6 Degrees of Separation
we also ought to love one another."
—I John 4:11
Six degrees of separation. That's the theory. Everyone on Earth is only separated by six degrees. In this theory, one degree of separation is between you and the people you know. A friend of a friend has two degrees of separation. Psychologist Stanley Milgram wrote a formative article on this for Psychology Today that told of the small world problem, considering why this might be true.
One key point, also made by Malcolm Gladwell in his book The Tipping Point is that some particular people create important links and many people in one group will find a lot of their different connections through that one person. So that if you met and got to know the Rev. Daudi Ndahana when he was here, Daudi forms a link between you and people in East Africa. Or try this. You know me well. I know Henry Louttit well. He knows several people who know Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams well. Rowan Williams knows well the Prime Minister and the Queen of England. That four degrees from you to the Queen of England and with her friends of friends you have reached six degrees out well across the world.
I was thinking about this because of an article in Episcopal Life on the Sudan. That nation's Anglican Archbishop, Daniel Deng Bul, called on the Anglican Communion "not to abandon the people of Sudan in this time of danger and uncertainty." The news release goes on to state:
Inter-tribal fighting, the ongoing conflict in Darfur and renewed rebel atrocities by the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) are some of the concerns Deng highlighted in his address. He spoke about LRA rebels "mounting attacks on many unarmed villages … often with severe brutality including the severing of limbs with machetes and whole villages burnt down."The website of the Episcopal Church of Sudan lists Attacks in the South of Sudan by the Lord's Resistance Army. It's the sort of tragedy that feels distant. The sort of tragedy from which we might even want to distance ourselves as we feel powerless to do anything about it.
Several parishes and villages in southern Sudan have fallen victim to the fresh wave of attacks by the LRA, a Ugandan rebel organization whose soldiers are prolonging a two-decades-long terrorist campaign gruesomely marked by widespread massacres and child abductions.
I am two degrees of separation from Archbishop Deng Bul. He attended Virginia Theological Seminary ahead of my time there. But he was still well known to the faculty I know well, including some like Dr. Ellen Davis who has gone to visit him in the Sudan. VTS has also sent students and faculty over to help teach in the Sudanese seminaries. These people I know well share a love and deep concern for this man and the churches he serves. I can't avoid the fact that I am two degrees of separation from people in the heart of this international crisis. Which means you are probably three degrees away from it.
Yet all of us are closer than that. I know Jesus. Jesus knows each person who is suffering in the Sudan. It sounds sappy or silly or even potentially meaningless to write this. It's true, but how does that help or hurt? It's just a way of seeing that we are closer to this and other issues than we may think. We can't take them all on. We can't change the whole world at once. But Archbishop Daniel Deng Bul (pictured above and at right) has just asked that we not forget them. He wants us to pray. He wants us to ask the international community to stand together in the face of these ongoing crimes against humanity.
You'll find more at the website for American Friends of the Episcopal Church of Sudan. Please pray for these courageous Christians today. Their problems are not as distant as you might have thought.
The Rev. Frank Logue, Pastor
and not merely to your own."
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