By Stan Le Quire of Eastern University and Jay Renfro, member of Nashville A Rocha
Jay and Stan are two guys who dream about changing the world. Together, they are reading Paul Farmer’s To Repair the World. Paul has a great reputation as someone who changes the world. This week, Jay and Stan are talking about the fifth of Farmer’s speeches, “Countering Failures of Imagination.
STAN TO JAY: I am enjoying these speeches by Paul Farmer. Are you? It is inspiring to listen to this global leader and to glean from Farmer’s years of rich experience. In “Countering Failures of Imagination,” he challenges his listeners to push beyond the schooling of scarcity (pp. 59, 65) and to reach for “higher-hanging fruit” (p. 64). Jay, I would love to listen to your imagination. What is something that you dream about? What is something that you can imagine that will “repair the world”?
JAY RESPONDS: I do, indeed, have a bit of a funky imagination, Stan. Let me give you a dose: I see a lot of people running around busily without any real work to invest themselves into. We are run by these devices that we’ve come to love and be deceived by and we do work that generally doesn’t mean anything. My favorite time spent with people is when we don’t have our phones or computers or obligations to things we neither need nor enjoy. Usually this is in the outdoors, where we are physically removed from the reaches of WiFi. What I see are a lot of people fooling themselves that what they are doing matters. So here’s where my funky imagination kicked in: What if we all did work that mattered, that pointed towards some tangible end (like, for instance… preparing the way for Christ’s coming kingdom)? Then, there’d be a whole lot less frenetic business and a whole lot more enjoyment and delight in our work and others, and I think that would help repair this world. Like I said, a funky imagination, right?
JAY TO STAN: You’ve been a pastor and environmental rock star; I’m sure you’ve encountered your fair share of failures of imagination. So I’m going to take your question and spin it on its head. I’d be interested to hear about a time when you were frustrated because you encountered a general lack of imagination. How do we work alongside of people who have no imagination?
STAN RESPONDS: What a good, searching question, Jay! Memories that come to mind are the handful of times over the years where I have been told by sisters or brothers that I am “going to hell” and that – “There is no way that you could be a Christian and be doing [the creation care work that] you are doing.” Wow. What a distressing failure of imagination. While the coldness or the legalism of the remark is striking, something far worse is revealed. It is that Christians of this ilk are following a half-mighty god instead of the Almighty God. If God does not care for his creation, then God is not all mighty. In working with Christians who cannot imagine a God who cares for what God has made, we need deep patience and enduring love. I long for a church that lives up to the full potential of the kingdom. I pray for the day when, as my brother says above, we work toward “preparing the way for Christ’s coming kingdom.” You nailed it, Jay.