Thursday, February 12, 2015

Halfway There

I’ve been researching a lot of writings from the late 1970s, some of which come from social activists of the time. They are focused on land ownership, community organization, and questioning systems that allow people to be systematically exploited. Many of these activists are academics as well, and they are trying to understand how to turn ideas into actions. In one example, a writer points out what his colleagues would call a perfect opportunity; a small community, exploited by industry and suffering from poor health, poor education, and generational poverty, ignited. They gathered. They did something. Unfortunately, that thing was burn some books. The writer notes that all was in place for the socialist revolution his colleagues wanted, and yet, some other group (John Birch Society in this case) stepped in and led the people instead. This was the moment the activists had been waiting for, but nothing came of it because they were all watching at a distance, hoping their dream would happen naturally.

There are two steps to activism: education and action. That seems simple enough, however, it gets vastly complex in practice. Who directs the education? How much education is needed before someone is ready for action? Can action precede education? What are the consequences of too little or too much of either? For me, I can get caught in the trap of the education stage. There is always more to learn, more context, changing demographic, new information and theories. I will never feel fully prepared, thus, I will not feel prepared enough for action. On the other hand, there are those who rush into any battle, ready to rage and burn books and upturn the system without a solid foundation of understand or goals to accompany their actions. Neither is going to bring about the best change in the world.

Christianity is activism. It is a movement of the people, rejecting the system of sin and death that enslaves us. In converting others, we are spreading liberation. And like any activist issue, it requires education and action. Without education, there is heresy. Without action, there are lost souls. And again, I’m trapped at stage one, convinced that I’m not quite ready for the action part yet. I’m afraid of foolish errors, of making misinformed change, of winding up burning books. There is always more to know. Cloister me in a library and let me watch the revolution from a distance.

However, I know that is wrong. Unapplied knowledge won’t change anything. Action must be taken. How? I don’t know yet. But I see the importance, the necessity, of actually doing something. I’m ready to throw up barricades when I hear the call.

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