Welcome to the Book Journey of Overrated by Eugene Cho.
Have you read the book review and schedule for this book journey?
If not, you can find it here.
Chapter Seven – Having more depth than 140 characters: Be an expert
Chapter Seven focuses on the necessity to, as Cho puts it, “go deep.” In other words, it is not enough to simply be passionate and excited about pursuing justice in a particular area, such as homelessness, or racial reconciliation, or global water issues, or eliminating hunger. Beyond the initial motivation, there must be a real and transforming commitment to research, learn, ask questions, have conversations, and advocate well.
This can be especially challenging, considering society and our reliance on information sources such as social media and the Internet. Cho says, “I believe that while humans are getting smarter on the whole and we have access to information as never before, in some ways, we might be getting shallower as well… We lean on our smartphones and the Internet for so much information. We haven’t take time to study and digest the things we read.” The increase of knowledge can lead to broad awareness but little depth. And, pursuing justice without depth is a disservice to all.
Specifically, in terms of social media, we are trained to read short excerpts, hashtags, and highlights. This is dangerous, and “if we are not careful,” says Cho, “these snapshots of information and entertainment can trick us into believing we actually know something, or worse, that we are actually doing something #awesome.”
In order to live out our callings well, we need to respond by taking responsibility for our growth in that area. “The hard part is owning it and forming something deeper in our lives, by God’s grace, ” says Cho. “That hard part is answering the call to justice. Answering the call to research and learn and know. Answering the call to discipleship. Simply put: We must dig deep…Take time to understand the issues, facts, complexities, and nuances.”
This is necessary in terms of being well-informed, but Cho sees it also as posture of humility and grace. Without striving to understand better and be better prepared, we may unintentionally create even more issues. “Without knowing even the basic background of what you care about, you can hurt the people you are trying to help,” Cho says. “This is an issue of respect.”
As an example, Cho shares his experience preparing for a theater role of a homeless man while in college. The director encouraged him to actually spend some time out on the streets being homeless in order to better understand his role. Cho did just that in downtown San Francisco, dressed in his worst clothes, wrapped in a sleeping bag, with a cardboard sign outside of Macy’s store. In reflecting on this experience, Cho says, “it was the most demeaning, degrading, undignified feeling I have ever experienced. In short, I felt invisible.” He shares how countless people walked by him but no one made eye contact. Thus, in discussing the issue of homelessness, Cho realized that it’s imperative to consider the real humans wrapped up in sleeping bags that everyone passes by. It’s necessary to know faces, not just issues, to see their humanity, not just offer a handout. It takes time and persistence to go to that depth, but it is the most effective way to truly understanding and pursue justice.
Cho also makes an excellent point about how we must see to be well-rounded in our area of calling. He gives three groups of people with whom we should be competent communicating: friends, elected officials, and church. He says, “We need to have learned enough, be engaged enough, committed enough to that process so that when we are speaking to people, we can speak in layman’s language. When we speak with elected officials, we need to engage in critical thought and be able to talk about policy. When we talk with our pastors, theologians, and those in church, we need to be able to engage with theology and scriptures.”
Going Deep: Global Water Solutions
To prove the necessity to be increasingly educated in our area, Cho discusses the global water issue in this chapter, saying it’s a popular issue, like human trafficking. The stats are troubling and rightfully garner much attention:
- 1 in 9 people alive today do not have access to clean water.
- Every day 3,000 children under 5 years old die because of waterbourne disease
“So what is the solution to the water crisis? Dig more water wells?” asks Cho.
At first glance, that does appear to be the solution. Yet, when in conversation with some of the many people who feel inspired to dig wells in Africa and Asia, Cho says he asks other questions: is digging wells is, in fact, the best solution, and what other solutions they have researched? Because, quick and minimal research shows the following:
- 1/3 of all wells drilled in the last 20 years are now broken. There are 50,000 broken wells in Africa alone.
- As many as 60% of all wells in developing countries aren’t working, claim some experts.
- “Wells often break within a few years, and in most instances, there are no trained mechanics, spare parts, or tools nearby…or the local community is not invested enough to maintain the well,” explains Cho.
If a well-meaning organization comes in with volunteers to build a well but fails to involve and develop the community, the result is inevitably negative. The hard work is equipping and training the people; the easy work is digging a well, snapping pictures of clean water gushing, adding hashtags, and returning to a first-world country. Instead, Cho explains that well-digging is only part of the solution. With it must come education on the importance of clean water, sanitation, how to care for the system, as well as other options like rain-water catchment systems, and bio-sand filters. The latter aren’t as exciting as drilling a well, but they are often more effective and affordable.
A final reminder
As a closing thought, Cho says: “The work of justice is not only long and laborious, but it also needs to have depth…We owe it to ourselves to be prayerful, knowledgeable, and committed to being experts on the work and conviction to which we feel called. While we may never fully get there, it’s a life-long commitment to be a learner. This is, in essence, what it means to be a disciple.”
Here are some posts related to topics in this chapter.
- Generous Justice Book Journey
- The Good Lie movie review & resources
- When the ends of the earth move in next door
- give & receive
- on love and strong likings
- How to make your short-term mission trip a long-term blessing
- 5 Qualities to pursue in intercultural ministry
- 10 Ways to love your neighbor
- 5 Things for Christians to remember about immigration reform + resources
- How to really be a blessing (and not just donate your stuff)
- Cho asks: “What are you passionate about? How are you going deep?” Explain.
- Specifically, what are some conferences, books, teachings, conversations, etc that you should take part in in order to “go deep” in your area of calling? Do some research. Make a list and share it with someone for accountability. (Email me, if you want!)
- What scriptures have been the foundation for the work to which you are called? How has God lead you? What theological grounds do you have for what you do?
- Historically, who are some of the pioneers in your area of calling? What have the individuals who are a few steps ahead of you in this journey already learned and processed? If you can’t name anyone, do more research and come up with names. Commit to learning from them.
- How can you become more well-rounded in your area? Cho speaks of being able to discuss your passion with friends and family, with elected officials, with our pastors and church. In which of these groups is it easiest for you to discuss why justice matters to you? Which is hardest? What can you do specifically to be better prepared to dialog across all three (and beyond) of these groups?
- Explain in your own words how the failure to “go deep” has impacted the global water crisis. Then, pretend someone approaches you with a burning desire to engage in justice work by digging wells (or rescuing victims of human trafficking). What will you say? How can you encourage and advise this person?
- Consider an issue of injustice confronting you currently. As with the water crisis, is there more than one solution available? How might you develop the community, equip, and train in your context?
- Why do you think we prefer to dig wells?
- Do you agree/disagree with Cho’s summary that the work of justice is “long and laborious, ” is “costly discipleship” and a “marathon?” Why or why not?
Remember, quotes from the book are posted daily on my Front Porch, Inspired Facebook page. Summaries and discussion questions for chapters 9 and 10 will be posted starting Friday, December 4.
NOTE: The summary and discussion questions for Chapter 8 are included in a separate post.