure they’ve all recently been under from every side. I think it must feel something like being thrown into the deepest end of the ocean with ankle weights and bloody guts for shark bait. So while I can’t explain or defend Jason’s actions, neither can I condemn him.
Not when God has been so historically adamant about using the chiefest of sinners to do His work, to bring His Kingdom.
And not when such an important, generation-defining issue is staring us in the face, begging for a response.
After all, if the Enemy is at work, God is in the process of accomplishing something massive.
Whatever you may think about Invisible Children or Jason Russell…
Let it not distract you from the real monster, Joseph Kony. Let it not distract you from his real victims who, somehow, still remain invisible to so many micro-blogging gossip mongers. Let it not distract you from the real story of 26+ years of genocide and abduction and slavery and violence waged against children who are only now beginning to recover and heal.
No matter how tempted you may be…
Give them your attention.
I wrote this song for Elijah while he was still baking. I even mentioned it here. Tonight, I got to sing him to sleep with it. It looked like this:
And it sounded like this:
Oh, my Elijah, your precious little heart.
Because it’s the end of the year, and because everyone who’s anyone who has nothing better to do does this…I’ve decided to make a Top Ten of TwentyTen list for your perusal and enjoyment.
So here goes.
10. I ran 25 miles in my longest training run to date, while training for my first ever 50k ultra marathon. It took me 5 hours and 20 minutes, but I did it, and it was amazing.
9. I enjoyed traveling to countless cities – for free! – with Husband, thanks to his job which affords him this amazing perk of frequent flier miles which added up to a free one-year companion pass for me. Which means I can go anywhere with him, anytime, for nothin’. Go Southwest!
8. I’ve had the privilege of spending many days with some of the most incredible kids in the universe on a near-ongoing basis, some of whom are pictured here:
(This is Rebekah, my best friends’ oldest daughter, almost 4yo)
(And here’s Abigal, Rebekah’s sister, who is every drop of two years old.)
(The big kid would be Matt, my 14yo stepson, who occasionally tags along to help me babysit…and read to the young’ns…who LOVE him.)
7. I ran and finished my first ever trail race, covering nearly 12 miles and climbing upwards of 3,000 in elevation, at Chattanooga’s Stump Jump (I was supposed to run that 50k race I mentioned training for in #10, but alas, my #1 thing of 2010 kind of hampered that):
6. I ate some *amazing* food in some amazing cities, including but not limited to:
^^This incredible – and I mean incredible – hot dog at an Anaheim Angels game in California.
^^…as well as this unbelievable lobster in New York City.
^^…and this Green Curry in Alexandria, VA.
^^…and (finally) this unspeakably delicious bbq smorgasbord in Black Mountain, NC.
(It goes without saying – but I’ll say it anyway – that I did NOT eat to run, this year, but rather ran to eat!)
5. I enjoyed a rather intoxicating anniversary weekend away in …wait for it… Washington, DC with my Love:
(That’s the Lincoln Memorial from across the Reflection Pool.)
(And that’s Love and me in front of Lincoln…)
4. I somehow, through no fault or success of my own, managed to write one of my personal favorite songs to date, “Stronger Than You Think,” which has become a bit of a quiet anthem for myself and many I’ve had the privilege of getting to know:
3. I traveled to a LOT of states across the whole country on tour, running through and/or simply enjoying the sights of some incredible cities along the way, like these:
Seattle, WA…(the view from my hotel room balcony)…
….Greensboro, NC (the view from a 6 mile lakeside trail run)…
…Times Square in New York City (where I rather enjoyed looking grumpy for a moment, who knows why?)…
…The gorgeous shores of Long Island (NY)…
…and the Harvard University Campus in Cambridge, MA.
2. I spent over two months touring with two of my musical heroes, Jennifer Knapp and Derek Webb, during which time I literally shared the stage (and a van) with them, sang songs with them, ate food with them, made jokes with them, and took pictures with other super famous cats like these guys (they’re called “Hanson”):
the number one thing I did in 2010….
1) I MADE A BABY!! (With the help of Husband, of course!) He’s currently 23 weeks baked in my uterus for an oven, and due on April 27, 2011. He will, no doubt, be number one on next year’s Top Ten list as well!
It’s taken me a while to get a live video worthy of posting, but thanks to the superb videographic talent of our good friend (and tour host for two days), Mason Taylor of a’tris, we finally got a good one last night (11/14/10) at our Traveling Troubadours tour stop at The Living Room in New York City.
“Stronger Than You Think” is near and dear to my heart, and it’s my hope that it reaches yours as well. Watch, listen, enjoy, share, comment. I’d love to hear what it means to you. I’m always blown away by how a song that starts as a conversation in my own mind expands to reach so many. When songs like this come to – and then from – me, I’m humbled to be the conduit.
Lyrics are below…in case you’re interested.
“Stronger Than You Think”
(by amy courts | [c]2010 amalia musica)
This isn’t what I want
This isn’t what I want for you
But it is what it is
It’s not the way you planned
But it’s what you find in hand
And you have got to do the best you can
And I know it’s gonna break you down
It’s gonna hurt like hell
Before it makes a sound
And I know it reaches everything
But you are stronger than you think you are
This isn’t what I want
This isn’t what I want for you
But it is what it is
It’s not an easy road
And no one wants to go
But it’s the only way for you my friend
And it’s gonna hurt you more
Before it starts to feel okay
But it won’t be this way
No, it won’t be this way
Filed under: africa, Culture, Faith and Faith Life, Missions, Music, Video
I believe I’ve used the word “beautiful” more over the past two weeks to describe what I saw and experienced in Gulu and the Acholi than I have my whole life over. And part of me wishes for a new, better, more powerful – or just different – adjective.
But the truth is, no other word does them justice.
Vodpod videos no longer available.
The first video above (created by the brilliant Stephen Proctor of gi*inc) is just a splinter from the Sunday church service we attended (to which some incredible Faithful’s walked 50 miles). It portrays the simple honesty and incomparable joy inherent in their worship. It was unequivocally the most vibrant celebration I’ve ever seen happen among the people of God on any given Sunday. The Acholi know joy.
Vodpod videos no longer available.
This second is a piece Stephen put together using only flip camera footage, which captured the reality of their beautiful light and tuned me in to my shadowy life. I still can’t avoid tears when I see it and remember their perfect faces.
To be sure, True Light is brighter than it ever was, and “Beauty” has never been more perfectly defined.