Recently, on a friend’s blog (see “Thoughts on God and Life” in my links list), a heated discussion took place about the value of social activism in a Christian’s life. Opinions ranged from assertions that social activism is THE business of every Christian, to assertions that an over-emphasis on it presents a great risk to “true” Christian living. With, of course, many stages in between.
I recognize in myself a defensiveness toward pressures to social activism. I feel guilty about it. Over the years, I have put myself into various venues – a career in the field of social services, volunteering in various programs – and while this salves my conscience somewhat, in the long run it makes matters worse, because I am always brought to the realization that I am just not very good at this sort of thing. I begin feeling like a failure as a Christian. And then the defensiveness kicks in, and I begin saying, “Yeah, but I do have gifts that are other than that, and maybe some of us are just not called to activism, but to other kinds of ministry.” And then begins an internal argument about “my” gifts and whether I am using them well, and whether they are really what God wants from me, or are they just excuses to stay in my comfort zone?
One of the distinctions that I think needs to be made is that between personal, individual service, and service programs. I believe God brings particular people and situations into our lives and expects us to respond in love, however that may best be manifested by us. But I have a deep skepticism about service programs (no doubt a result of seeing the reality of government programming in my career). They seem to get so quickly off-track, and then one is committed to something that really isn’t effective in feeding the poor, or whatever the goal is. Yet, there are programs that do very good work, and there are people, I am confident, who are called to this kind of ministry.
So what say you all? There is surely a gospel emphasis on feeding the poor, healing the sick, welcoming the outcast, etc. How do you view your responsibilities as a Christian (or not) in meeting this demand?