An “activist” is defined as someone “who works to achieve political or social change, especially as a member of an organisation with particular aims.” For further clarity my clever and “liberal” Oxford Dictionary gives an example of “gay activists.” On the other hand a “conformist” is a “person who behaves and thinks in the same way as most other people and who does not want to be different.” I know I might be over-simplifying a bit when I say that the Christian community is largely defined by these two categories. I will venture out and say there are more believers who belong in the category of conformist than there are on the category of those who bring social change. Many believers just do not want to rock the boat.
I am also aware of those who bring embarrassment and shame to the Lord’s name in the name of Christian activism. They set out to transform society and yet their own hearts are not transformed. They are like Apostle John who asked the Lord Jesus to burn Samaria for their refusal to accept the gospel. These are folks who are intolerant and impetuous. Many of them do not belong in a healthy and wholesome group because they don’t seem to fit anywhere. To them everyone is compromising and when they have won a small victory everyone has to hear about it. They are never magnanimous and do not mind losing friends as long as they win the argument. As Christians we are always eager not to be identified with them.
The actions of these boisterous individuals have sadly made many us to now cower from dealing with issues. There are legitimate issues to deal with and we must deal with them legitimately. Sadly, I find Christians who are trying to bring some change in some aspect of our existence being strongly vilified by other Christians who prefer us to sit idly and do nothing, except pray of course. These “conformist” believers cite the Scriptures in their crusade of inaction. Interestingly, those who are actively engaging society also cite Scriptures as their motivation. Is this a problem of selective interpretation of the Scriptures? I have heard many believers who argue that campaigns against blasphemy, pornography, abortion, homosexuality, etc. antagonise and alienate society.
The strange thing is that those who hold political office constantly remind the Church never to be silent but always hold those in power accountable. I have heard this sentiment from the President down to officials at local government level. When we stand up for something we are constantly reminded that the Lord taught us to turn the other cheek. On this point of turning the other cheek, what happens when both cheeks have now been slapped? Do you revert back to the cheek that got the first slap? Anyway there are far too many believers who think our duty is to make our faith malleable to others. They remind us that Jesus befriended sinners but they forget to mention that He did not befriend the sin and that He befriended them for the sole purpose of winning them over from their sinful lifestyle.
Activists effect change
The same Jesus promised us that our moral stand will put us in hostility with the world. The gains made in family values would have been lost if we did not have organisations specifically campaigning for the protection of this vital institution. It took an “activist” organisation taking the government to court to get textbooks to Limpopo schoolchildren who have been waiting for them for six months. Similarly a community from Mpumalanga Province had to get a court order for them to have access to clean drinking water after being without this basic resource for over six months. These and other challenges do not get solved by praying or wishing them away. It takes “activists” to constantly campaign, engage, mobilize and petition the powers that be for change to take effect.
I am not advocating that we should be reactionaries and fundamentalists but I am advocating that as the salt we should come out of the salt-shaker and affect society around us. We should take heart and not be distracted by purists. We are not here to acquiesce with everything around us. We should also not be grandstanding but, with humility, be agents of change. I am an activist, are you?