A Fear of Whales

A Fear of Whales

Looking Back

posted by rgaffney

As I begin my Lenten discipline of looking back, I’m most immediately reminded of Urbana 2012, one of my freshest memories from my IV life. It was there that Terry LeBlanc spoke about the discipline of remembrance telling a story about fishing with his grandfather, who told him how not to get lost in the woods “When you look back at the way you came, you will always be able to find your way home. Listen to his sermon for free here

When I sat there listening to Terry remember his elders, I knew that I was about to transition into a new stage of life, and I thought back to the experiences that had developed me. The Charismatics, The Evangelicals, The Lutherans, The Presbyterians, The Methodists, and finally The Missionals, paying particular attention to my time with them, which had not yet been reflected upon.


Now as I sit here remembering my remembering, I have the seminarians to add.

I’m not ready yet to write about the seminarians yet. As I was not ready then to write about the Missionals. My classmates read this blog, and what I would say if anything would be the sort of happy slappy drivel that wouldn’t be worth reading. If I am to authentically talk about both the strengths and weakness of a community, I have to do it in retrospect, so that is what I will endeavor to do here and now. Next week I’ll go to Kansas and reflect on my time there


Eternal Influence

posted by rgaffney

485px-Saint_francis042A little under 1000 years ago in Italy there lived a man named Giovanni de Bernadone, but his friends call him Francis.  Francis was a Christ follower, and if her were here today he would be the first to tell you that he didn’t understand completely what that means. But he lived his life in poverty and faithfulness and trusted the rest would work itself out.


He read the bible simply and literally. When he encountered Mark 16:15 “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.” where I would debate canonicity, Francis simply took God’s word for it, and endeavored to preach to rocks and birds.

448px-San_Damiano-InteriorAt In the midst of the crusades he was praying by the old church of San Damingiano outside his hometown. He heard Christ’s voice from the cross say to him “Rebuild my church which is in ruins” and Francis did as Francis does, proceeding to literally rebuild that church one stone at a time.


While he was working some people started to follow him, then some other people got mad about the movement he created. The pope got involved, some great stories took place, and then he got old and died. He was never ordained.

Fast forward back to the present. There are no fewer than 3 major ecclesiastical movements started as a result of his faith, millions have been inspired by his life, and a new pope has been elected. A humble argentine named Jorge, who took the name of Francis in the highest office of Christendom following the reign of Pope Emeritus Palpatine to do just what Francis endeavored to all those years a89evBTdgo. Rebuild the church which is in Ruins.


But you knew that. What’s my point?

It’s striking to me how long-lasting the influence he had has lasted, and indeed how long it will last. Francis is arguably more influential now than he ever was when he was alive, an we can expect that influence will only increase- forever.

I believe that Francesco possesses an immortal soul which lives even now, but suppose I have taken scripture overly literally. Suppose even that I have chosen the wrong religion, or that I was wrong to choose religion in the first place. Even still through his humble faith, even his gullibility, Francis has apparently achieved what was promised of the saints. Eternal life. Eternal influence. He traded the opportunity to be a wealthy silk merchant for a couple decades for the opportunity to serve the poor for the next thousand years and beyond.

It was a good trade


In Plain Sight

posted by rgaffney

Earlier this week I wrote on awareness
. I wasn’t terribly nice to the awareness industry. I beat up on it, I asked hard questions of it. I did it for a reason.

A while back an old friend by the name of David sent me a message about a sex trafficking documentary he wanted me to raise awareness for, and I let him have it! I wrote him about my concerns with the endeavor and suggested in no uncertain terms that he should consider throwing his support behind somebody who already gotten started.

He did something incredible.

