“I wish the ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened.”
“So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
—A conversation between Frodo and Gandalf, The Fellowship of the Ring
Our world is in a mess. Have you seen the signs?
I (Ben Lowe here!) turn 25 this year and – in my relatively short and sheltered lifetime – I’ve already witnessed too much destruction and suffering. Now, I haven’t experienced most of it personally (except for a severe bout with malaria and some other less-than-charming intestinal parasites), but that’s merely because I was born into a good family as a citizen of the reigning global empire.
Even so, I’ve witnessed how we blow up entire mountains in Appalachia to get at a narrow seam of coal underneath. I’ve seen street children with swollen bellies picking through mounds of garbage for food. I’ve seen forests burning, rivers dying, and wells drying up. I’ve also seen the reports and bleak predictions for our future – the future that I’m inheriting.
Is it possible to fix these problems? Do we still stand a chance? At Renewal, we hear these questions a lot and we can certainly relate to the feeling. It’s easy to despair and feel overwhelmed. But whenever we need inspiration, we look to our peers and see a faith, passion, and activism that energizes us. Our generation has a big role to play today and we have the power to bring real, lasting good.
The role of students and campuses is especially important here. As we all grapple with contemporary problems like climate change and biodiversity extinction, the church often looks to Christian colleges and seminaries for wisdom and leadership. After all, these are the places where much of the scholarship, writing, and organizing originates from. These institutions are also training grounds for thousands of Christian students who, every summer and after graduation, are sent out in waves to go make a difference for Christ.
As we continue to mobilize around the environmental and human crises of today, I’m reminded of Wilberforce and his campaign to outlaw slavery in England. Not too long ago they released an inspiring film on this story called Amazing Grace. In it, the young Prime Minister William Pitt tells his abolitionist friend Wilberforce that, “we’re too young to realize that certain things are impossible, so we’ll do them anyway.”
I think there’s a lot of truth to that. They eventually succeeded in the huge task before them and, by the grace of God, so will we.