In her book, The Other Face of God, Mary Jo Leddy (who, by all appearances, is Canadian) offers this analysis of America:
We are the center of the world.
Because she attributes our centrality largely to our imperialistic tendencies, Greg viewed this section of the book as needlessly political. For her purposes, however, I understood what she was saying. I don’t think that she was so much trying to provide a political critique as she was trying to describe a spiritual phenomenon. She does not question the fact that we are the “center of the world,” or accuse us of merely thinking it–she maintains that, for all intents and purposes, it is very true. Then, she explores the effect that being in the center of the world has on our spirituality. She does this in a bullet list, describing various characteristics of the “center-worlder” mindset:
- To live in the center of the world is to see the self as the source of much that is good and evil in the world.
- To live in the center of the world is to assume that we can and should change the world.
- To live in the center of the world is to be constantly disappointed when things don’t get better.
- To live in the center of the world is to assume that our problems are the most important in the world.
- To live in the center of the world is to assume that we must have our act together before we can help others.
- To live in the center of the world is to assume that we have the capacity and resources to solve our problems.
- To live in the church in North America is to assume that our critique of the church is most important, that our problems are the most significant problems in the universal church.
- To live in the center of the world is to assume that we are responsible for what happens in other parts of the world.
Now, here’s how I know that what she says has a lot of truth to it:
I read that list and think, “And that’s…bad???” (Sidenote: What movie is that quote from? It’s driving me crazy! It might be a Pixar one. I’m picturing Mike Wazowski.)
I mean, I get the part about thinking our problems, whether in our nation or in our church, are the most important part of the world, and I’m like, “Touche.” However, part of feeling that Americans bear this huge burden of global responsibility is that everyone keeps telling us that we have this huge burden of global responsibility! Perhaps this is not the most accurate view, but the sentiment I glean from foreign commentators on the news and the internet is that, whenever there is a crisis, everyone’s like, “Where is America??? Why don’t they DO something about this?”
(Until we intervene, of course, and then it’s like, “America needs to keep its big nose out of other people’s business!!”)
I know, I know…Boo-hoo. Poor us.
The fact is, though, whether my sentiment is accurate or not (and I’m holding out the possibility that it is not), I readily admit that I as an American DO feel a responsibility to the world. Furthermore, I acknowledge that that feeling of responsibility shapes my spirituality. It especially shapes my understanding of the Great Commission and of the concept of “Love Thy Neighbor.” After all, in such a global world in which we have so much power, how can we deny that anyone is our neighbor?
I see all too well how this view is naive and that it has the potential to be damaging…but my “center of the world” self also questions the degree to which we should repudiate this outlook. Are we to deny responsibility for everyone else? That kind of seems willfully selfish.
What do you guys think? I’m feeling very culturally limited on this one.
Leddy, Mary Jo. The Other Face of God. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2011.