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Haiti’s Children–Part 4 of 4

February 5, 2010

To review, I’m in the middle of a four-part series thinking about the tragedy that Haitians are undergoing this month and the unfortunate event of 10 Americans being arrested for gathering Haitian orphans and transferring them to another orphanage outside of Haiti. The latest update is that all 10 Americans will be detained by Haitian authorities until further notice.

Honestly, this last post has little to do with Haiti’s children–forgive the misnomer. I asked in Tuesday’s post, “Do we have the right to go to a land of poverty and “rescue” children through international adoption efforts? Is that a Christian mission or an American mission? How different are those terms?”

I especially want to key in on this idea of “rescue”. Specifically, to start, who are our socially sanctioned rescuers?

If my life is in immediate danger (if I was in a burning building, having a seizure, or something equally morbid), I would want someone to barge through the doors and haul me out or perform efficient life-saving surgery. Policemen, firemen, and surgeons do this on a daily basis, but “rescue” for these professions suggests that there’s no plausible alternative for saving your life. Sometimes, you need to be physically rescued, and I want to leave room for the possibility that these 33 children (as well as the other thousands of parent-less children in Haiti) need to be rescued and removed from the nation.

On the other end of the rescuing spectrum are people who take it upon themselves to right the wrongs of loved ones. For example, as a therapist, I work with couples who create an overfunctioning/underfunctioning relationship. Let’s presume that the husband has an alcoholic addiction. The wife may try to rescue her husband by nagging her husband to quit or attend an AA meeting, working herself to death to keep the house spotless, or denying to children or other family members that there’s a problem. Interestingly, regardless of whether the wife in this example pursues or distances, as long as she’s rescuing, the husband responds by distancing, either by drinking more or creating emotional separation by yelling and abusing.

I want to focus this conversation in the middle of our spectrum, but I find it pretty difficult to do given our national and contemporary Christian narratives.

Ironically, in a nation that preaches individualism and efficiency, we’re obsessed with superheroes. I think part of this comes from our desire to see the supernatural, be that God, Superman, or an altruistic celebrity. But I wonder if there’s a part of our national psyche that wants to be saved. (Another topic for another day.) Anyway, women in the prefeminist days were taught the damsel in the distress narrative, hoping that the perfect guy will rescue them out of a forbidden tower or a dreamless coma. (Women, is this narrative still prevalent? How has this affected you?) Our foreign policy, in the opinion of other nations at least, models rescuing other countries–we’ll come in, kill off who needs to get killed off, and speak on behalf of the country we’re supporting through international relations, government restructuring, etc.

Evangelical Christians seem to have their own version of rescuing, using moral standards and eschatological language (generally) as its premise for attempting to save the world from itself.

I don’t want to say that these are all bad things–we all need values to stand on, be that democracy, the Christian ethic. But rescue always has hierarchical implications. In order to be rescued, someone has to be powerless, and someone has to have power (altruistic or otherwise). Someone has to be weak, someone has to be strong. Someone has to be right, someone has to be wrong. Someone has to be poor, someone has to be rich. And so forth.

God rescues–he rescued the Israelites out of Egypt, he sent Jesus as a form of rescue from the eternal grips of Satan (among other things). Does that mean that we get the same power, the same responsibility, or is the role of rescuer explicitly for God to use?

In closing this series, what does social justice look like without the hierarchical confines of rescuing?

Max Beauvoir, the leader of Haiti’s national federation of voodoo priests, explains, “There are many who come here with religious ideas that belong more in the time of the Inquisition. These types of people believe they need to save our souls and our bodies from ourselves. We need compassion, not proselytizing now, and we need aid — not just aid going to people of the Christian faith.”

For more thoughts about this topic, please check out this website, or leave thoughts of your own in the comment box.

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