[OPINION] Activism as a call from Christianity
The underlining thesis statement of Christianity is love. The worn-out rhetoric of religion has cemented its place across cultures as a call to love, a call to forgive, and a call to respect. In the Philippines, Catholicism envelopes our society, blanketing our politics and everyday life with the constant ringing of God. We cannot move without His followers hovering over our shoulders, providing moral codes and belief systems to which we can attune ourselves. However, a consequence of religion is the man-made machinery through which we are silenced. (READ: [OPINION] Should Christians protest?)
Stitched in the very fabric of Christianity is passivity. We mistake our silence for peace and activism as disruption. The version of love that we have weathered is one that sets our radicalism into stasis. We overrule progress to preserve tradition and in doing so, have isolated entire populations from understanding God, and Jesus who was an activist Himself.
More religious people than I would call this year a reckoning. A plague of Biblical scale, as if we are all new Moseses awaiting our Exodus. The natural progression of current events, from social movements across the United States to our own political instability, makes one almost feel helpless. In the Philippines, the unfolding of the COVID-19 pandemic has further harmed our most vulnerable sectors and heightened the need for proper social and economic safeguards.
Groups from the private sector have been moved into action through donation drives and initiatives. The secular term for this is civic engagement. In Christianity, we may liken this to charity or helping one’s neighbor. But is charity enough?
Calling your aid “charity” posits a hierarchy between you and the ones you choose to help. Charity positions the organizers at a place of superiority, despite how pure one’s intentions are. Catholicism calls this mission as every good Catholic’s duty. We must feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, shelter the homeless, visit the sick – the list goes on. But is it not the most Christian thing to advocate for a love so radical, it dismantles broken systems that situate the vulnerable at a level of poverty beyond redemption? Is it not the most Christian thing to heed to Jesus’ call of activism and nurture our rage with a love that emboldens us to hold abuse to account? (READ: [OPINION] Christians can do more than protest)
In the endless retellings of Jesus’ story as a figure who is both completely human and completely God –it is not difficult to imagine how He would respond to our social unrest. He would not even stop at calling it social unrest, He would be marching at every protest and every rally. He would hold placards up, fearless, advocating for the minorities being attacked. This is love too.
God knew that in order to understand the entirety of human experience, His son would have to completely live the experience of the poor, the oppressed, and the vulnerable. It would have made more sense, narratively speaking, that God’s son would have been born a prince, adorned with earthly riches, or play the role as one of the Three Kings rather than the baby in the manger. But of course, God knows all.
Christianity, as an agent of conservatism, has propagated the belief that silence in the name of diplomacy is the more attractive, more palatable version of peace. We are lulled into a comfortable stagnation through this process. Our culture has fostered this passivity, valuing an appeased community over the loud, unattractive demand for change. Activism here is seen as an ugly, violent thing. It disturbs the peace, but does not disturb our collective psyche enough to lead to a concrete revamping of our systems.
We have swallowed the realities of our impoverished country as normal, almost inevitable. Even in the pursuit of a “new normal,” we have only widened the gaps between our sectors, systematically barring the poor from amassing the economic, social, and cultural capital necessary to mobilize through society. Perhaps as a Christian, the evolution of a new normal also poses a challenge for us to take our works of mercy further and reorient them as work towards holistic social development. And maybe this can begin with simply taking a different stand, despite an upbringing that teaches you otherwise. Engaging in these difficult conversations with our family, friends, and especially our enemies. Utilizing one’s resources to organize and regroup within our local communities. Amplifying the stories of the sectors we seek to help, understanding them as people and not simply as statistics. Just as Jesus would.
If our shared histories have taught us anything, it is that paralyzing fear only fosters faith. Courage, hope, and love are overlooked as clichés to cling onto. But as the world has taught us before and God continues to remind us, even faith as small as a mustard seed moves mountains. Imagine the world we could reinvent together. – Rappler.com
Sofia Guanzon is an aspiring writer (among other things), but for now, she's a student preoccupied with learning how to put her idealism to practice.