Unless you are the type of person who is naturally drawn to politics, the world of policy advocacy can seem like an alternate universe. I think this is the case, at least in part, because we view the political world through a television or computer screen. We see this work as something that someone else does, people with more power, skills, or money than we have. We live in a representative democracy. We have folk knowledge about what it means to live in a democracy, but may feel incapable of exacting change because we feel removed and helpless. We are told to vote, that our voice matters. I have wondered if this was true on more than one occasion! We elect representatives that go from a robocall to a ballot box to a screen and from there, where? It is easy to think our voice no longer matters once the person we voted for appears (or does not appear) on my screen. The next layer of frustration can occur when we see our representatives failing to act on social evils and issues important to us, like modern-day human slavery.
Pundits, commentators, and comedians can make their living on our fear, frustration, and disconnection to the political arena. Worse yet, our fear can lead us to acts of dehumanizing each other as well as our elected officials over this disconnection. We treat these women and men as if they were not also made in the image of God and in need of our love and prayers. After all, they become unreal, occupying a screen and not a real place in our everyday world. The discussion of identity and responsibility in 1 Peter 2 would be a good place to start for further reading and contemplation.
The greatest reason to overcome these internal and external barriers is for the sake of the suffering and to be a part of the work of the Christ who suffered. In a representative democracy and in the kingdom of God, our work is not done once we “vote” for Jesus or the right candidate. The Holy Spirit is at work and the kingdom of God is both now and not yet! The prayer of Jesus in John 17 makes it clear that his disciples were not going to be removed from this world and that this was not ever his intention. In Jesus Christ, we have the greatest intercessor and abolitionist for our freedom! It is our privilege and function to model our lives after the life of Christ.
Organizations like International Justice Mission and Shared Hope International will help you and your sphere of influence intercede and advocate for those who are enslaved. Take the time to explore their resources and allow them to help you and your sphere act for those who need your voice.
Prepared by Amy Smith (MATSJ ’15) and Marie Moy (MATSJ ’15) presenters at the 2015 B.T. Roberts Symposium on the Church, Justice, and the Community.
Find out more about the Master of Arts in Theology and Social Justice at Northeastern Seminary.