Last weekend I discovered a brilliant book called To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World. Basically, the author James Davison Hunter builds a case that our normal assumptions about changing the world are absolutely wrong. He especially takes exception to the idea that genius individuals are largely responsible for cultural transformation, because history shows it to always be more complicated and multifaceted. Better said…
“In the end, the good that was produced did not come about through literary, textual, musical, and artistic
genius alone. Nor was it the result of brilliant administrative initiative. By the same token, neither was it a
creation of the extraordinary wealth and patronage of the nobility. It was, of course, a result of the coming
together of all three at once.” (To Change the World, 64)
In my idealism, I’ve always believed that a genius idea alone can change the world. But history does not support this. All three are required: genius, administration, and funding. Ideas, organization, and resources. Plus a thousand other overlapping factors of chance, grace, culture, and timing.
This raises two big feelings in me: First, respect. For every William Wilberforce or Martin Luther King Jr. who are rightly praised and placed in the history books, there are thousands of men and women who played
smaller but indispensable roles. As much as history loves to romanticize the Lone Ranger heroes, the reality is
that they are only the tip of an iceberg. We will never know most of the people who worked and sacrificed and
died to change this world. But they are worthy of our respect.
Second, humility. No matter what I think I can do, I am utterly and hopelessly dependent on the men and
women who can do what I could never dream. And that is beautiful. It’s not all dependent on your gift or mine…
but on OUR gifts. Together.
What is one thing you can bring to this world? What is one thing you are hopelessly dependent on someone else to bring? Are you ready to link arms, jump in, and help change the world?
I’m only a part of the Story
But wholly a part of the Story
So I’ll take my part in this Story
Get out of myself, get over myself
Get lost in the story (with) somebody else
(Lyrics from Bless, Liturgy No 2)