Are you an activist or conformist?

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.

Legitimate issues
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?

6 Comments

  1. Thank you for this article Africa. I think we need people in the body of Christ that know how to make well researched intellectual arguments that can convince an objective person who is searching for truth. We need to learn the art of debating issues without being sentimental and therefore defensive. An average Christian does not really know why Homosexuality, Abortion etc. is wrong because most believers do not take the time to study and research.Most are either passive or reactionary but a very few are informed and can make an intelligent biblical, sociological even political argument in defence of their convictions. Most activists are forced to be researchers, studious so that they can advocate for their beliefs. We are now living at a time where it is not enough just to believe but we have to know why we believe and be prepared to defend our position even in court if needs be. Most believers don’t have the time nor the interest to study in order to develop sound arguments. That is why they end up sounding like the world in their arguments. Sadly Christians are still divided on subjects of Homosexuality, Abortion, Prostitution etc. this shows a defficiency of teaching on these subjects in the church so that we have a sound and common biblical understanding.

    • That is the thing Ps. Mangaliso. We don’t take time to study to show ourselves approved (2 Tim 2:15). If we don’t even know what we believe how shall we know what we don’t believe and why we don’t believe it? We have allowed emotions to replace reasoning. Reformers like Martin Luther, the German Reformer and CS Lewis showed us the importance of appying one’s mind to current issues and having a proper Biblical Worldview on those issues. If we were not so Biblical illiterate then wouldn’t be so divided on so many fundamental issues. Thank you

  2. Afrika and Mangaliso are spot on target. Activism has been known as “Public Advocacy”. We need “well-researched, objective intellectual arguments” in the public square. Christian Activists must have a biblical foundation, but must also be able to justify our cause by scientific and other research if we are to influence those who do not respect God or His Word. This can be done, for ALL truth is God’s truth. He has revealed Himself in Scripture and outside Scripture (Psalm 19; Rom 1:20). Public Advocacy, Activism must work on two fronts simultaneously: Educating the Church and Agitating the World, especially its power-structures. The Church should also use the power of Song to spread its message. Listen to Politicians who are using Song to promote their views. When last did you sing a song in Church about Creation vs Evolution, Heterosexual Marriage, anti-abortion, Integrity vs Fraud, warning re destructive TV, Family values? When I couldn’t find such songs I wrote my own. Col 3:16 The Church must move out of its comfort-zone into risky spiritual war-zone. Don’t be surprised if persecution follows! 1 John 4:11-15 But we do not fight from bitter hatred, but from a platform of Love, even if we suffer for it.

    • Hi Hugh. I never considered the point about songs but it make sense. I am in Lagos, Nigeria now and one of the speakers in a conference I am attending here raise this issue on his topic on “Possessing the 7 mountains.” He raised the issue of the influence of culture, espcially music, has on people. And indeed politicians know how to whip the crowd into a frenzy with their catchy but inappropriate songs. You are also right that we should be ready for persecution when we stand for the truth. This is what is happening to the Christians here in Nigeria who are being targetted by extremists. Thanks

  3. Wow, thank you for this message and all the comments. Left me feeling uncomfortable because I have been nice and quite about what I believe…I have homework to do.

    • Well Asanda you are not the only one. Many believers are comfortable with the submarine approach. They hide their faith in the week and resurface it on Sunday. We must not be ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ (Rom 1:16-17). Thank you for acknowledging where you are.