Change is a slow, slow burn

Lessons we can learn from a group of 18th-century Christians who transformed an empire

Mark Hackett

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Left: Official medallion of the British Anti-Slavery Society. Right: Thomas Clarkson, a leading figure fighting against slavery in the British Empire. Designed with Canva.

The world feels like more of a mess than usual right now, doesn’t it?

Israel and Palestine. Russia and Ukraine. A looming presidential election in the United States, one that may end up being more dreadful than 2020. The worst crisis in the world right now is unfolding in Sudan and few people have noticed. Many of those who have seem not to care, a grim reality I’m all too familiar with as someone who works for a Sudan-focused nonprofit. A Sudanese friend succinctly summed up the problem to me when he recently asked “Why do our lives always matter less than everyone else?”

I’ve never known how to answer that question. To be frank, I’ve come to understand that the more time spent trying to find an answer the more unhelpful you become. The question requiring an answer is what’s our first concrete step to helping?

It’s a question that makes a lot of people uncomfortable because it’s a question about personal sacrifice, or how much of our time, resources, and energy — even our very beings — we’re going to put into the big crisis in front of us. At the risk of being brutally direct, it’s very easy to share truly heartbreaking images online with outrage that is as genuine as it is deserved. It’s depressingly easier to fire of a hot take and bask in your tribe’s warm praise for being one of us. Discourse and our actions online and offline inform and shape each other.

What’s infinitely harder is giving of yourself in ways that cut deep into your time and bank account and not stopping, even when you’re flirting with exhaustion and hope is seemingly in short supply.

It’s best to be honest about this challenge. The prevailing cultural wind of America today is a toxic mix of hyper-individualism and tribal approval, whether you are a Christian or not or wherever you fall on the political and cultural spectrum. And while there are certainly true heroes and genuine victims among us, most people reading this have the privilege on any given day of choosing whether we know enough or not and whether we are a hero or victim, with the latter decision usually arriving at a weird smash-up of both.

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Mark Hackett

Writings about faith and culture from Memphis, TN. “That relentless, tall guy.”