Wrestling with Kony 2012

I first came across Invisible Children back in 2005 when their documentary, Invisible Children: The Rough Cut, began spreading like wildfire. In 2008 the church I was serving at in Chicago even invited Invisible Children to come share their documentary with us and give us more resources and understanding of their cause.

The awareness that they raised about the civil war in Uganda created a powerful movement that eventually resulted in a fragile but sustained peace. What seemed like only a dream for decades before became a reality. Friends of mine from Uganda shared with me about the terror they saw firsthand from the war and how God used Invisible Children to end this evil in their lives.

Fast forward to March 5th of this year when Invisible Children released their Kony 2012 documentary. You’ve probably heard about it from several people and maybe you’ve even watched it yourself. I’ve watched it twice myself and we showed a portion of it during our Uncomfortable Grace series we just finished at youthcrossing.

Since its release, it’s been viewed well over 85 million times on YouTube. In a word: wow. Invisible Children did an exceptional job at leveraging social media, word-of-mouth, and other groundswells to spread their goal of making Joseph Kony truly infamous. A beautiful idea… but not so well-received.

It didn’t take long for a few loud voices to begin asking some really good questions: What is the end that IC wants when it comes to Joseph Kony? Justice has many faces. If “justice” is the end goal, how would IC want that manifested: Kony’s execution? Lifetime prison sentence? Forced service in humanitarian aid and eradication of similar militia leaders?

Questions have also been raised about the fiscal responsibility of Invisible Children regarding Kony 2012.¬†False information and rumors (shocking, I know) surfaced about the financials of Invisible Children and I received a handful of calls from concerned parents and volunteers about this film. A few days after the Kony documentary released, the leadership of IC published a response to the recent critiques, including financial statements, further information regarding the involvement of Kony’s LRA forces, and more explanation of their goal in this recent film.

By the way, loud voices aren’t always right. Sometimes they’re simply being loud to distract from their own inaction. Regardless of whether we agree with (or even fully understand) Invisible Children’s goal or endorse the motives of the loud voices criticizing this movement, this situation should raise questions about larger issues than even one exceptional film could cover…

If Joseph Kony is the “Hitler of 2012,” how does grace and justice meld together when it comes to his soul? Last I checked, Joseph Kony is still in the heartbeat of God; redemption is still possible and God wants to redeem all of mankind. As long as breath is still in his lungs, then grace is still in the balance.

Am I saying that if Kony should repent, that all of his past evils should be quickly forgiven and easily forgotten? Absolutely not. I am saying though that we should believe in a God big enough to still redeem Joseph Kony’s situation. Our hearts should be stretching to at least entertain that possibility, whether it happens or not. I don’t say that I’m even comfortable with that idea myself. In fact, it would be very uncomfortable for me to accept if Joseph Kony repents… but I have to know that is a possibility.

If, if… Invisible Children is misguided and driven by a hidden agenda when it came to this film, their motives will be exposed over time. If you are uncertain about any part of their work in Africa, then ask questions. Ask lots of questions. Just because this film was the fuel for the most powerful social media trend in history does not make it immune from constructive scrutiny.

When it comes to Kony 2012, do your research. Don’t just trust whatever you read on the Internet. Do use your discernment. Don’t just accept any one person’s word as truth, including mine. Look for credible sources with first-hand quotes in context provided from credible sources.

The controversy over Kony 2012 is powerful enough to deflect the original goal from its mark: to see Joseph Kony brough to justice for his actions. I support Invisible Children and the Kony 2012 cause but I also don’t adopt it wholesale. I know that Invisible Children is compiled of imperfect humans, just like you and me, and our hope should be redemption, not simply a final justice.

If Kony 2012 is simply the death of a lost man with no hope for his redemption, then grace has been stripped of its potency and the heartbeat of God has met its limits. Justice can be served in a variety of ways but we must be careful with how we pursue it first. May our passion for judgment be reminded of a God bigger than our own sense of justice.

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