Someone Is Missing More Than Yoga Classes
Presbyterian volunteer missionary Shannon O'Donnell is assigned, oddly enough, to a radically politicized and highly controversial liberation theology outfit in Jerusalem. (I say "oddly enough" since liberation theology has been widely repudiated after its excesses in Latin America and is hardly the stuff of Reformed theology.) She appears to be a sincere and idealistic person, but her biased assumptions and questionable behaviors do not represent what the overwhelming majority of Presbyterians would want to support with their mission dollars.
Her January 8 letter, dutifully publicized on the PCUSA web site, provides ample examples of her crying need for supervision, for someone wise and experienced to provide more direction and loving mentoring, as she grows in her ability to exercise sound judgment. The letter is filled with embarrassing and contradictory statements, such as:
- "At first I was going to lie my way through the gym application process...." In O'Donnell's favor, she eventually didn't lie to get what she wanted, but only because she sensed that the truth might work this time. However, it does give one pause that in her ethics (or lack thereof), lying would be a potential and even primary choice about how to handle a matter. Apparently O'Donnell operates with the understanding that one can lie, if it achieves a desired end. Such a failing in basic ethics hardly recommends her as a Christian leader! Is no one supervising her and teaching better practices? Will someone do so now that the problem has surfaced?
- O'Donnell did write a thoughtful and interesting analogy about Nazi Germany, telling of an alley protesters would use in order to avoid saluting Nazism. Turning introspective, she wrote: "How many hearts gave in to injustice to save their own lives? Which path would I chose?" Well, I could guess. Anyone who would consider lying in order to avoid a few questions to get into a dance class couldn't be expected to risk life and limb for the truth. We learn most about the heart by the small habits of life, not the vain grandstanding.
- "I don’t know what Bush’s visit will accomplish, but I do know for certain that ... I will not be going to my yoga class at the YMCA...." How petty, self-centered, and inane! A head of state is knocking himself out to broker a just peace, and O'Donnell laments that she'll have to miss yoga because it gets too inconvenient. Perhaps a mentor could suggest that it's not all about her.
- Within inches of each other, she wrote two very contradictory statements: (1) "I didn’t expect to feel accepted at such a place on the west side of town" (displaying gross prejudice against the inhabitants of Jewish Jerusalem), and (2) "I have also found that it is equally important not to judge others." Yet, she had prejudged others, and, from what she has written previously, she does it regularly. A little consistency between what she supposedly champions and what she actually does would be nice.
- "We are to love people, even when it hurts," she writes. I see her working to live that out as she loves the Palestinians. That's good. But, in a way, given the propaganda in which she is steeped, that's not very revolutionary. She's just flowing with the stream of her political persuasions. How much more sacrificial and "hurting" it would be for O'Donnell to demonstrate genuine love for George W. Bush, for her own country, and, particularly in Israel, for the Jewish people and the government of Israel. For her, to love those entities would "hurt," I would imagine. I don't think she's seen that. She appears to be too busy being oh-so-politically proper in following her liberation theology dogma, with a broad streak of naivete and smugness showing through.
I am sure Shannon O'Donnell is a delightful person to know. She has given a good portion of her life to doing something she thinks is good and right. That's why it is all the more tragic that she appears to have no one wise and caring to help nudge her misguided and nascent energy in a more appropriate direction. Letter after letter displays her shortcomings.
Who should be watching Shannon O'Donnell's back? Who cares about her enough to gently, lovingly disciple her, rather than allowing her to flounder?