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Have Christians Assumed a �Slacktivist� Approach to Their Faith?

April 22, 2012
S. Michael Craven
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Slacktivism, a term coined in the mid 1990s, refers to the increasingly popular phenomenon of casual activism that is so easily accommodated by the Internet. Critics argue that slacktivists will eagerly click “like” on an issue or cause on Facebook and passionately promote it but do little or nothing in terms of meaningful activity that actually makes a difference. 

Slacktivists, critics argue, have their consciences pricked by some appeal to moral outrage over this or that issue only to satiate their moral response through the benign act of “sharing” on Facebook. As a result, the slacktivist feels as if he has done good when in reality he’s done nothing of any consequence.  

The recent “Kony 2012” campaign is one such example. This online campaign, which was produced and launched by a nonprofit organization called Invisible Children, went viral in February and March of this year, reaching millions of viewers who were encouraged to share the video on their Facebook pages. The campaign seeks the arrest of Ugandan guerrilla group leader and head of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) Joseph Kony before the end of 2012. 

Following the massive media coverage, celebrities like Justin Bieber, Diddy, and Nicki Minaj were quick to “tweet” their support, and millions of (mostly young) people shared the video campaign on their Facebook pages, pleading for “justice” from the confines of their comfortable homes in an act that literally took seconds—and then they were done. 

Advocates of the Kony 2012 campaign argued that awareness was their goal and to that end they were no doubt successful; but any real solution to tyranny and injustice demands much more than mere awareness. Unbeknown to most, the US government deployed one hundred Special Forces troops last October to East Africa in an effort to track and capture Kony and his top commanders. It is unlikely that any of those who participated in the online campaign were rushing to enlist in that effort.

I tend to agree with the critics of slacktivism. Americans today seem to have a much greater tendency toward arms-length engagement with issues and needs that involve no real effort or sacrifice on their part. It isn’t that there is an absence of issues and needs; they abound, and the relative feelings remain intense. In short, Americans still seem to have strong opinions and positions on any number of issues but lack the convictions to act.

Something has changed in American culture and I wonder if this same passivity is not present in large order within the church today. 

Being Christian does not allow for mere intellectual agreement or belief apart from obedience and action. To follow Christ is to surrender to one’s own comfort, desires, and interests and instead assume the interests of Jesus. Doing this no doubt demands sacrifice in one form or another. My friend David Bryant rightly refers this as a “consequential Christology.” 

However, a slacktivist approach to the Christian faith may lead one to think that occasional participation in a mission trip or regular church attendance will satisfy one’s obligations to God and leave him free to live life on his own terms. 

The famous German theologian and martyr Dietrich Bonheoffer referred to this as “cheap grace.” Accommodations to self and culture in lieu of obedience to Christ are an affront to the gospel. We who were once dead have been made alive in Christ to bear witness to what life looks like under the rule and reign of God. This demands much more than voluntary participation in the church calendar or self-directed efforts at outward piety. 

The committed Christian begins by recognizing his desperate condition of sin and alienation from God. There is a profound sense of shame that leads one to repentance for having offended a holy God, followed by the humble recognition of God’s great mercy in which he bore our punishment. This summarizes the story of his grace and leads us to the end of our selves in a lifelong quest for holiness—a relationship in which the Christian seeks daily dependence upon God and pleads for the grace to be transformed into his likeness for his glory and use. 

This is your new reality that is salvation in Christ—a reality in which the orientation of your life and all of its activity is now directed toward the redemptive mission of Christ. For the faithful Christian this is not drudgery, but rather the joyful expression of one’s gratitude toward so great a Savior!

But this means sacrifice! We sacrifice our interests, plans, and desires in exchange for what interests him, for his plan in the world; his desires become ours. In other words, your life no longer belongs to you but to him who has saved you (see 1 Cor. 6:19–20, Gal. 2:20).

Friends, it isn’t enough to “like” God or “friend” Jesus. We must love him, and to love him is to obey him (see John 14:15, 21, 23), and to obey him is to act with love on behalf of others.

