From the outside, it must seem like I’m one of life’s “botherers”. My friends and I have started a charity trying to break the cycle of poverty. I challenge gender stereotypes on almost a daily basis (possibly to most of my friends’ dismay). I share videos about Big. Important. Issues. I try to eat less meat, recycle, reuse, upcycle, cut down on plastic, and every week I write blogs like this one; encouraging people to think deeply, to make changes, to see things in a new light (please hold any comments about the success rate of those endeavours). Yes, over the years I’ve cultivated a reputation for fighting the good fight, for raging against the machine, for trying to change the world one small step at a time, but I have to admit: sometimes I really can’t be bothered.
Sometimes I look around at the world and ask myself, “What’s the point?” What’s the point of trying to save the environment, when all your efforts are nothing but a drop in a seriously polluted ocean? What’s the point of arguing politics with people who have different views than you, when you know you’re never going to change their mind? What’s the point of picking people up on everyday sexism, when it’s so ingrained in our patriarchal culture that you’re barely scratching the surface? I once made a comment about a gender-based joke, and my friend asked, “Chloe, don’t you ever get tired of arguing all the time?” Yes. I do. I’m exhausted.
Because even if you know in your heart-of-hearts that something is the right thing to do, even if you’re the greatest and kindest human being to ever walk the face of the earth, it’s easy to make excuses when the going gets tough. We know we’re meant to be stewards of this planet, but is looking out for the environment even worth it if God is going to do that whole “New Heaven and New Earth” thing at some point anyway? We know we should buy ethical goods to honour and support our fellow human beings all over the world, but I’ve had a really sucky day and I just need a Dairy Milk right now (and if anyone is reading this and thinking I sound a little holier-than-thou at this point, I’m literally eating a Twirl as I type).
Last weekend, I watched Disney’s 1973 animated classic Robin Hood. If you haven’t seen it (who were your parents??) it’s the classic Robin Hood story: King Richard is off fighting the crusades and Nottingham has been taken over by the power-grabbing, tax-raising Prince John. Robin Hood and Little John (walkin’ through the forest, laughin’ back and forth at what the other’ne has to say – sorry, I’ll stop singing now) have reacted by helping Nottingham wherever they can, going on a variety of hijinks to stick it to Prince John, rob the rich, feed the poor, get the girl, all that stuff. It’s a fantastic movie – definitely underrated amongst its Disney animation counterparts – but as I watched it on Saturday I couldn’t help but wonder: why does Robin Hood bother?
For every good thing Robin Hood does, it makes little difference or even makes things worse. He gives money to the poor and the Sheriff of Nottingham just takes that money on top of what the villagers already owe. He robs Prince John’s royal procession and Prince John reacts by setting up an archery competition to trap and kill him. He wins the competition, escapes the trap, and Price John triples the taxes and throws everyone in jail. Friar Tuck defends Robin Hood and gets sentenced to death – it’s a whole big mess.
And it’s at this point that Alan-A-Dale (the Rooster troubadour if anyone is struggling to place that character) sings: Every town has its ups and downs, sometimes ups outnumber the downs, but not in Nottingham. Robin Hood has tried his best but made everything worse. He’s lost his title, he’s living in a forest, and it wasn’t even worth it. Nottingham is too messed up to fix, and all the good that Robin has done can never outnumber the bad. So does he stop there? Does he throw his arms up in the air and ask, “What’s the point?” No. And why not? Because he knows the King is coming back one day.
When Robin Hood is chained up by Prince John’s guards and facing execution, when he’s just thrown himself from a burning building and barely escaped death, he shouts, “Long live King Richard!” When they escape Prince John, Robin Hood throws a party for the villagers and they all sing, “A pox on the phoney king of England”. Robin Hood never loses sight of the fact that the King is coming back, that the people who rule his world right now are not the rightful heirs to that throne, that it might look bleak now but it won’t be forever – and his job is to keep Nottingham going in the meantime.
I’m pretty sure you don’t have to be a genius to work out who our “King” is in this comparison, but while – as I said earlier – we can be tempted to use Jesus’ eventual return as an excuse not to bother fixing the world as it is right now, Robin Hood knew better. Robin Hood knew the world wouldn’t ultimately be fixed until the King returned, but he needed to lighten the load, to bring hope and joy and give the villagers something to live for until then. Robin Hood knew he was only making a small difference to a big problem, that his life wouldn’t be comfortable, that he might not even get recognition for his efforts, but he did it anyway. Because at the end of the movie the King does come back, the King does fix Nottingham, and the baddies have a lot to answer for.
So if it feels like you’re trying your best but it’s just not working, if you’re banging your head against a wall and feel like giving up, keep going. Keep trying. Don’t do it for the recognition, do it because it’s the right thing to do. Don’t do it to get results, do it because – if nothing else – it will change you. The big battles around us – oppression, political turmoil, patriarchy, the planet – are ultimately only winnable by Jesus, but it’s our job to chip away at them, to keep challenging them, to keep fighting the bad guys even when it looks like we’re losing. Because the beauty is in the attempt. The point is in the fact we tried.
And, you never know, you might end up leaving a legacy so brilliant you get your very own Disney cartoon.
Written by Chloe Satchell-Cobbett, Deputy Editor, Liberti