The Holy Spirit and Activism
It’s taken three days to write this article/blog post, and I’ve only just succeeded in getting something I feel happy with, but anyhow, I’d like lots of comments on this one so I can actually rewrite it into something much better explained. It was, in part, inspired by the experience of attending “Worship Central” when it came to York last week, and thinking through Tim Hughes and Al Gordon’s talk (focused on worship) and how it spoken very directly to my life as an activist. Please note, many of the concepts in this post (and some of the language) is going to make no sense to anyone not already a Christian.
Amongst the areas of the church most interested in challenging injustice and calling the governments account, the Charismatic movement very often seems to be part of that “other side of the church”, the indulgent, middle-class religion that seeks to ignore reality.
Witness the arrival of Tim Hughes and Matt Redman at Greenbelt the first year I went: most of my activist friends expressed opinions ranging from utter contempt, even outrage to mild amusement. Broadly speaking, it was seen as a threat, an incursion into their sanctuary. Whilst Greenbelt on a corporate level does seem to be attempting to gather in wider audiences, and is in part responsible for the rising interest in justice issues in the wider church, it was clear that to most, to many it seems that combining the two seems a step too far.
Aside from personal taste and some bad experiences, I’ve never really worked out how it is one can divorce the Charismatic, experiential side of Christianity from the compassionate, transformative and justice-driven aspects. If the heart of a justice-driven gospel is a God who becomes human and walks amongst us, personally relating to us, challenging hierarchies, prejudices and exclusion, and we recognise the importance of the human aspect of Christ, surely a personal and intimate experience of the divine is important in our walk of faith?
Much time is often given at events for Christian Activists to “reflect”, which in some ways feels quite a passive thing to be doing. Sure, we need time to stop and relax, and too many good activists are lost to burn-out. But what I see so very little of, sadly, is stopping to pray that God might send down his spirit, and then actively waiting on his presence. This active-waiting, rather than passive-resting, is an activity which makes sense for activists precisely because we’re not the passive consumer-churchgoers.
The words of the song “strength will rise as we wait upon the Lord” come to mind: yes, one can reflect upon events, upon bible passages and song words, but there is real strength to be found in an activism born of exposure to the heart of God, and to the power of His Spirit. One can very usefully reflect upon the statistics of global injustice, and the Gospel-imperative to bring sight to the blind and set the captives free, but to only do so lacks the connection to a living God, capable of drawing along side us, of preparing our hearts and our hands to do what is best for those around us as humans (as opposed to statistics). If we want to understand God’s heart for the poor, simple reflection is not enough; what is required is encounter.
When Jesus tells his disciples he is returning to his father permanently, he tells them that he will send a helper. Perhaps this clue to the purpose of the Holy Spirit should incline us to earnestly seek his manifest presence that we might be given vision and strength to bring about a Justice that goes beyond “national interest” and leads us to pursue Kingdom value, whereby the first are last, and our hearts truly desire a realignment of values away from hierarchies and profit and towards equality and a declaration of a real, physical, political and economic “Jubilee”.