Los Alamos Church of Christ
The morning is September 11th. It is the 15th anniversary of 9/11. The September attack on the Twin Towers is one of those events where you remember where you were when you first saw the towers fall. I was working out upstairs, when Tanya told me to turn on the TV. Then, I saw the tower falling behind the reporter. I was shocked, as I tell the reporter to turn around the building is falling. That day terrorists killed 2,977 people. It was an attack that changed the country.
I mention this as my first example of what activists do. My goal, this morning, is to show the impact the Activist temperament can have on the world. Certainly, 9/11 was extreme. It was terrible. The attack was evil. I remember hearing the word “evil” on television for the first time in a long time. It certainly was evil. That terrorism was based upon, I believe, demon-inspired theology.
But here is the point…
Activists can have a powerful impact on the world. I would advocate that… Every significant/big thing in the world that has been changed, for good or bad, has been changed by the Activist temperament.
Let’s explore what it means to be an Activist.
Activists are invigorated by confrontation. While many of us are exhausted by conflict - so we attempt to avoid it - the activist is energized through opposition. They are anxious to argue. They have strong opinions, especially about their “causes”. Activists need a cause. They need to have a purpose for their activism to adopt. They look for opportunities to bring up their cause. Conversations with activists typically end up talking about their cause. They are passionate. Real activists with legitimate causes are tenacious. They are not so much concerned that they are liked personally, as much as they are concerned about doing what is right. They will often use right and wrong language.
The causes that activate activists often gravitate toward things that are unfair. There are inequities in our society that need to be leveled. There is injustice that needs to be made right. There are groups of people who are oppressed because they are weak. There are things that are just wrong that need to be fixed. Certainly in every age this is true. Until the kingdom of God is fulfilled on this earth, there will always be a need for activists. This sense of justice drives them to action.
Apathy is the opposite of activism. They cannot understand apathy. How can the rest of us ignore this wrong? Why don’t you help me fix what is broken. Let’s stand up and pay the price to address this injustice. To the Activist… indifference is sin. They may be right. They want others to join them on their crusade to right what is wrong.
Remember, this year is “Connections”.
All of us learn to connect to God through our temperaments…
--The Intellectual connects through knowing God; there is joy in learning about God. – Knowing nod.
--The Caregiver connects in serving Jesus. There is joy in serving Jesus by serving the needy. - Give yourself a hug.
--The Traditionalist connects through the symbols of faith. There is joy in the traditional rituals. – Hand of God sign
--The Enthusiast connects in the praise of mystery. There is enthusiastic joy in celebration. – Whoop whoop.
--The Sensate connects in creating beauty. Ooooh… Aaah…
--The Ascetic connects in the discipline of solitude… a space is created while doing a million boring things. The Ascetic is… quiet…
--The Naturalist temperament connects through stepping into the thin place of worship in God’s creation. The Naturalist says… “Wow, look at that…”
--The Contemplative directly connects to their passionate lover by saying… “I love you.”
So, the Activist joins the LORD in confrontation with evil. They say… Let’s change it!
When the activist, when the Christian Activist, is confronting wrong there is solidarity with the Holy LORD who is Just. Our God is Holy. So, we must be holy. Our God sides with the oppressed. There is connection to God when those who oppress are confronted. The Activist must make that connection. It is not only about righting wrong Activism is also about aligning with God. It is about connections.
In order to get the flavor of what an activist does, I am going to share two activist stories. The first is political, the second social. Note that. Many activists are not political, some are. I want you to understand that many Christian Activists are moved in compassion for the oppressed and move in non-political ways. But this first story is of a political Activist.
Perhaps, my favorite historical Activist is William Wilberforce.
In the late 1700s, when William Wilberforce was a teenager, English traders raided the African coast and captured between 35,000 and 50,000 Africans a year. They would brutally remove these people from their families, their homes, their loved ones and stuff them into a hold of a ship. Many would die in the crossing because of the terrible conditions. They were shipped across the Atlantic and sold into slavery. It was a profitable business. Many powerful people became wealthy on this slave trade. The economy of the Caribbean and much of the Americas was based upon slaves.
By the late 1700s, the economics of slavery were so entrenched that only a handful of people thought anything could be done about it. That handful included William Wilberforce.
This would have surprised those who knew Wilberforce as a young man. He was born into wealth. His family was wealthy enough to send him to St. John's College at Cambridge. But he wasn't a serious student. Today we might call him… a partyer.
Yet, Wilberforce had political ambitions… because he had an Activist Temperament. But early on he had no cause. Later, he admitted, "The first years in Parliament I did nothing—nothing to any purpose. My own distinction was my darling object." He liked the prestige of being in parliament.
Until the Easter of 1786…
In 1786 he began to examine his life. He later wrote "I am sure that no human creature could suffer more than I did for some months." His unnatural gloom lifted on Easter 1786, "amidst the general chorus with which all nature seems on such a morning to be swelling the song of praise and thanksgiving." He had experienced a spiritual rebirth.
He began to see his life's purpose: "My walk is a public one," he wrote in his diary. "My business is in the world, and I must mix in the assemblies of men or quit the post which Providence seems to have assigned me."
Then, he met Thomas Clarkson. Clarkson gave him a cause… the issue of slavery. Later he wrote, "So enormous, so dreadful, so irremediable did the trade's wickedness appear that my own mind was completely made up for abolition. Let the consequences be what they would: I from this time determined that I would never rest until I had effected its abolition."
