Casual Activism: Our Superficial Passion for Justice

Our world today is filled with injustice and suffering on all fronts. It seems that today more energy is harnessed fighting issues such as AIDS, hunger, poverty, abortion, human trafficking, and isolation than ever before in the history of the world. Look around. Just about every company, band or organization is supporting such a cause, whether domestic or international. Our current generation is also by far the busiest—we multitask on our iPads and iPhones in order to accomplish more, faster. Yet in our constant use of gadgets, we begin to be pulled away from the human element and the real suffering. We have great plagues in our time, and yet we have reduced them to numbers on a screen.

To clarify, there is nothing inherently wrong with social media campaigns, fundraising, or raising awareness. Yet in focusing so intently on these pursuits, we have often grown callous to the suffering in our own backyards—in particular, abortion and human trafficking.

AIDS in Africa, poverty in India, and orphanry in Syria are all problems that require our help. But for most of us, physically travelling there isn’t an option. Certainly we can help by donating to reputable organizations that are leading on these causes. The danger in this, though, is that we feel like we are making a difference while being very minimally involved. We drop $10, or like and share a post, none of which requires any real sacrifice from us. We equate a “like” and a “share” with real action or progress. True, those little actions can accumulate into great progress, but in and of themselves they are miniscule. Too often, we can use them as an excuse to say we helped, while in fact we sit on our couch, unmoved by the moral atrocities that continue without end.

As Christians, how should we respond to such casual activism? Do we continue drawing red X’s on our hands, Instagramming the picture, and assuming the “professional” activists will get the job done? There is no such thing as a professional in the fight for justice. Assuming that “they” will get it done is a way of passing off our own responsibilities. God calls us all to be part of His justice.

When Moses objected to God’s call to bring His people out of Egypt, God didn’t respond with, “Well, since you’re a poor communicator, just tweet about it and I’ll get the “professionals” to bring my people out of Egypt.” Instead, He reassured Moses that this task could only be accomplished through the power of God. It had nothing to do with Moses’ gifts or abilities.

Our Crises

In the late 1700s, William Wilberforce called Parliament to account after exposing the horrors of the slave trade. He said to them:

 “The nature and all circumstances of this trade are now laid open to us; we can no longer plead ignorance – we cannot evade it – it is now an object placed before us – we cannot pass it; we may spurn it, we may kick it out of the way, but we cannot turn aside so as to avoid seeing it . . . It is brought now so directly before our eyes, that this House must decide, and must justify to all the world, and to their own consciences, the rectitude of the grounds and principles of their decision”. 

For modern America, this can be applied to both abortion and human trafficking. There have been over 60 million legal abortions performed in this country since 1973. That’s an average of over 1.3 million per year. By comparison, there were six million Jews killed in the Holocaust—500,000 per year on average. This means there have been 240 times more abortions per year than Jews killed in the holocaust. Today we look back on the Holocaust as one of history’s darkest eras, when an entire nation turned a blind eye to utter savagery. The State Department estimates that over 17,500 slaves are brought into the U.S. every year, with 50,000 currently working as prostitutes, farm workers or domestic servants. Thousands of cases go undetected each year. With injustice like this, how can we be content to like, share, tweet, give, or even write without doing so in a way that costs us something? For example, one of the lies that American Evangelicals often buy into is that voting pro-life is the same as being pro-life. It is not. We must begin to take tangible pro-life actions, both inside and outside the political arena; otherwise we will make no progress.

This digital age has enabled us to put up walls, to keep the horrors of injustice at a distance from ourselves—in essence, to stay personally safe. But as Alistair Begg rightly states, “All it takes for evil to triumph is for the righteous to feel nothing, to say nothing, to do nothing.” We must begin to feel again, and when the pain of injustice begins to cut deep, it must impel us to not only speak, but to act. When we do so, it must come from love and a firm conviction that these things ought not be.

May that conviction drive us to live out our biblical ethic of what ought to be.

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