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Catalyst Compassion “Moment”: Amazing or Exploitive?

My internet friend Bryan Allain posted a video on his blog this morning of a moment that happened at the recent Catalyst conference in Atlanta. 

I'll summarize for those of you who don't have 10 minutes to watch the video: it's an amazingly touching story.  A young man from Africa is there live, on stage in front of 12,000 people, telling about his childhood growing up in severe poverty, of a sister who died as an infant from malnutrition, and how then in early childhood he was given a place as part of a Compassion International school and was sponsored for over a decade by a man from Canada. The young man is now a student at Moody Bible Institute and sponsoring his own Compassion child.  An amazing story that makes me want to go out and sponsor a Compassion kid right now

But then, in an Oprah-esque moment, the conference emcee asked "have you ever met your sponsor?". 

"No", the young man replied. 

"Would you like to?"

And then they brought out the Canadian man who had sponsored him for all these years.  And in an incredibly moving scene, the young African man just completely (and understandably) broke down.  After a long embrace this young man could do nothing but sit on the floor and sob, completely overcome with emotion and gratitude for this man who had caused such a change in his life.

I was very torn, watching the video at that moment, between on one hand appreciating the emotions of the situation and on the other hand being disgusted by the planned exploitation of this young man's emotions for the sake of a "moment" at a conference.  The emcee, himself choking up a minute later, said "we script this for me breaking down…" which, of course, means that they did script it expecting that the other two would break down.

So what do you think?  Am I being hard-hearted here?  Or were the producers of the Catalyst conference so sucked into the current reality TV culture that they crossed the line of intentionally manipulating people's emotions just to create a "moment"?

Posted via email from Chris’s posterous

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