Don’t Be a Racial Justice Slacktivist

by | Aug 25, 2020

Racial Justice Slacktivist? The recent death of John Lewis caused many to reflect on his life and courageous response to violent racism. That’s a good thing—we posted tributes here and here. Congressman Lewis deserved that and more. Many took to social media to express condolences and support. I was one of them.

There’s nothing wrong with supporting a person or cause on social media. Increased awareness and connectivity are good things. But let’s not overestimate their importance.

John Lewis and a group of around 600 marchers crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge and were beaten and jailed for it in 1965. Such was the commitment to racial justice by some just a generation ago. When my parents were children during that same era, proclaiming that each human being bears the image of God—thus entitling every man and woman to equal treatment under the law—was enough to get the dogs turned on you.

Less than a lifetime later, we can praise God that progress has been made.  It was inconceivable 55 years ago that a man like John Lewis would be honored after his death by lying in state.

Let’s be careful not to write ourselves into the right side of history. Lewis and others like him faced tremendous opposition during the civil rights movement, much of it from Christians. It would be a mistake for me and my white brothers and sisters to automatically assume that we would have done the right thing if we lived in that time and place.

That’s where our social media presence comes in. If you use a hashtag, link an article, or press some other button, please don’t mistake yourself for some kind of hero. Jesus warned us about parading supposed righteousness around (Mathew 6:1). Articles are good. You should support good causes. But that support is hollow if it is limited in your life to your social media accounts.

Your love of neighbor must be more than digital. Posting outrage over a recent incident of racial injustice is not the same thing as personally reaching out to a minority friend to make sure he or she knows you love them. A hashtag in solidarity with a political cause is not the same thing as taking concerns of racial justice into the voting booth with you. A willingness to face online criticism is not the same thing as personally confronting acts of racism. Scripture teaches us that an abstract faith disconnected from good works is worthless (James 2). So is online support disconnected from real world love of neighbor.

There is another danger, too. Racial justice can be mistaken for the sum total of Christian faithfulness, and it becomes an impossible weight if we consider ourselves personally responsible to dismantle centuries of racism without the Lord’s help. Any good thing can be made into a bad thing by the sinfulness of the human heart. We need to be careful not to ignore other sins in our fight against racism. We must remember that God is Lord of the conscience. We must not let our hatred of racism spill over into hatred for our fellow image-bearers.

There is an option between slacktivism and idolatry. Let us love our neighbors more than we love our comfort or reputation. A biblically-informed, Spirit-wrought heart wants to do what is right rather than just be perceived to do what is right. May God give us the wisdom to know our own hearts and to do what is right.

 


Prayer Requests:

  1. Pray for a heart that is more concerned for other people than yourself.
  2. Pray that God’s people would be more concerned with doing good works than building up our online personas.
  3. Pray that we would not mistake ourselves for God, and that we would continually cry out to Him to heal deep wounds beyond our helping.

 

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Author

  • Austin Suter

    Austin is the executive director and editor for U?WP. He is a husband, father and seminary student at RTS Charlotte. Austin is a member at Iron City Church in Birmingham, AL. @amsuter

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