This blog post is Part 9 in a 12-part blog series on Christianity and justice. (If you missed the first post, you can find it here.) In these final blog posts, we are talking about how to actually implement justice into our everyday lives. In the previous post, we talked about the importance of engaging with an attitude of humility. In this post, we will tackle the issue of where to focus your energy.
When people think about making justice a core part of their faith journey and life, it is easy to get overwhelmed. There are so many injustices and problems in the world. Where do you start? Should you focus on one specific issue, or split your time, energy, and money across several different issues?
My recommendation is to incorporate justice into your life at two different levels or tiers. First is the level of general support. There might be some justice causes you support from a distance, but are not intimately involved in. For example, you might support these justice causes through your discussions with friends, family, and colleagues, your vote, or your money. At this level of support, I think it is great to be involved a wide range of causes. Support from a distance doesn’t require much time and energy, so you can support a variety of things. Also, support from a distance allows you to learn more about the problem and cause, which might lead to more intensive involvement in the future.
Second is the level of engaged advocacy. Engaged advocacy involves a higher level of support—often involving a greater investment in time, energy, and resources. Engaged advocacy usually involves personal connection, relationships, and volunteering. Because of the increased investment required, you may only be able to be involved in one or two justice causes in this deeper way.
How do you decide what justice causes to support in a deeper, more involved way? When making these decisions, it is important to listen to your heart. What issues move you? What problems make you stand up and say “This has to change! Something must be done about this!” Sometimes it can be helpful to think about the ways that you have been oppressed, or think about the ways in which your family or friends have been treated unfairly. Other times it is a mission trip, or a particularly moving documentary or book that begins to tug on your heart.
For example, I have a friend who went to India on a mission trip, and was brokenhearted to see women who were caught in sexual slavery. He ended up quitting his job and starting a non-profit to help rescue women caught in sexual slavery and set them up with other ways to make a living. I have another friend who started his tenure-track professor position at the University of Southern Mississippi, right before Hurricane Katrina hit. He decided to dedicate his life to helping faith communities prepare for and recover from disasters. When I was in graduate school in Counseling Psychology, I struggled to align my conservative faith upbringing with the new values I was developing in the area of social justice. Because of that, I have made it part of my mission to help religious folks understand how social justice can be an integral part of their faith.
Whatever issue tugs at your heart the most, that might be a good place to start. Engaged advocacy requires a large amount of time, energy, and resources. If you aren’t involved in an issue that you feel passionately about, it can be easy to lose steam and quit.
Discussion: What do you think about the two-tier model for involvement in justice causes? What issue or issues tug at your heart the most?