February 13, 2011 / Praxis
An interview between TOJ Editor-in-Chief Chris Keller and the author of GENERATION EX-CHRISTIAN, Drew Dyck.
August 8, 2005
The following 14 reflections were presented at Seattle Pacific University’s Faith/Learning Forum on the 27th of October, 2005.
1. The “faithful” are called to seek peace and justice in many faith traditions outside of Christianity (e.g., see Carmody and Carmody. Peace and Justice in the Scriptures of the World Religions: Reflections on Non-Christian Scriptures. NY: Paulist Press, 1988.)
2. Seeking peace and justice should extend to all God’s creation, not to human creatures alone. “For God so loved the world (i.e., cosmos: ‘the world and all its inhabitants’)…” (John 3:16).
3. Human rights activism (i.e., service) regardless of outcome, is inextricably linked with Christian Spirituality. It is serving God’s righteousness, justice, and compassion. “…what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8). It is following the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth (John 13:12-17). It is an instrument of God for intervening into a world of need. That is, we are to be “the salt of the earth,” and “the light of the world” (Matthew 5-7). We are called to activism, not in spite of our Christian spirituality, but because of that spirituality.
4. Human rights activism is loving our neighbor. “You shall love the Lord your God…You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets” (Matthew 22:34-40). We must evaluate our attitudes, behavior, theology, political positions, and so on, against this ultimate of standards.
5. Human rights activism founded in Christian faith does not require that all questions be answered before acting; in fact, the activism itself leads to new perspectives on the God of the universe. These new perspectives in turn lead to modifications in our motivations and choices for action. This is the praxis model of activism taught to us by brothers and sisters in the Two-Thirds (i.e., Developing) World. We move from a focus on the application of orthodoxy (correct belief) to orthopraxis (correct reflection—action, action—reflection)
6. Empathy motivates human rights activism, and the life of Jesus of Nazareth was the ultimate model of empathy (Philippians 2:5-8). God intimately understands the world’s suffering; after all God through Jesus entered human history and became its victim. Jesus suffered torture and execution at the hands of the political authorities. He died a political death on a Roman cross. Empathy leads to choices which promote the personhood of victims of injustice. Personhood can be lost in rational, prudent arguments.
7. Human rights activism must be taken seriously. The life or well-being of persons is at stake–persons who have just as much value in God’s eyes and who have just as much right to happiness as we do. It is sobering to realize that perpetrators of violence, of injustice also are valued in God’s eyes. “…in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
8. Once committed to human rights activism, there can be no turning back, unless we just as actively deny God’s righteousness, justice, and compassion.
9. Commitment to justice for prisoners of conscience and to abolishment of torture and execution (Amnesty International’s mandate) will generalize to other arenas of injustice.
10. A cautionary note. Our human frailties require that we be selective in our commitments. We cannot be involved in all worthy causes. Even Jesus in the midst of his ministry tired, sought solitude, and needed refreshment and restoration.
11. Commitment to justice must lead to self-evaluation. Are our values ultimately exploitive? Are our lifestyles at the expense of others whose basic human rights are being violated?
12. Human rights activism leads to a lessening of nationalistic attitudes. We are bound in a common struggle with others from around the world for others from around the world. In addition we begin to realize that the national self-interest of our own country may be part of the problem, not the solution. Patriotism is not unreflective nationalism or blind allegiance. It is being a “good” (or committed) citizen of one’s country. And a good citizen? Active and critical participation.
13. Our efforts on behalf of human rights should be characterized by effective and hard work—yes, but also by humility, respect, and gratitude. We are privileged to serve and learn from persons suffering injustice. With Jesus of Nazareth we are to be on our knees washing feet (John 13:1-20)—not with hearts and minds towering above, but at “knee level.” The upside-down kingdom of Jesus Christ is found in Hannah’s prayer of praise (I Samuel 2:1-10), Mary’s Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55), the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), Jesus with the Samaritan woman (John 4:1-42), and so on.
14. God calls us to be faithful. The ultimate value is in serving God’s righteousness, justice, and compassion regardless of how successful or unsuccessful our efforts appear. It is helpful to remember that the Christian movement began with its teacher killed and his followers scattered. By God’s grace and power, it did not end there.