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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Nightclubs and Clean Water

Here's a guy who went from a being a cocaine fueled rock and roller, to directing an organization that provides clean water to African villages. Scott Harrison lived a life of sex, drugs and rock and roll as a nightclub promoter in Manhattan (my favorite quote: “I was the worst person I knew”). On a vacation in South America he underwent some kind of conversion experience which led to a new calling. He now uses his considerable promotion and development skills to raise money for a great sounding nonprofit called charity: water

This is the kind of story that makes it into the news because it is so dramatic: bad boy becomes a saint who is helping African villagers get clean water. It is good news, and I am glad that stories like these to make it into the New York Times. It is worth celebrating.

It also got me to thinking: What if he had his conversion experience and continued his work as a nightclub promoter? To borrow a story from the New Testament, what if he did not ‘drop his nets’ as the first followers of Jesus did, (Mark 1) but instead went back to his work as a nightclub promoter?

This raises all kinds of interesting questions: What does a changed person look like who is working in the field like this? (Here you might add your version of what you consider to be a morally sketchy job—corporate lawyer, banker, politician, soldier, pastor, etc.) How would she do her job differently? Could someone who is navigating the complex world of nightclub promotion with a deep moral compass do just as much good in that setting as the person digging wells in Africa?

I have more questions than answers on this one. I know that Jesus wants us to care about people who need clean water. What Scott is doing is genuinely exciting. At the same time I suspect Jesus also appreciates the folks who work in morally complex places (and really, what organization or system isn’t?), doing the hard work of figuring out what justice, mercy and compassion mean in those settings. It almost seems like something he would do. Or did do, by choosing to make the earth his workplace.