If people ask me what my job is, if I am feeling timid or don’t wish to pursue the conversation, I might say I am retired. If I am braver or wanting to engage further, I might say I am a Community Activist, realizing I might need to elaborate. If I am really brave and want to provoke a robust exchange I might say I am a Gospel Preaching Community Activist. For me preaching the gospel (see here for what that entails) is of paramount importance. Also, for the past fifteen years or so, I have been involved in an effectively full time capacity in community work, trying to make a difference to my community. The link between community activism and gospel preaching is that the latter informs the former. It seems to me that as Christians, we are called both to spread “the Word” and to love our neighbor, which has, if we are honest with ourselves, any number of implications.
It has been a bit of a bug bear of mine for some time that we can so easily attach labels to ourselves and others, and while this can be helpful in trying to understand “where people come from”, it can also be a misleading distraction, especially if terms aren’t defined. For example, the term “conservative” and “liberal” conjures up certain images whereby we begin to compartmentalize what someone believes and how he/she is likely to act. When it comes to both religion and politics, if one were to choose which label to attach to me, it is more likely to be conservative rather than liberal on both counts, although if I am in truly conservative company, I might well be regarded as a liberal. The reason I am thinking along these lines is that my community activism has touched on areas where applying conservative or liberal values can be an issue (although thinking about it, it shouldn’t be if our motives are right), and sometimes it can create barriers, so I feel an explanation is necessary.
Of the two big votes in the past year, I have already stated that after giving these matters a good deal of thought that in the end I sided with favouring Brexit and a Trump presidency as opposed to Remain and a Clinton presidency, and one reason for this might be is that I tend to hold more conservative rather than liberal values and honestly believe that this will be better for the community. Yet I am also aware that some of the people I associate with (and respect) while going about my gospel preaching and community activism think a lot differently, and this ought not be a barrier. What matters is that people get to hear the good news and our community benefits by our efforts. The approach I find usually works best for me, working and rubbing shoulders with those of all faiths and none as I do, is adopting the common ground, shared humanity principle.
As I ponder on those things that matter, I recognize that I need to be, for want of a better word, a good person that shows love, and all too often I fall short and must do better. The famous words of St. Paul about love are ever applicable: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails”. I think you get the drift.
There are other needful virtues that also come to mind, e.g. righteousness, justice, truth and humility. It seems to me that these ought to have a high place when going about my every day tasks as a gospel preaching, community activist. When it comes to aligning with a particular political personality, e.g. Donald Trump, rest assured I do so at best with reservations, and I try to come to a view (which is likely to be a mixed one) trying to apply these afore-mentioned principles. The same goes with particular political ideologies, e.g. Brexit, globalism and environmentalism.
When asked whose side I am on, without wanting to appear smart or sanctimonious, I am inclined to say: God’s, or at least try to be. When it comes to peoples or ideologies I work under and with, I try to respect all, especially those in authority but, in the words of St. Thomas More, I must say: “I am God’s servant first”. It seems to me part of serving God is serving others from the very least to the very highest. Applying Jesus teaching in the Parable of the Unprofitable servant, I aspire to join those who say: “We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do”.