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Missions

The Problem With Invisible Children

I’ve continued thinking a great deal about Invisible Children and their philosophy as a whole. I am not out to criticize them or bash them, but I am deeply concerned about their ideologies on Christian social justice that is becoming popular throughout mainstream Christianity. Invisible Children purposely portrays themselves as a secular organization to the world at large, yet in the inner circle of their group, they are deeply rooted in Christian religion. In the case of the Kony campaign, this has largely served to backfire, as the secular world is angered to find that what they thought was a neutral charity fighting a good cause is actually at least a semi-Christian organization. And many feel that they were duped by the apparent lack of transparency by Invisible Children. To the world, it looks like Invisible Children is playing the role of an opportunist by using an emotionally-driven campaign to save children as a vehicle to fund their “secret” Christian organization.

But the truth I believe is that Jason Russell and crew are not in this for fame or fortune, but that they honestly mean well and believe they are doing a great thing. The problem is not with their intentions or sincerity, it’s with their doctrine and understanding of the role of Christians and the gospel in this world. They are attempting to appeal both to the world and to Christianity, and as a result they are angering non-Christians and causing great confusion in Christian circles. They are trying to play both sides. This is not possible without great consequence. What is most worrisome about their organization is that they truly believe they are spreading Christ through their cause of social justice, and that somehow without speaking a word about sin, redemption, or faith, that they are fulfilling the mission of Christ. In fact, even though staff like Jason Russell profess to be Christian, they claim that it is not their job to share Christ with others, as Russell states,

<blockquote>I think that, there’s been a lot of criticism that we’ve had over the years, but when it comes down to it, we are not afraid to say ‘I as an individual am this.’ But Invisible Children, it’s not its mission to bring Christ’s message to the invisible children. And when people say, ‘well why don’t you bring Christ to those children in Uganda?’ And my answer has always been, because they know Christ far more than I or anyone in Western world or in the Christian church knows Christ, because it’s truly all that they’ve ever had. […]” Source</blockquote>

This is very troubling. Russell seems to be saying that not only is it not his mission to bring Christ to people, but if I’m interpreting him correctly, he also seems to assume that all of these Ugandan children already know Christ. How can he know this? Was the fact that 85% of Uganda professes to be Christian in the back of his mind, even though only about 1% even claim to be evangelical? Should anyone refer to an entire people group as “knowing” Christ? I hope that I am misinterpreting his quote, but even if I am, I’m not sure anyone with a biblical understanding of the role of Christ and the gospel would say what Russell said. Had he said something like, “Well yes, of course we want them to come to Christ, but you see many of them by and large already know Christ…”, that would be different. But instead he seems to make a very general statement about all Ugandans knowing Christ. I am mystified. At best, this is a dangerous approach to missions. The purpose of Christ is to save sinners like you and me. The Bible is absolutely crystal clear on that point, as Paul wrote, “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.” (1 Timothy 1:15-16) God’s Word is clear. Christ came to save sinners. He did not come to bring justice to African children,  no matter how noble a cause that may be.

Jason Russell and crew would do well to remind themselves of Jesus’s words in Mark 8, “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? For what can a man give in return for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” Invisible Children seem to have forgotten that even if you give these children the entire world, but fail to share with them Christ who can save what is most important….their souls, they will have nothing in the end.

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