I’m getting married soon.
Of course, I’m super stoked about the upcoming wedding. I cannot wait to start taking the world by storm with my best friend and bride to be. I’m definitely looking forward, moreover, to kicking off our life together by celebrating with a bunch of people I deeply care about.
Perhaps surprisingly, I’m also a little confused and worried about the upcoming wedding. I’m not confused about whether I should wear a bow tie or a straight tie. (The answer is obviously a bow tie.) Nor am I confused about what food to have at the wedding. (BBQ is objectively the best choice.) My confusions and worries stem from the fact that we, as affluent residents of the first world, are constantly living in a Good Samaritan situation. Let me explain what I mean.
We live on a pretty broken planet. Some children starve, some women are forced into sexual slavery, and some men persecute those who are powerless, which often causes more starving and more slavery. This is nothing new.
We also live on a pretty connected planet. We know that the world is broken because we get live updates on our televisions, computers, smartphones, and whatever else the kids are using these days. We also have the means to intervene, to save lives, and to give people the gift of freedom with very little sacrifice on our part.
Now, here’s where I start to get confused: when I consider that the world is both broken and connected, I realize that I am always faced with a choice, a choice that is not unlike the one that the Good Samaritan faced: I, while surfing on the web, can click that button and order a DJ for my upcoming wedding or I can click that other button on that other page and send a dehydration pack to a dying child in Cambodia. Every DJ I hire is, in virtue of my residence in this broken and connected world, also a choice to let a child die. I’m constantly in a Good Samaritan situation.
Those last few sentences will probably sound crazy to most readers, but I think that this is just because the fact that we are constantly in a Good Samaritan situation is, unlike the fact that we live in a broken world, a relatively recent development. The proliferation of technology over the past few decades has been truly breathtaking, and while we have managed to pause long enough to figure out how to capitalize on the benefits of living in this connected world, we have rarely taken that additional moment to consider that these new connections might bring new challenges and new responsibilities.
…And now there’s a wedding to plan. I can choose to hire a DJ for my wedding. Or, I can take that same money and free an Indian slave. The Good Samaritan situation invited himself my wedding. Rude.
So, now you can probably start to see why I’m confused: I’m supposed to be getting married. This is supposed to be a very special day during which I have license to indulge myself, but do I really have such a licence? Do I really have the right to choose the musical delight of 150 of my closest compadres over the freedom of a human being?
At this point, some may think that my confusions and worries are misplaced. Some of my own family members have thought that I was literally slightly insane to be thinking about these sorts of questions while discussing wedding plans. (That’s ok. Their concerns about my sanity places me in good company.) So, let me for a moment try to convince you that I am not completely off my rocker.
Some might think that I’m a little off because I need to be reminded of how difficult it is to solve these problems that make up our broken world. “Poverty, slavery, and tyranny cannot be ended merely by foregoing a DJ for your wedding,” some might say, “so don’t be concerned about starving children on your wedding day.”
My reply: that’s a fair observation with a not-so-fair conclusion. Yes, poverty will not be solved by telling DJ Diggity-Dawg to go home, but I’m not talking about solving every problem ever. I’m just talking about the opportunity to give one child medical attention that may allow her to grow into adulthood or the opportunity show one person that there’s more to life than her master’s will. So, even though my choice to forego the DJ does not entirely change the world, it can definitely change someone’s life, and so, there is reason, I think, to be confused and worried about planning a wedding with a DJ in the world in which we live.
Other readers might point out that my confusions lead to “absurd” conclusions, and they might use this “fact” to show that we shouldn’t be confused about our role in this broken, connected world at all. “If what you are saying is correct,” they might say, “then that means that we shouldn’t buy anything ever and just spend all of our time and money helping poor, sick, enslaved, people. But that’s a crazy conclusion!” To such an argument, I think we might justly reply: “That’s a crazy conclusion? Are we sure about that? Because a life spent being devoted the least of these sounds an awful lot like the life that Jesus led, and aren’t we all trying to live a life that’s more like that anyway?”¹
Of course, these responses do not exhaust all of the questions some may have about my sanity, but answering all of those questions would no doubt exhaust more than all of the space that I had for this article. So, let me just say, by way of conclusion, that I don’t know the way to resolve these confusions and quiet these worries. I’m just sort of trying to figure things out as the wedding draws closer. I do know, however, that they are confusions worth exploring and worries worth praying about, and for that reason, I’m glad to have had the opportunity to share them with you.
1. There’s a way to respond to this objection without whipping out the Jesus card. Peter Singer does a good job with this somewhere in this article. In fact, everything that I’ve said here has pretty much already been said by him. Turns out there’s not much that’s new under the sun.