Tuesday, December 1, 2009

On Advent and Albino Hunting in East Africa

By Roy Ciampa, PhD
Associate Professor of New Testament

Have you heard or read the horrifying story about albino hunting in east Africa (posted 11/27/09)? I read the story on the CNN website today (you can also read about it here) and have since been thinking about what it tells us about fallen humanity and about Advent. Here are just the first three paragraphs from the CNN story:
As many as 10,000 albinos are in hiding in east Africa over fears that they will be dismembered and their body parts sold to witchdoctors, the Red Cross said in a recent report.
The killings of albinos in Burundi and Tanzania, who are targeted because their body parts are believed to have special powers, have sparked fears among the population in the two countries, the report said.
Body parts of albinos are sought in some regions of Africa because they are believed to bring wealth and good luck. Attackers chop off limbs and pluck out organs to sell to dealers, who in turn sell them to witchdoctors.
What a horrific reminder of the wickedness that can be found in the human heart and leading to the most inhuman treatment of people created in God’s image. Human beings are willing to slaughter other human beings out of the most perverse and corrupt miscalculation about what is in their best interest. Of course disastrous miscalculation of what is in one’s best interest goes all the way back to the origin of sin. “Eating from that tree will be good for you! It’ll make you more like God!” If only such corruption of the human heart were limited to the most widely recognized manifestations of blatant wickedness as albino hunting, or were only found in strange and distant places like east Africa, and not clearly seen in my own heart (and yours!)!
I can more easily point the finger at people who unnecessarily abandon their fetuses, or infants, or grown children rather than making the sacrifices it would take to raise them. Or at those who are more concerned about how healthcare reform might negatively impact their health insurance in any way than they are about the millions who have been left without the benefit of any health insurance. Or all you other people who have ways (and fine-sounding rationalizations) for putting your needs and interests ahead of those of others’. But the same sin seems quite at home in my own heart. I may not be hunting albinos for their body parts, but I have more subtle ways of valuing my own happiness and prosperity over the wellbeing of others. And many of my ways are at least as culturally acceptable in my culture as albino hunting is (evidently) in albino-hunting subcultures….
What does any of this have to do with Advent? Everything, of course. First of all, Christ is the only perfect and pure model of what it means to put other people’s needs above his own (see, of course, Philippians 2:3-11). He became human and sacrificed himself so that we might find true life through his (true) death and resurrection. And his death and resurrection bring life, real and transformed life, that leads more and more people to tend less and less to feed (or, to use Paul’s metaphor, to “sow to please”) their sinful nature (cf. Galatians 6:8), thanks to the life of Christ that is in them by the indwelling Holy Spirit (Galatians 2:20; 4:6).
Christ has come not only to model a different way of living as a human being and to bring forgiveness and salvation to those who, like us, were albino hunters of their own kind, but also to transform us into people through whom the love and righteousness of Christ might be seen.
Through our union with Christ the albino-hunter in each of us has been nailed to the cross, crucified with Christ, so that we are no longer to be slaves to sin, but slaves to righteousness.
Now that I have used those poor albinos as part of an illustration of the ravages of sin and as part of a metaphor for our own sinfulness, I am tempted to leave them behind. They have served my needs and purposes for today. I don’t suppose they would feel any better knowing I was able to exploit them for the sake of writing an on-line faculty forum…. Their suffering goes on. For them, “physical survival is a desperate struggle.”
What might I do (and you), as a follower of Christ, to help those terrorized people, threatened with horrific violence? We can read more about it here and then decide the best way to act. My prayer is that followers of Christ will find concrete ways of demonstrating Christ’s own commitment to those in such desperate need. As the hymn says, Christ “comes to make His blessings flow. Far as the curse is found.” May those blessings flow to the albinos of east Africa this advent season.

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