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Is there a Christian Activism?

A few years ago, I was speaking at a college event in New York City and I was introduced as being a 'Christian activist'.

This gave me pause and made me think about a variety of nuances on the topic of activism.

For example, can you be a Christian and not be active? Is there such a thing as a Christian 'non-activist'?

Of course, being introduced as an 'activist' sounded better than being introduced as a non-activist, but what is activism?

So, the -ism for this week is activism and it's in the news in a myriad of ways. In a recent op-ed piece in the New York Times, Bono, co-founder of the advocacy group ONE and (Product)RED, writes these words:

 

BonoOVER long days and nights, I asked Africans about the course of international activism. Should we just pack it up and go home, I asked? There were a few nods. But many more noes. Because most Africans we met seemed to feel the pressing need for new kinds of partnerships, not just among governments, but among citizens, businesses, the rest of us. I sense the end of the usual donor-recipient relationship.

Aid, it’s clear, is still part of the picture. It’s crucial, if you have H.I.V. and are fighting for your life, or if you are a mother wondering why you can’t protect your child against killers with unpronounceable names or if you are a farmer who knows that new seed varietals will mean you have produce that you can take to market in drought or flood. But not the old, dumb, only-game-in-town aid — smart aid that aims to put itself out of business in a generation or two. “Make aid history” is the objective. It always was. Because when we end aid, it’ll mean that extreme poverty is history. But until that glorious day, smart aid can be a reforming tool, demanding accountability and transparency, rewarding measurable results, reinforcing the rule of law, but never imagining for a second that it’s a substitute for trade, investment or self-determination.

In a very real sense, Christian activism is also meant to look ahead to something better and invite people to consider a better world. The gospel, after all, is good news for the now and good news for a new heaven and a new earth. Christians are to be active because the world isn't stagnant or stopping. We are to be activists not to be busy, but because there is a direction or purpose to it. Maybe the word isn't activism merely, but invitationism. Christian people should be constantly inviting the world to something new and better. There is a redemptive restlessness in activism that just seems right.

-bo 

 

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About
As a University director of study abroad in Central Texas, ideas and stories matter. These reflections are for pilgrims making progress.


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