Of Grammy Night and Artists' Humanitarian Work
Once again, some slight changes. Wow, that was the Holy Spirit, not me!
February 1, 2010
I would not have bothered watching the Grammys last night except that I wanted to find out if a select few bands won. Otherwise, I've long since given up watching. But what really struck me wasn't so much the performances, and they didn't end up highlighting those bands anyway. They totally bypassed airing the Gospel category, and the category in which my favorite popular band, Nickelback, was nominated got edited as well. They seemed to want to feature the relief for Haiti and the fact that Michael Jackson always believed in making the world a better place, and rightly so. These no doubt demanded great importance. But watching these took me back to the time in the 1980's when the famine in Ethiopia came to the forefront in the news.
Please, someone correct me if I'm wrong about timelines, but I think the British project Band Aid led the way in music artists coming together to benefit famine relief efforts by releasing "Do They Know It's Christmas?" There followed a whole string of efforts, including USA For Africa's "We Are The World," which I understand is being recorded again with different artists, Northern Lights' "Tears Are Not Enough," culminating in concerts such as Live Aid and Farm Aid. Most memorable to me was the May 25, 1986 project "Hands Across America," in which people across the U.S. joined hands along city streets to simultaneously sing that song "Hands Across America" and pledge support and generally show solidarity for the people suffering the famine in Ethiopia. Being an idealist, I so wanted to join in that, but it seemed impossible since my parents would never have allowed me to travel to any of the meeting points, the closest of which I believe was Los Angeles. Then I got the news from our local community center for the blind in Stockton that those of us who wished to participate could do so, and a busload would leave for L.A. It seemed Lionel Richie had donated a one-mile stretch for any visually impaired people who would participate. I guess it was based on that video for his song "Hello".
So there I stood in that exciting, emotionally stirring event at noon on May 25, 1986, something I knew I'd never forget. But then a strange thing happened. The whole thing lasted only as long as the song, and then we loaded up to head back to Stockton. Somehow, I got separated from my friend Emilie, whom I had brought with me as my guest, and I ended up alone in the back of the bus. Suddenly, the utter futility of it all slammed into me like a freight train! I found myself thinking, Is this all? Is everyone simply going to return to their tepid, lukewarm, ordinary lives and forget that these people in Africa still exist and that they're still enduring famine and cruel dictators, etc.? This can't be it! As these thoughts flooded my soul, I began to cry. I don't think anyone saw me, but it doesn't matter. That day, at age fifteen, I discovered a killing truth:
Ecclesiastes 1:13-15 (King James Version)
13And I gave my heart to seek and search out by wisdom concerning all things that are done under heaven: this sore travail hath God given to the sons of man to be exercised therewith.
14I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and, behold, all is vanity and vexation of spirit.
15That which is crooked cannot be made straight: and that which is wanting cannot be numbered.
I thought, What's the point, then? All this excitement, passion, even compassion, for what? It'll never be enough!
I, too, went back to my own ordinary high school life, but I never completely lost my idealism and desire to change the world. By sophomore year of college, I'd participated in demonstrations for educational equality, Palestinian rights, peace, "reproductive rights", you name it. Then some people introduced me to the Christian faith, and my whole paradigm began to shift. Instead of trying to change the world en masse, I recognized the importance of concentrating on one or a few at a time. Aside from being far more realistic and preventing burnout or a generally jaded attitude, I figure that individual attention creates a much stronger impact on the ones you're helping. Besides that, I started to realize that without a heart of faith, one runs the risk of doing good deeds in order to gain recognition or, even worse, gain entrance into Heaven! That practically nullifies the good deed due to impure motives. In short:
Jeremiah 17:9 (King James Version)
9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?
So if that's the case, what shall we do? Stop helping completely and give up? That's not the answer, either.
James 1:27 Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.
James 2:14 What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?
15If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food,
16And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?
17Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.
18Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.
It seems we're caught between a rock and a hard place. I see all these artists doing what they can for Haiti and everywhere else, but the solution always eludes us. Why can't we eradicate poverty? Why can't we depose evil dictators who hold the people down? It seems that every musician has felt the need to record an anthem that espouses peace, harmony, caring and all those things. Even my heretofore oft-quoted favorite, Nickelback, are no exception. Just look at "If Everyone Cared":
If everyone cared and nobody cried
If everyone loved and nobody lied
If everyone shared and swallowed their pride
We'd see the day when nobody died
They all do well to write stuff like that and wish for a better day, but we just can't grasp it. I think this is the reason:
Romans 6:23 (King James Version)
23 For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Ephesians 2:8-9 (King James Version)
8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.
In effect, these passages state that we do our good work BECAUSE OF what we've found, NOT to gain some kind of salvation or recognition. How profoundly liberating! I believe the leader of my favorite band alluded to a tiny bit of the frustrated mentality expressed in Ecclesiastes in an interview when he said that sometimes it feels like a bit of a cop-out when you can only write a check as opposed to participating hands-on because you get so busy. I know I feel like that a lot of times. But we're encouraged to keep going in whatever we're able to do:
Galatians 6:9 (King James Version)
And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.
But the way to gain peace and salvation is a whole different matter.
Romans 10:8 But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach;
9That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.
10For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
We don't have to do anything else, but we do because we know we've gained something priceless. That's a whole lot better than the feeling of futility I got all those years ago.