Wilberforce was initially optimistic, even naively so. He expressed "no doubt" about his chances of quick success. As early as 1789, he and Clarkson managed to have 12 resolutions against the slave trade introduced—only to be politically outmaneuvered. The pathway to abolition was blocked by vested interests, parliamentary filibustering, entrenched bigotry, international politics, slave unrest, his own personal sickness, and political fear. Other bills introduced by Wilberforce were defeated in 1791, 1792, 1793, 1797, 1798, 1799, 1804, and 1805.
Through many of those years he was ill. He would spend weeks in bed. During one such time in his late twenties, he wrote, "I am still a close prisoner, wholly unequal even to such a little business as I am now engaged in: add to which my eyes are so bad that I can scarce see how to direct my pen."
He survived this and other bouts of debilitating illness with the help of opium, a new drug at the time, the effects of which were still unknown. Wilberforce soon became addicted, though opium's hallucinatory powers terrified him, and the depressions it caused virtually crippled him at times.
When healthy, however, he was a persistent and effective politician, partly due to his natural charm and partly to his eloquence. His antislavery efforts finally bore fruit in 1807; 18 years after he found his cause. Parliament abolished the slave trade in the British Empire. He then worked to ensure the slave trade laws were enforced. Finally, that slavery in the British Empire was abolished. Wilberforce's health prevented him from leading the last charge, though he heard three days before he died that the final passage of the emancipation bill was ensured.
Understand, slavery had been a part of humanity from the beginning of recorded history. Until William Wilberforce had the most powerful country in the world, at the time, abolish it. From that point on slavery began to be abolished around the world. It was not until 1863, another 56 years before our own country announced the Emancipation Proclamation. Now slavery is outlawed throughout the world.
Activists can have a powerful impact on the world.
My other favorite Activist story is Cinderella.
Remember Cinderella? She is a woman who lives in Kenya. Cinderella, a single mother of 2 used to pound big coral rocks into smaller coral rocks. These rocks are used in concrete. She sold the gravel for 20 cents per 5 gallon bucket to support her family. Every day, all the time, Cinderella used to pound rocks for a living. I say used to.
In our study in the Ascetic temperament, I told you about being able to connect to others through fasting. I talked about while fasting we can connect to others. We can join in their sufferings. Cinderella was a woman we connected to with the Ascetic Temperament.
Here is the rest of her story… It is an Activist Story. Cinderella no longer pounds rocks. The Caris foundation is responsible.
Caris is the organization which my son-in-law, Christopher Harmon is Vice-president. Instead of just giving Cinderella money or other aid to temporally help her, they instead started a bigger program to not only help her, but many other single moms in Kenya.
Cinderella was encouraged to join Mwangaza. Mwangaza is a Swahili word for light. It is a Self Help Micro Finance group. Caris started a small group of women by helping them with an initial loan. Then the women themselves control the group. They give loans to other women to help them start their own businesses. These small businesses then pay back the loans with interest which perpetuates the group. These small groups of women hold themselves accountable. They meet each week to pray for and encourage each other. They are a self-perpetuating group of small business women who help each other.
In April 2011 Cinderella joined the Mwangasa group. She was given a loan to acquire a skill and then begin a business. She became a… beautician. Now, her skills are in demand among members of her community. She runs what we would call a beauty shop. She is sought after by brides for her hair and beauty services. She is now able to take care of her two children who are both in school. She is no longer a rock pounder… she is a small business owner.
Caris, an Activist group, through this program of self-help has over 500 mothers in this micro finance program.
--There are 35 groups which hold over $21,000 of their own money, circulating in the savings and loan program.
--These 35 groups meet weekly where they encourage one another, pray together, contribute to the savings and loan program and monitor the loans, and make plans concerning community needs.
--228 participants have become small business owners.
--Others have become farmers… with an average of 1.3 acres under cultivation per participant.
--Others are ranchers… 8000 chickens owned by participants and sold for income.
--The value of the food production of the participants for 2014 was over $100,000.
A group of Activists, apart from politics, saw oppression, and stepped up with a powerful solution which they have created to change the lives of these oppressed women in Kenya.
A caregiver would have helped Cinderella and that would be wonderful. But Activists seize injustice in order to create opportunities. Now, they help 500 single mothers become independent.
Activists can have a powerful impact on the world.
It is time for the Activist Temperament Test…
Activist Temperament Test
On a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being who you are…
1) I pay attention to current events.
2) When I see injustice I want to do something about it.
3) I belong to or donate money to organizations which work for change.
4) I have a cause or I feel I need one.
5) I write letters to the editor.
6) I see most things in the world as black and white.
7) I get upset when things are not fair.
8) I sympathize with the oppressed of the world.
9) I have strong opinions about stuff.
10) I argue about “issues”.
Add your scores up. Who all is over 50, 60, 70? Put up our score on the chart.
We need our Activists. We need to help them find great causes. We need to enlist in their causes. We need to help them connect to our Holy God. Activists change the world.
Let’s stand and say the Activist Shema
ACTIVIST Mark 12:29-30 “Hear, O Righteous One: The Lord our God, the Lord is your protection.
You shall love the Lord your God…
…with all your heart, loving holiness,
…with all your soul, championing the oppressed,
…with all your mind, focused on truth.
…with all your strength, changing the world.”
My temperament is God’s gift to me.
My temperament is my gift to God.
My temperament is my gift to the body.
My temperament is my gift to the world.
September 11, 2016
Los Alamos Church of Christ