I have been aware of Invisible Children for years. They have been a ‘cool’ non profit in college age and Christian circles for coming up on ten years now. They spent lot of time traveling, showing their films, and speaking at colleges around the country. Their stated mission has been to raise awareness of the use of child soldiers in Uganda.
Less than ten days ago they released a video. It exploded in a way that could not have been predicted. No one puts a thirty minute video on youtube and expects 75,000,000 views in less than ten days. In general, they have received a great deal of support. But they have also drawn some criticisms as well. I want to step into the fray speak to some of the criticisms they have drawn.
First criticism: They are not an aid organization.
This is mostly correct. It is true that they don’t have a primary focus to build schools, clinics, water wells, or any number of other things that aid groups do. They do some of this, but they are primarily around to raise awareness of an issue that most of us in the West are not aware of. This they have done very well, the success of Kony 2012 can not and will not be replicated. They are an awareness organization.
Second criticism: They are miss using the money.
This does not seem to be the case. Again, they are not an aid organization. They spend money on help to raise awareness of issues, so to say they only spend 1/3 of their money on the ground in east Africa is to show that spend much of the rest trying to fulfill their stated mission. From what I can tell they don’t draw huge pay checks or live in fancy houses. If you look at other large Non-profits based in the US can this be said. (Try googling CEO pay for the United Way or the Red Cross.)
Third criticism: Kony is not in Uganda anymore, so this video is pointless.
I feel like they make this fairly clear in the video, I am not sure why people seem to misunderstand that. Yes, he is not in Uganda anymore. But that does not mean he does not need to be stopped.
Fourth criticism: The issues in Uganda are more complex than made out in this video.
This should have gone without saying. It is a thirty minute video about an long, drawn out, and highly complex situation. It is going to be simplified. Uganda is a different culture with a history that most of us don’t know. To say they don’t have enough background is a given. Even a full length documentary would not really give you the full picture.
There are many things more that could be said, but I am not an expert on this so I won’t try to address these here. So why am I taking the time to address this? Because of sin in my own life. I am cynical. I know that cynicism can be a good thing, it makes you question and think, but it is so dangerous. Through our cynicism we can end up crushing work that people are doing to better the world. Do I financially support Invisible Children? Nope. Am I going to order a action kit? Nope. But the desire to crush anything that isn’t perfect is not going to fix our broken world. In fact our cynicism is hurting us. I think there is some value in conversations that are taking place around this. Before Kony 2012 when was the last news story that covered this? When was the last time someone even talked about Uganda and the on going struggles there?
As the church we should not let our imaginations be directed by callous cynicism that fights against good work. Would that God would shape us to be more like him. Would that we as the church would allow the Spirit to invigorate our imaginations with resurrection hope.
A Nonviolent Response to Joseph Kony -Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove
Thoughts on KONY2012 – Travis Curtice