Social Activism and Christian Mission
So this month’s synchroblog is on the topic of social activism and Christian mission which is something I write a lot about here on this blog (so you would think I could manage to get the post up on time…). There are any number of “issues” I could address on that subject, but what caught my attention was the topic itself. The combination of social activism and Christian mission. At this stage in my life those are two things that I just assume go together, but I know that is not a view held by all Christians. Some of course reject social activism in favor of solely focusing on evangelism – they are in the business of saving souls not helping people live. Others avoid social activism as something tainted by the world with the potential to corrupt true Christianity. Still others are too cynical to think anything will ever change so they don’t bother to engage in social activism.
Even among those of us who think that Christian mission should involve some sort of social activism, the methods suggested for that vary widely. Should such activism be contained within the church (or parachurch organizations)? Should Christians partner with secular activist groups? Should we (gasp) work with the government? For the most part I have no problem with Christian mission being involved in any of those things. As I see it, some issues require government involvement (like debt relief) and it would seem arrogant and wasteful to reject the resources and publicity provided by secular activist organizations. Working for good and seeking what is right is not something Christians hold the monopoly on.
Which is why I have no problem with the “popularity” of some causes these days. I’ve heard Christians say that if you aren’t being pushed or having to make sacrifices you aren’t really serving. While sacrifice may be called for and being pushed outside one’s comfort zone is a good thing, I don’t see that as a reason to reject passion where it can be found. It doesn’t bother me that environmentalism or AIDS relief is trendy (as the joke goes, God will cause the rock stars to cry out). I think things that seek to change the public’s opinions on certain issues and help people to start caring are good things in the long run.
I’ve been reading recently about William Wilberforce and his attempts to end slavery in England. What struck me was that the methods used by the abolitionists then to sway public opinion are very similar to popular campaigns today. He was moved to be an abolitionist because of his strong Christian beliefs. To him Christian mission had to involve social activism – significantly regarding the issue of slavery. He worked within the government to change the laws – another example of where government involvement is necessary. But he also encouraged pastors to preach about the injustices of slavery. The equivalent of bumper stickers and buttons were created by artists of the day (like Wedgewood). And popular musicians wrote songs to help raise awareness. This wasn’t one church working to improve the lives of a few slaves. This also wasn’t a hopeless movement of fringe activists. This was social activism taken up as Christian mission that changed the thoughts and laws of a nation. The cynics of course trotted out economic excuses and displayed their prejudices against the African slaves, but over time the message of love and the need to treat the slave as a brother prevailed.
Stories like those remind me why I support social activism as a part of Christian mission. Sometimes such activism is what is needed and often is the only thing that will work.
For more thoughts on this topic check out the posts by these other Synchrobloggers –
Phil Wyman at Square No More – Salem: No Place for Hating Witches
Mike Bursell at Mike’s Musings
Bryan Riley at at Charis Shalom
Steve Hayes writes about Khanya: Christianity and social justice
Reba Baskett at In Reba’s World
Prof Carlos Z. with Ramblings from a Sociologist
Cobus van Wyngaard at My Contemplations: David Bosch, Public Theology, Social Justice
Cindy Harvey at Tracking the Edge
Alan Knox at The Assembling of the Church
Matthew Stone at Matt Stone Journeys in Between
John Smulo at JohnSmulo.com
Sonja Andrews at Calacirian
Lainie Petersen at Headspace
KW Leslie: Shine: not let it shine
Stephanie Moulton at Faith and the Environment Collide
Steve Hollinghurst at On Earth as in Heaven
Sam Norton at Elizaphanian: Tesco is a Big Red Herring