After coming back from my two days at The Justice Conference, I can’t quite decide whether I am more challenged, inspired, frustrated, confused, optimistic, pessimistic or just tired.
I have struggled with what it means to be “A Biblical Activist” for a while. Not because I don’t want to be an activist, or I don’t believe it’s Biblical, or I don’t believe these conversations are important to have until we’re blue in the face – but because I think I’m afraid it’s a fad or we’re talking AROUND a really important conversation that we should just be doing something about. And I go to conferences like this where social justice is something that is praised and affirmed, but come away frustrated because I feel like we’ve spent two days sitting and talking theoretically.
There is one thing we all agree on. In this life, we want to be followers of Christ. And we want to do that to the best of our ability.
But sometimes I think we sit around talking about the most Biblical way to do that. Or we convince ourselves that sitting around a theater listening to other people talk about Justice is actually DOING justice.
I resonate with everything that was said at the Justice Conference. Eugene Cho saying we have a Biblical call to Justice. Donald Miller reminding us that we must work not out of a desire to be successful but out of the passions that God has given us. Bethany Hoang sharing that the things we might view as “small” like prayer – make the biggest impact. And Nicole Baker Fulgham walking us through looking at the larger system to see what type of systemic impact it’s having on the particular issues we care about.
I resonated with Donald Miller when he claimed that to many of us in this world, God is just another product we pick up hoping he’ll improve our life. And when that product does not work like we expect it to, we want to call the better business bureau. Or we tell ourselves we’re not doing it right, or we repress those feelings and pretend it IS working so the world will not see our dissatisfaction. But God is not a product, and sometimes we have to realize that the things of this world won’t go our way, and that’s why we have injustice in the first place.
I guess when I go to conferences like these I understand it is hard to meet everyone where they are at – but I think we do an injustice to ourselves when we just sit in a dark theater and listen to motivational speeches. What we need to be doing is networking and dialoguing and sharing resources and best practices and horror stories so others don’t have to go through our same mistakes. We need to be on the streets DOING justice.
The conference was held in the middle of downtown LA. And we didn’t once talk about our immediate surrounding area. Not once did we pause from all our good talking and patting ourselves on the back to go out and talk to the homeless people or drug addicts sleeping on the sidewalk right outside the front doors.
So I don’t know what this means for me as I go from here. I guess that all of these conversations felt very intangible to me. The reason I loved being an “Activist” in the traditional sense of the word is because I believe so passionately that God loves the world and desires to change it – tangibly – and move in giant ways.
There has to be space to encourage one another to keep moving in this walk toward Biblical justice – to come and be refreshed. But how do we make sure that we are not attending conferences like this for our own benefit to make ourselves feel good and are really moving one step closer to the Biblical justice we feel God has called us to?