Good Littering


Despite living in the Philippines for 10 years, my Tagalog is still pretty poor. Living in Baguio City, a very English-friendly city, does not help. Having a quadrilingual wife also has allowed me to be slack in my language. However, a couple of phrases I learned quickly here:

BAWAL UMIHI DITO

BAWAL MAGTAPON DITO

The first one says “Do not urinate here.” The second says “Do not litter here.” These are written all over the place along roads. Apparently people need a reminder.

This got me reflective about littering (not so much about urinating). Littering is essentially to place things where they do not belong. Receptacles are available to put stuff in, and when you put them in other places outside of these receptacles… well, that is littering.

I have heard of evangelistic littering. Jehovah’s Witnesses forget their newsprint quality magazines lying on tables of places they visit. A visitor to our house decades ago “forgot” his Book of Mormon. It had a tract inside explaining how the book predicted a lot of events, such as the coming of Christopher Columbus in 1492. Since there are no copies of this book existing prior to the early 1800s, and the style of the writing is at best a sort of AV1611, hard to see who would be impressed by this. But who knows.

Evangelical Christians have also tried this. They leave tracts and things in public places hoping that someone will read them and respond to them. Of course, people in most places have been pretty innoculated to tracts. So many of them are horrible anyway. So many focus on a god that most people would not desire to worship or follow. Because of the failure of littering tracts, some have switched to littering CDs or DVDs. For awhile, at least, there was a window of time where such littering would draw interest enough to look and listen. Not sure… this time may have passed.

Language has its limits. Although people like to talk about the power of the message of God, that power can often demonstrate itself in the hardening of peoples hearts and tearing apart relations. That is not a justification for not sharing the word… but simply a recognition that the Word of God needs to be expressed and interpreted within the context of Christian Love (truth, power, and allegiance encounter fail without an initial and continual demonstration of love encounter).

Returning to littering… is there good littering? I believe good littering occurs when we litter… good, or goodness. Jesus talked considerably on good littering. He noted that in most cultures, doing good things is generally reserved for (properly receptacled in the context of) relatives, nice neighbors, friends, good people. Jesus suggested that goodness should be littered… not limited to these “proper” receptacles. They should be thrown around carelessless to strangers, aliens, and enemies. I would suggest that such littering can be at times planned and intentional… but the expression “random acts of kindness” certainly has its appropriate moments of application as well.

Since it is pretty obvious that Christians are in a war of ideas and ideologies and cultures that at times escalates into rage and violence… our best weapons are not bombs and drones and “riling up the troops”. Getting continuously “shocked” at the inhumanity of humans through social media doesn’t help much either. (Seriously… how can anyone who wasn’t raised in a cave on a different planet be shocked at atrocities that people do to other people.) Even proclamation of the word, has its limits without a proper context.

God’s message of hope should be proclaimed in a mission field that has been carelessly (and carefully) littered with God’s love. When the clutter becomes so thick that clean-up crews cannot keep up in hiding and dumping it… people are ready to listen.

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