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KONY2012: Why the Criticism Says more about us than it Does about Invisible Children

It was inevitable. Within two hours of KONY2012 blowing up my Twitter and Facebook timelines, another flood came in. KONY2012 critics were going to be heard. You see, there were many who were way too smart to follow the crowd. They weren’t going to get sucked into the hoopla. They were going to make sure that everyone knew the truth about Kony, a guy who most of them hadn’t heard about until two hours earlier. After their 30 minutes of research (read: Google searching), they were an army of social critics.

And so, they came. They came with their criticisms. There were criticisms about the arrogance of believing that selling bracelets and T-shirts could make a change in a complex situation. There were criticisms about the historical inaccuracies in the video. There were criticisms about the lack of planning on how such a complex task could be performed. The criticisms are valid. You can check them out here.

This post is not a defense of Invisible Children. I, personally, donated to them for 2-3 years, and recently stopped because I would rather be donating to an organization with a bit more broad a focus and an emphasis on aid over awareness.

However, I am convinced that the criticism of Invisible Children, and of KONY2012, says more about our generation than it says about Invisible Children. It’s not a very good sign, either.

About 8 months ago, I was sitting in front of my Pastor’s house, shortly after starting a new job doing outreach to the community. I had tried a few things, and had little success. I was considering doing something I had laughed off time and time again: Door-to-door outreach. I saw people doing that. I thought it was a terrible idea. “How many people do they turn off to convert one,” I would say. “They need to stop that.”

I heard a clear, gentle word from the Holy Spirit. It led me to be more comfortable with what I was being called to do. “God is more proud with the guy knocking on the door with the four spiritual laws, than he is proud of the people sitting at a coffee shop talking about how stupid that idea is.”

I resolved, then and there, to be a doer. I would rather being the guy doing something imperfectly than the guy criticizing the imperfection of others’ work.

As I have walked on this journey, I have found it is a lot harder to build something new than I thought it was. Building something new means walking through insecurity, doubt, criticism, and blurred vision.

Building something is hard. Criticizing what other people built is easy. The truth is, there are always things to criticize. There are wrong emphases, bad plans, simplistic ideas, and stupid missteps that come with starting anything new. If you watched me at work at this new church plant for any length of time, you could come up with a list of 47 things that I should be doing differently. And, I promise you, you would be right.

If you did that, though, you’d be doing easy work. It is easy to find my mistakes. It is hard to build something new.

There is an illness in this generation. We are the generation of social critics. We are the generation of dismissive message board comments. We are not great builders and entrepreneurs. We are criticizers.

And the world needs social critics. Professors, journalists, pastors, and prophets do need to stand up against the status quo and criticize. The world does need social critics. Very, very few of them.

What happens when the status quo is criticism? What happens when the norm is to tear down what people build? I fear that it means that little gets accomplished, job growth remains stagnant, needs remain unmet, and justice continues to allude us.

The criticism of KONY2012 is worth bringing up. Go ahead and bring it up. Invisible Children may not have a plan that will work. Awareness, by itself, doesn’t accomplish much. However, the founders of the organization should be commended. They saw a horrific evil, developed a plan they believed would address the issue, and implemented the plan with considerable success. They never claimed to be an aid organization. They operated under the belief that awareness would hold policy makers accountable, and they made people aware.

You may think their plan isn’t very good. You may be right about that. Even if you are right, you are doing the easy work. Criticism is much easier than building. Please, deeply consider whether you’re really called to be one of the few social critics in our generation. If you’re not, and you’re probably not, be a builder.

I humbly implore you (and trust me… this is a journey for me as well, and I see the irony implicit in this critical post calling for less criticism), join me in being a builder, not a criticizer. That is the much harder work.

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2 Responses

  1. So proud of you Hubby!

    I love you,

    Boo Bear

  2. I feel exactly the same way. It is so much easier to sit here, behind the safety net of anonymity and criticize the work of others. The birth of the internet “troll” is a specific cause of societies detachment with one another in the wake of ever expanding and available information. There are no consequences, there is no moral authority sitting here next to me. I could tear you down, I can pick apart your blog post, and tell you every fault in your thinking (not literally of course, this was very well written) but the point is I do not even have to disagree with you. I can criticize for the simple joy of irritating and berating. But why to we choose to antagonize? why is it easier to be the bully then to be the friends with those getting picked on? It is a backwards way of moving forward I think.The faster and more advanced our society becomes the more primitive we are towards our neighbor. Its sad, it truly is an epidemic of cruelty out there. But I applaud you James, in your willingness to turn away from the status quo and go with your instincts. Thank god you knocked on those doors.

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