That's why I'm so thankful for Eliza Griswold's latest contribution to the DailyBeast.com, "A Teen's Third-World America." Following 16-year-old E.J. Montoya, a member of the Santa Ana Pueblo, through a day at his cutting edge school, the Native American Community Academy (including his 2-3 hour commute), Griswold writes
We were parked outside his trailer in a rented white SUV. Around us in the darkness: a broken baby carriage, a rattletrap Volvo sedan, an anonymous pile of junk littered on the bare ground. I've seen this kind of chaos in refugee camps in Eastern Congo and gypsy settlements in Rome, but not in America.
I've just finished reading Griswold's stunning The Tenth Parallel, which details her travels through regions of encounter between Christianity and Islam in both African and Southeast Asia, which I hope to review, God-willing, sometime this week. Yet, while that work made me feel at once righteously indignant and also sheepishly ashamed of my ignorance and lack of engagement with the persecuted church across the world, her latest article reminds me that I need not ship off to Malaysia or Sudan to find myself in the midst of the world's injustices. Painful as it is to have to admit again and again, I've walked among them my whole life. They are all around me. Not just atop mystical hills that evoke Gabriel Garcia Marquez and whiskey priests and romanticized campesinos - but, undoubtedly, across the street from my seminary, and also in the midst of my own soul.
Admittedly, I have a bit of a literary crush on Ms. Griswold. Just as I am ensnared in an infatuation with Regina Spektor's singing (my wife is well aware of these, for the record!), I find Griswold's voice possessed of a strange power to move my imagination with evocations that lift me out of mundanity and into the mysterious wonder of the every day. I respect and deeply admire the way that Griswold (the daughter of Frank Griswold, former presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church) uses her considerable journalistic prowess and beautiful prose to enter into the stories of people on the margins to bring to life the drama embedded in the fabric of the world that lives beyond the veils of the reductionism of the ideologically-constructed mass media narratives that permeate so much of our reading and hearing. She peers into the particularities of life, invites us to witness, and so reveals truths deeper than our illusions and hopes larger than our ignorance. Which is really what good journalism, and all good writing, ought to be about.
If you haven't heard of or read the Tenth Parallel yet, please do. In the meantime, read some of Ms. Griswold's other articles here, and find yourself more deeply immeshed in the stories of those upon whose back our world is constructed, and with whom our future lies. May we all be woken up from our American dreams, and discover the waking lives she makes present. Hers is a way of reporting that embodies the best of the possibilities of a journalistic discipleship.