He wrote me back!

davidtrotter2Hi Ryan. Thanks for your concern. All of the issues you have raised have been concerns of mine as well, and it’s great to know that others are thinking like this. For our first documentary (, our budget was only $30,000, and I personally invested $10,000 of that. I’ll never see a penny of any profits. In fact, we haven’t seen one. The ministry that we interfaced with uses it as a fundraising tool, and if and when we receive money from the distribution company, 100% of it will go directly to that ministry ( From my experience with the first film, there is very little money to be made through the second documentary. If any significant money comes in, it will be through the worship album, which will be sold for the benefit of Abolition International (, and they’ll be heavily advertised in the process. In terms of the devotional/study guide, 50% of any revenues will be directed toward Abolition, who is focused on real-world action through their network of 30 after-care centers (25 of which are in the US). These are passion projects for me to help the organizations that we profile in a subtle way in order to ensure they are still documentaries and not advertisements. I make a living through my marketing business – not these films. Natalie Grant founded Abolition 7 years ago, and she now speaks about it at all her conferences and sits on the board. They are doing amazing things. In the film, we’ll be profiling the stories of freedom and hope that are emerging in 5 of their after care homes in 5 different US cities


The film is called “In Plain Sight” and the website is

I’ve corresponded with David several times since this initial interaction, I kept asking hard questions, and I can say now with full confidence that this is the real deal.


Give this guy money. Share this link!

And if you are involved in leadership of a church or college ministry and would like to do more, e-mail me and I can put you in touch with him directly about starting small groups and movements in your cities that will grow with the movie, from fund-raising, to showing the film, to multiplying the influence as we fund and empower shelters to put an end to slavery!


What shall I do with all this Awareness?

posted by rgaffney

NpNon-Profits love people like me. People with initiative and influence, people who already care, who don’t need to be sold on why the mission is important. They love to give me flyers, they love to link me to Facebook pages, they love to sell me T-Shirts, and accept donations. But I have a hard time finding agencies that will let me or my college students do anything else.

"Raising Awareness," it’s called. Although in any other context we would just call it "marketing." Letting people know that there is a problem and there is an organization which has something to do with the problem. Some of these organizations actually do something about said problem, but they only want awareness from me. A lot of them exist solely to raise awareness.


The result of all this is that I sit here knowing lots of stuff. There are more slaves today than at any time in human history; diamond miners and cocoa farmers are not paid; coffee and tea growers are paid unfair and unlivable wages. Apple is using sweatshops; Abercrombie hates fat people; Bank of America hates the poor. There are genocides going on in at least 6 different places globally; Syria is using Sarin Gas; Sudan has an issue with refugees; Uganda has an issue with child soldiers; every country in the world has an issue with sex trafficking; North Korea just has issues. Cancer is a thing and so is autism and so are our troops. We are destroying the environment. The NSA is spying on the internet; Habeas Corpus is dead; Gitmo is still open; Monsanto is growing mutant corn; and McDonalds sells food that’s bad for you!


I haven’t done much to solve any of those problems. But I’m happy to know that I am, nonetheless, the 99%.

I think awareness has gotten away from us a little bit. It’s an important first step, but if that first step isn’t followed by more steps (and it almost never is) it’s pretty useless, and can actually be detrimental to the cause.

You’ve probably heard of the Susan G. Koman foundation. They have raised over 1.5 billion dollars. Less than 15% of that goes to actually curing breast cancer. The money goes to letting people know breast cancer is a thing and getting them to give more money to the Susan G. Koman foundation so they can tell more people. But the problem with breast cancer isn’t actually lack of awareness. The problem is rapidly multiplying cells that kill people. By raising awareness you don’t actually solve the problem and you take money away from researchers that do. (Here’s a link to the ACS).


willywonkakonyThis profitable Awareness market becomes especially problematic when it entails the poorest of the poor. Suddenly there are kids in Haiti that live on 3 cents a day and literally eat dirt cookies but I need $200,000 to make the documentary starring me. Next week I’m staging a fun run for amputees. The winner gets a golden pair of Nikes.


With the best of intentions, we end up perpetuating the same cycle of exploitation that we are raising awareness about. Money is being made off the misery of people who will never see a portion of the profits. Women who were sold into sex slavery now have their testimonies sold to enable companies to go out selling more sex testimonies. Images of child soldiers lead armies of white privileged hippies through the quad. “Stop Child Labor Now” is written on T-Shirts, but the kids don’t cash the checks.

I’m interested in hearing your ideas for alternatives. Rather than offer a pithy solution to this problem I’d like us to think about real things that can be done by people with full time jobs. Sound off in the comments.

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