A voice cries out:–Isaiah 40:3-4
“In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be lifted up,
and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level,
and the rough places a plain.
We don’t know how many workers–mostly if not entirely immigrants–died constructing the stadiums in Qatar. The Guardian cites 6,500 migrant worker deaths in the country since the World Cup was awarded to Qatar in 2012; officially, only 37 of those are linked to World Cup construction. The exact number of World Cup-related deaths is unclear, but what is clear: the number is staggering.
When I ask the question, “What am I to do?” it feels too big. I respect and admire the boycott movement, but from where I write in the United States, it also feels over-simplistic. There’s morality in the boycott, but not moral purity. Washing my hands of the World Cup disguises the fact that the global supply chain is predicated on disposable humanity. I am overwhelmed by all the other things I have consumed–from fast fashion to cell phone batteries–that other humans have died for.
When I can’t answer, “What am I to do do?”, I ask another question: “Where is God?” Where is the God of the suffering, the God in solidarity, the God working out salvation, in this moment? This Advent, I imagine Joseph and Mary as laborers in Qatar, being served ice so they would drink less water. I imagine Jesus birthed not at an inn, but under the hulking shadow of Al-Wakrah Stadium (which is, weirdly, shaped like a vagina).
I imagine the players who play on the sidelines bowing their heads not asking God to win, but in reverence for the bodies and lives of migrant workers. I do what I can to sing the refrain of justice: to demand FIFA pay restitution to the families of all injured workers. I consider where I can make restitution for my own role in the global supply chain, as a consumer in the most-consuming country in the world.
Perhaps one of the strangest juxtapositions of a World Cup during Advent season is how our tangible consumption of goods is coupled to the intangible consumption of entertainment, bodies, sport. There are so many ways to wall ourselves off from God by consumption.
We struggle to level the playing fields, much less lift up the valleys and make the mountains low. But we are called to prepare a way for God in the wilderness. How shall we prepare?
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