A lot of Christian activists detach themselves from the Bible, evangelicalism and a devoted life to God. I know of so many Christians that used to be passionate about Jesus, then after they started working for peace and justice, they started to question their faith and it grew colder. I even know of some becoming atheists. I fear that Christian activism is one of the main secularizing movements in the church today.
Of course, it is with pain I’m writing this. As you can tell from my blog title, I’m a Christian activist myself. For over five years I’ve been telling fellow Christians to love their enemies, share all they have with the poor, end oppression and care for the creation. I am very critical to the lack of activism within evangelicalism, but I’m convinced that it isn’t because they read the Bible too much or take Jesus too seriously – on the contrary, they ignore large parts of God’s Word even though they claim to believe in it. Much like the pharisees in the time of the gospels.
If we do take Jesus and the Bible seriously, we’ll sell everything we have and give the money to the poor (Mk 10:21). We’ll never fight back but turn the other cheek(Mt 5:40-48). We’ll give to everyone that asks us (Lk 6:30). And not only that, we’ll heal the sick and raise the dead (Mt 10:8), prophesy and speak in tongues (Acts 2:6-21) and preach the Gospel to the whole world (Mt 28:18-20). If you follow Jesus, you can’t separate peace and justice from miracles, evangelism, Bible study or prayer. It’s all connected.
There are a lot of Christian activist movements that do combine all these things. Iris Global is one of them. They feed the hungry, save the dying, heal the sick and raise the dead. Their leader Heidi Baker has an amazing testimony concerning how a lame poor man was healed by the power of God and delivered from poverty. When I visited Iris Global’s South African branch I met Surprise Sithole who has raised eight people from the dead and who is a passionate advocate for poverty reduction.
Everything Iris Global is doing is birthed in worship. Heidi Baker spends hours every day in worship. In a famous quote from the awesome documentary Finger of God, she says that everything from praying to hugging to cleaning is “holy holy holy”. Her activism for the poor is holistic, integrated with miracles, evangelism, prayer and love.
It’s good that we point out and criticise when Bible-believing evangelicals worship God without caring for their neighbour, but if we try to care for our neighbours without believing the Bible and worship the Lord passionately, we won’t look any more like Jesus than they do and we wont be very succesful in our activism. If we want to live liberation and free the opressed, we need to worship more, use the gifts of the Spirit and spread revival.
This is a contribution for reflection for The Wild Goose Festival, a gathering at the intersection of justice, spirituality, music and the arts. Happening June 26-29 outside of Asheville in Hot Springs, NC. You can get more information and tickets here: http://www.wildgoosefestival.org.
I know of so many Christians that used to be passionate about Jesus, then after they started working for peace and justice, they started to question their faith and it grew colder.
micael, when i was a part of the emerging church conversation i also saw a number of christians question their faith, which is not a bad thing, and some even leave it behind, definitely not a good thing. i don’t think the problem was getting involved in christian activism–and that usually came later from what i saw–but rather that so many of these believers had come out of very legalistic & dysfunctional churches and so their faith was not healthy to begin with. for many their faith was very black & white and it was riddled with manmade rules, so when they started to question it it collapsed because they didn’t see that a middle ground or third way was even an option. it was very all-or-nothing and they were taught to read the bible literally. they went from believing everything in the bible is literally true to believing it is riddled with inaccuracies and thus unreliable. they never learned to read the bible contextually while at the same time believing that the whole of scripture is true, just not literal where the context or genre dictates otherwise. so, they tended to swing from conservatism to liberalism or even further to agnosticism & atheism. others had also been really hurt by the church and they couldn’t seem to find their way past the hurt in addition to their now-confused faith.
i think a lot of good, and some not-so-good, came out of the emerging conversation, but from what i’ve seen it ended up veering into the progressive/liberal camp rather than remaining postmodern which is where it started out. this has been a real shame because there is good and bad in both conservatism & liberalism. conservatism & liberalism are versions of our faith that are products of modernism. rather than taking the good from both–which is partly what postmodern christianity would do–some have now only embraced the good in the other side of the coin (the progressive/liberal camp) of modernism. if you haven’t read a new kind of christian by brian mcclaren i’d highly recommend it as it goes into greater depth of what i’m talking about. God is faithful though and he can draw people back to a balanced faith in his own time. many of the people i met had been raised in these churches from childhood so it can take a lot of time for them to shake off the unhealthy parts of their experience before they will hopefully find a sense of balance and embrace both the truth of scripture and the lovingkindness of good works.