17 January 2007

Political Activism versus Personal Authenticity

I posted this on Hungry and Thirsty too. I just look more busy this way. haha.

Okay so laying aside the fact that this picture has a hammer and sickle on it, I'd like to ask a question:
Can political activism and personal authenticity work together? Or are they diametrically oppossed to one another?

Example: Could a pro-life demonstrater holding signs outside the front of an abortion clinic also be the same person to go around back and council the mother who just left?
Or, could someone who is against the Iraq war, hold a peace ralley and then go down and try and build relationships with people in the Marine ROTC program on campus?

I think the mother, and the Marine, would have already put the walls up, the dividing lines have been drawn, and as far as their concerned, the demonstrator is now the enemy.

I think there's a reason why Jesus never had a rally with his followers holding signs that said "Jesus is rad, Pharasees are bad."
Paul pretty much said that Jesus is King and Ceaser is not in his letters born out of relationship, but he never went to a town and held a rally and marched on the local governors lawn with the masses chanting, "Hell no, we won't go, Ceaser we're gonna overthrow!"

That being said, I realize that demonstrations have been a part of bringing about significant change. Civil Rights, the end of Communism in Eastern Europe, etc.
Political activism can create change - on a political level - and that can be awesome! But I don't think it creates change on a relational level.

So, I cannot doubt that demonstrations and organizations and rallies are effective, I'm just not convinced you can do both. Maybe we just need to decide for ourselves what were called to do personally and do it well.


Michael said...

This is an interesting topic. I think sometimes we have to swallow our personal vendetta's to build relationships and show people the love of Christ. I know that I may not agree with particular things regarding politics or just lifestyles. However, I guess it's not my place to hold a sign and say they are wrong. I think by loving them with the love of Christ, He will be ably to clean up the mess. He did it for Me, I know He can do it for everyone else!!

paul said...

In the way you set up the arguement it is hard to do anything but agree with you...

Then again I am not so sure that we need to dig in on this line and decide to be or t'other...

Jesus might not have staged a sit in but then he did follow the prophetic tradition in terms of confronting the religious authorities of the day not to mention speaking in very subversive terms, even if this was incredibly radical - he wasn't a revolutionary in the sense of overthrowing the roman empire by violence, then again he didn't agree with the perpetuating of injustice and the status quo but then neither did he talk about getting rid of the unholy scum a la the pharisees and having a super holiness solution - so there were part of his message that lined up with each of these groups and parts that were also radically opposed to their modus operandi...

I think that tells us something about the kingdom of God, that the will/wish of God often transcends the polarises positions that we seek to take and transforms them, turns them inside out, infuses them with love, action, insight, hope, generousity etc - a radical agenda which may mean we need to rethink what we say/action we take but not necessarily stop walking in the tension of these 2 callings...

Erica said...

I agree with Michael in that we "have to swallow our personal vendettas to build relationships and show people the love of Christ". But David, what you are saying almost sounds more like you suggest we shouldn't hold passionate convictions within a political or social realm because we will alienate the opposing side. In that case, what are we doing involving ourselves in any kind of social justice activities? And since we are, I know you couldn't possibly mean that we abandon social agendas in order to love up on individuals.

I believe you can absolutely attend the rally and minister to the "other side". I'm a staunch liberal with feminist tendancies, and my best friends are Reagan Republicans. Its an example on a smaller scale, but I think it demonstrates my point.

And really, wouldn't you be squashing your own personal authenticity if you can't express political activism?

and I have to think I might have partially inspired this post because of my deep seated love for Obama... ;)

David said...

Love the comments!
This is something I've been thinking about lately. So this is a perfect example of a 'thinking outloud' post.
I think for too many in the Western Church, we find a cause and literally 'rally' behind it. We build our fences, hold up our picket signs, declare that the enemy is advancing and we must stop them.
I like what Jay Bakker says - that we should have the doors open for everyone who wants to come into the church.
I agree there's cause for both. Without the rallys of womens sufferage, society would probably be even more unequal and radically different.
There is a time for both. But I think as followers of Jesus, we must start and end with relationship, which for too many times, we don't do, because relationship is messy. With a rally we can get in our cars and drive home after a couple hours to watch TV.
We have to get our hands in the dirt and not clench our fists in the air.

There is time for activism, as long as our hands are covered in mud while doing it. If you know what I mean. ;-)