© 2012 by S. Michael Craven

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Response from : Matthew Dernier  

April 23, 2012 9:55 AM

Michael, another well-reasoned and thoughtful article. I must confess that the issue you raised in your article resonates with me. I often wonder whether my acts for the Kingdom are worthy (i.e., in accord with His will, meaningful, of sufficient magnitude, etc.). So much of my waking hours (maybe 50% over 1 year) seems to be directed to making a living and providing food, shelter, clothing for my family, and saving for education and retirement. The remaining time is spit among family-time, serving the church, and other things. I often ask whether this what the Lords wants of me. I ponder, whether I should leave my profession, sell all of my possessions, and live a completely different life. Consequently, I often pray for the Lord to speak to me on the issue, and for the wisdom and courage to hear Him. Perhaps I am deaf and/or unwise, because I do not hear with clarity. Thank you ringing the bell on this one, Michael. On reflection, I suppose that this response of mine (apart from any other action) is the equivalent of a like on Facebook!

Response from : Doc B  

April 23, 2012 10:49 AM

Amen Brother,
It is a continual battle against the flesh to truly submit and to give yourself to the benefit of others while we walk this earth and yet there is no greater reward.

Response from : Ron Reid  

April 23, 2012 12:15 PM

Perhaps worthy of note is that continual service does not have to be of the "spectacular activism" variety. Teaching Sunday School or doing church-cleaning detail, for example, are monumental and necessary services to the King. Sundays roll around once a week, so signing on to an active weekly position leaves no opportunity to slack off. Every church desperately seeks faithful helpers in these areas.

Response from : stella price  

April 24, 2012 6:57 AM

Thank you for writing this article. I had not heard the term "slacktivist" (I think it was) before but it does denote how most of us respond to issues. I, too, respond by "sharing" with Facebook, yet I think
most of us assimilate the information and share and sometimes act when we feel that we can do something. Many of us have rarely experienced positive results of our action and we get trapped into thinking "What can we do about it?'
We admire those who can but lack the
experience or vision to actually do something.
But God can show us if we are willing. My husband and I recently went to North Korea to a university where so many people are making a difference. He is going to help set up a medical clinic. I wondered what I could do, and I realized that sometimes a simple encouraging word, a prayer, and your presence can be "action".
God help us all to know what we can do and serve Him in His strength, for most of us have such little. We can do all things through Him.
Stella Price

Response from : Greg Williams  

April 24, 2012 9:25 AM

Once again an excellent, provocative and much needed article for the churches of today!

In light of the cheap grace, weak or non-existent discipleship under Christ's Lordship and therefore, a real dearth of true servant-leadership across our land, including many of the churches, the Lord laid on my heart an initial thought when I was asked to share at a church recently. It is entitled 'True Authority' which is the clear thoughts the Spirit laid on my heart when praying about what He wanted me to present to this church body after I'd finished a "Love and Lordship" retreat weekend with them. It is a short (at this point) 7-part 'prayer blog' series. I'd like to send it to you but don't want to presume. Please let me know if you'd like to review it (slightly less than 3 pages total) and let me know what you think?!? If so, let me know the best way to send it to you and thanks again for your truthful, bold and Spirit led stand for Christ and His Church! Have a great day and God bless in Christ!

Response from : Dave Telling  

April 24, 2012 4:29 PM

Hello Mike,
I'm one of the guilty "slacktivists", and haven't much of an excuse for it other than laziness. One thing that I think is common in things such as these is that too often, no real action items are offered, other than, "share it with your friends". I believe that if more effort was made by the originators to tell people exactly what concrete actions they could do that would help in a particular situation, they might see more response. For example - I've seen ads for Smile Train pop up a lot - I could just say I "like" Smile Train, but they ask specifically for donations, and I finally did. If I had just seen an article about poor kids with disfiguring cleft palates, I probably would have said, "Oh, too bad..." and moved on. By having the up-front "Here's how you can help" (kind of like the World Vision ads against child slavery and human trafficking)I think that more will actually do something useful. At the risk of sinking further into the abyss, I'll post a link to this article on my Facebook page. Who knows, maybe someone will read it and decide to actually do something more than "like" it.

Response from : rosa esther herrera  

April 28, 2012 8:42 AM

http://I think God heard my prayer for more preacher preach that way because now preacher accommodate the word according to the easy grace full but they don't realized that that grace cost sacrifice discipline and time it was not as easy as it is paint do what you can or want god forgives you any way salvation was paid because you receive an important gift such as our salvation to take good care by doing


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