Advocacy: public support for or recommendation of a particular cause or policy (Merriam Webster Dictionary)
I have a confession. I came late to Christian advocacy – or public advocacy of any kind. I certainly felt angry and moaned and complained about injustices I saw. Moreover, I was (and still am) an expert at participating in righteously indignant conversations with people with whom I agree. But as it has been humorously observed, there is a limited amount of effectiveness in “vehemently agreeing” with each other. I am an introvert of northern European heritage, who is a bit conflict averse, for heaven’s sake. Shouldn’t I just leave anything further to someone else?
Come to find out, no. Often, no.
Remember abolition; the labor rights movement; the ending of apartheid in South Africa; the U.S. civil rights movement; the Good Friday peace agreement in Northern Ireland? What did these all have in common?
Among other factors, these events came to pass because people of faith worked in community to accompany and publicly support principles and policies of equity and justice. In each movement, Christians put aside differences and worked for the sake of peace and justice because of their faith in a loving, welcoming, justice-seeking God. In some contexts, Lutherans and other Christians joined movements after it was gaining momentum. In others, people of faith were at the table from the start, standing in succession with the prophets and Jesus, calling out what they felt Jesus and the scriptures required of them.
For changes to be created for the environment, LGBTQIA inclusion, homelessness, hunger, or any pressing issue involving communities, I believe we need to look closely at causes of injustice and be willing to address the causes themselves. There is simply no way to do that without bringing this into the public sphere. There are many ways to respond to injustice, but when we respond together and publicly to shift the world toward God’s beloved community, we are more effective.
So why do public advocacy as a Christian?
1. Creating justice required Jesus and prophets to advocate for those on the margins. “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to preach.” We have been given that same Spirit.
2. We believe [at Our Redeemer’s] that God’s good news is for all, not some. Our mission statement reminds us that we have Christian community “for the life of the world.” The kindom of God moves us out of complacency and cynicism to a growing life that is bigger than we can imagine.
3. Advocacy helps us listen to, support, and love our neighbors. “This is the greatest commandment” Plus, it’s fun!
Christian advocacy allows us to have a bigger impact on the world’s injustices. One person addressing another is an excellent beginning. In the Jewish tradition, there is no faith without community. We belong to God and to each other. We belong to Christ, who gave his life for the world.
When Jesus left his earthly life, he assured his fearful disciples they would not be alone. “I do not leave you as orphans”, he says in the Gospel of John, “I will ask the Father and he will send the Spirit” or the advocate. In some translations, the word used is “the helper”. The advocate came to comfort and accompany the disciples as they went into the world. As if to clarify, after the resurrection, Jesus tells his followers, “feed my sheep.” Jesus sent his followers into the world to take care of the world, to attend to the brokenhearted, to bring justice to the poor, recovery of sight to the blind, and to proclaim the year of God’s favor. Jesus was no longer there, but his disciples would be. The same Spirit that Jesus proclaimed would be there to support the world. So let’s go into the world with that Spirit and advocate for those on the margins, work towards righting injustices, and spread God’s love together!