We are connected with people and places through ways and means unlike any previous generation. We live in a “global village."
We are connected through worldwide round-the-clock television networks, rapid international travel, mobile phones, Skype, and wonders of the Internet. But while such connections are indeed profound, the bonds of our global village run far deeper, for we are also linked through global events and international endeavors. Whether it is sporting events like the Olympics, a royal wedding, or various natural disasters that capture worldwide attention and compassion, the reach and depth of our global village passes through time zones and crosses national boundaries.
While these characteristics of the global village are astounding, our connections run even deeper as a result of the global process of production, distribution, consumption, and waste. In other words, the architects of our global economy intentionally linked local communities with others that are thousands of miles away. And so, while these massive multinational connections are often unnoticed in daily North American life, once we take a deeper look, we recognize that they are not only evident, but are also far from impartial. As a result, the global village is not in a romantic valley on a beautiful green hillside (as it is often depicted), but to the contrary, as stated by the late South African theologian Steve de Gruchy:
"This is a [global] village that has a chief, a headmen, and favoured families, and poor families, and women who collect the water and the firewood, and beggars living on the scraps on the edge of the town; and lepers who aren’t allowed in town. And the price of having a stall in the market is too high for some families to trade their goods."
With de Gruchy’s image of the global village in mind, we can affirm that people and places are deeply connected due to a far-reaching economic structure. However, the harsh reality is that such an arrangement leads to – as Jim Wallis states – an “un-economy” that is unfair, unsustainable, unstable, and leaves millions of people around the world quite unhappy. Whereas some in the global village have access to the above mentioned material advances and advantages, others are outwardly marginalized a result of (among other things) inequality, ecological destruction, violence, and poverty. And so, while people are indeed deeply connected with others in the global village, the connections are too often unjust, and the result is that far too many people are disconnected from their basic human rights.
As a result of various injustices in our global village, the economic connections that shape our world are too often biased and prejudiced, for they are loaded with power and privilege, and thus allow for the most powerful to succeed at the expense of the most vulnerable. Without question, while all people are indeed connected in the global village, there are winners and losers as a result. And so, while it may be impossible to slow down or reverse the process of economic connections, the task for people of faith is to convert our global connections so that all of humankind – regardless of national citizenship – are valued and given life in its fullness. In other words, as a core expression of faith, our global connections should be recognized, identified, and converted to more fully embody Jesus’ proclamation of love, life, and a continual commitment of solidarity alongside the poor and marginalized.
As the Latin root for religion, religare, means to “re-connect." it can be argued that religion was never meant to be private. Rather, it should connect people around the world with God, one another, and all of God’s creation in ways that model mutuality, grace, and interdependence. And so, instead of embracing individualism and placing personal profits before the dignity of other people, we are called to incorporate togetherness, recognize Jesus’ commitment to life after death and life after birth, and thus convert our global connections from an un-economy into a system that offers sensitivity and opportunity for all. In other words, perhaps the public expression of Christian religion is not to merely seek the conversion of individuals – as is so often assumed, but a conversion of the connections that intimately and intricately bind people together within our global village.
With these thoughts in mind: while it is tempting to focus solely upon what takes place in our immediate surroundings, a reality of human life is that we are deeply connected with all people in every part of the world. Specifically, many of our daily decisions have a direct impact upon the well-being of those who reside thousands of miles away. And so, the time has come to more carefully consider the nature of our connections and the consequences of our economic choices. If our connections with fellow members of the global village consist of exploitation, unfairness, and greed, then we are called to seek conversion of such connections through the promotion of fairness, sustainability, stability, and happiness. In addition, if our federal policy decisions prop-up processes that promote the abuse and ill-treatment of others within the global village, then we are required to examine our long-term vision and ensure that our own quality of life does not bring a quantity of death to others.
All together, as people of faith we affirm that our identity transcends citizenship of a particular city, state, or nation, for we are members of a deeply connected global village and participants within the community of God’s creation. And so, as an expression of faith, and in response to the gracious love of God and call to follow Jesus, the time has come to function in ways that restore the global village into that which God is calling it to be. We are connected, so let us ensure that our thoughts, words, and deeds make these connections beneficial for all.
Brian E. Konkol is an ordained pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), serves as Co-Pastor of Lake Edge Lutheran Church (Madison, Wis.), and is a PhD candidate in Theology & Development with the University of KwaZulu-Natal (South Africa).
Photo: Global interconnectedness, Denis Cristo / Shutterstock.com