Helping teenagers make sense of inequality without making peace with it

Recently TED Ideas released a gallery of images illustrating inequality. In curator Helen Walters’ words, “We asked an international group of artists, designers, photographers and activists to provide one image that encapsulates what inequality means to them — and to explain their selection.”

It’s a gut-wrenching collection of domestic and global scenes picturing a world where much is broken. It raises a lot of questions about human life, suffering, community, and the presence of God.

In the words of one photographic contributor whose image shows Palestinian workers lining up to be allowed through the largest separation checkpoint in Bethlehem:

“Inequality is one of the roots of injustice, and one of the biggest contributing factors to crime and violence (including war). It’s the result of unchecked privilege and of the inability to empathize. It’s the ritual humiliation of the less powerful for the benefit of the more powerful. It’s depressing and tragic, and the worst part is it’s completely unnecessary and totally avoidable, even in a capitalist economy. So, when I see inequality, I see a society that has chosen to keep some of its members subjugated, even though all evidence and observation says that it’s destructive and completely preventable.” Saeed Taji Farouky, filmmaker and photographer in Palestine and the UK

The image is part of a series urging the question, “What’s to be done about rising inequality?” which is a fine question for TED to be asking, and an even greater one for the Church. In fact, chances are good that you have students in your ministry who are wondering about inequality of all kinds, alongside other students who probably remain oblivious.

How do you help them respond to these kinds of hard questions?

This summer can be a great window of opportunity to explore issues of injustice, poverty, marginalization, and God’s heart for the world in the midst of these crushing realities. Especially if you’re taking students on a short-term mission trip or serving nearby in your local community, be sure to take time along the way to process pressing questions like inequality. You might even use this photo gallery as a prompt to stir up conversation and explore some scriptures that call us to action against injustice (like Isaiah 58 or Amos 5).

If you want even more resources, at FYI we’ve written a few that might be helpful. For your short-term trips and service projects, Deep Justice Journeys offers over 50 exercises to do before, during, and after you serve. For bigger-picture conversations about why God might allow injustice in the world, Can I Ask That? is a small-group curriculum for high school students with Leader and Student Guides you can use to tackle eight hard questions about God and faith.