An Ordinary Person

Teach a Man to Fish | June 30, 2008

Click on the link to an excellent discussion going on in the blog, Revolution in Jesusland.

In the blog, Zack Exley meditates on the meaning of the ever-popular adage “If you give a man a fish, he eats for a day. Teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime.” Zack asks:

But what if no one has access to the river? What about when the right to fish is controlled by some greedy landowner who, thanks to his ancestors’ violent behavior, was born into ownership of all the river banks?

I am loving the direction of Exley’s blog on so many levels. He is providing a means for me–an urban dweller with no direct links to Christians and the culture of church–to gain knowledge and perspective about the bourgeoning culture of American Christians. For them, discussions of issues of social justice are not passé and, in fact, are surprisingly widespread, thanks to authors like Shane Claiborne.

Moreover, Zack is making a direct (albeit good-natured) philosophical challenge to the Christian community as to the implications and meaning of Christian theology, especially as it concerns notions of justice, social and economic class, and morality on a societal level and not just on an individual behavioral level.

I don’t often see discussions this deep in popular culture and the media, especially in contemporary discussions on politics and democratic participation (if a discussion ever happens at all). The more rancorous contemporary politics become, the more shallow and one-dimensional the treatment is given to issues that deserve serious discussion and reflection.

Also, since Socialism as an overarching ideology has ceased to be a rallying point for Progressives and those concerned with questions of social justice, no one in popular culture or media seems to be asking the questions that drove people to Socialism in the first place.

So here’s my question: Would it be so bad for the people on the island to peacefully take the creek back from the guy who thinks he has the right to own it?

But Zack is doing it and you don’t have to be a Socialist to appreciate that these are questions that have been asked by those for whom questions of fairness, inequality and social justice are serious matters throughout history.

Discussions focusing on teaching a man to fish ignore the larger implications and gloss over questions of access to the creek and ownership of the creek for the common good. Exley is reintroducing this tradition of questioning authority and challenging established power to a mass audience and I, for one, am glad for it.

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