There is a relatively new phenomenon in our society that just happens to irritate the daylights out of me. It is a practice that goes by several different names, most notably; “slacktivism” and “hashtag activism”. For those of you unfamiliar with the term “hashtag”, it means adding a pound sign, #, in front of a word or series of words in online documents. A hyperlink is created which will then take you to other occurrences of the same tag. “Slacktivism” refers to activism which has no discernable activity beyond a sort of word of mouth campaign. Can you imagine activism with no activity? Doesn’t the obvious implication of the word activism denote activity? Activism sans activity is nothing but meaningless drivel.
The latest campaign of note is the so-called ice bucket challenge. You may have heard of it, seen it on the news, or even witnessed its strange goings-on through short video clips on various social media platforms. May I respectfully suggest to you that one does not suddenly become a philanthropist by merely dumping a bucket of ice on one’s head? The challenge is that once nominated by someone else, you have 24 hours in which to either douse yourself with a bucket of ice water, or send $100 to the ALS Association. In fairness, many have chosen both to donate and to dump ice water on themselves.
Let’s get this much straight: I’m in favor of finding a cure for ALS, commonly referred to as Lou Gherig’s disease. It is a terrible disease, and I know of several different families who either have in the recent past or are currently dealing with its effects. But dumping ice water on yourself does nothing toward finding a cure. There is no cognitive link between the two; no common frame of reference. I am at a loss to determine how dousing one’s self with ice water in any way furthers either recognition of the disease or awareness of its effects on the body. Further, I am concerned with the direction of funding provided to the ALS Association, which seems to be the prime recipient of the funds raised. It is known that this organization is supporting at least one line of embryonic stem cell research. This is problematic for those of us who have a high view of the right to life. The potential good resulting from the research (finding a cure for ALS) does not, in my mind, outweigh the committed evil (murdering unborn children to harvest parts of their bodies for the research). If you want to donate, there are any number of lists online providing information about which charities do and do not support a pro-life research platform, and I encourage you to donate there, if the Lord so leads you! In fact, the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) recently put out an article of its own outlining many of these issues and establishing a list of organizations which do not violate these ethical guidelines. It can be found at http://erlc.com/article/the-faqs-the-als-ice-bucket-challenge.
Another popular example of this phenomenon came about with the KONY 2012 campaign. Josef Kony is the leader of a cult-like guerilla organization fighting a civil war in Uganda, and also making attacks against surrounding African nations. His group is known both for its excessive brutality and its prolific abduction of children who are then forced to take up arms and fight with the rebel group. In the interest of full disclosure, the semi-legitimate government of Uganda has also admitted to conscripting child soldiers, so I’m not entirely certain what makes Josef Kony particularly heinous in this situation. The campaign was centered around a video put together by a group called Invisible Children, and splashed pictures of Kony and the title KONY 2012 all over Facebook for months. The campaign consisted of asking people to be aware of the existence of Kony, and the failure of international authorities to arrest him for trial before the International Criminal Court for war crimes. Of great note is that Josef Kony has not been in Uganda since, I believe, 2005. This makes the film’s call for Ugandan military involvement in capturing Kony spurious, at best.
My friends, this kind of program has become all to common. We develop programs for social media designed more to make us feel better about ourselves than to meet any actual needs. Many join these campaigns and end up feeling somehow morally superior to those of us who don’t repost these inane shenanigans on our own accounts. The Word of God speaks plainly to such behavior. James 2:15-16 says, “If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,’ but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit?” Jesus did not call on us to simply be aware of the needs of others, He called on us to go and meet the needs of others, and to do so in His name! This is what I find lacking in “slacktivism”. The best thing we as Christians can do is meet people at the point of their needs, to do so in love, and to share with them our motivation–our own love for the Savior! Jesus Himself said to His disciples, “And whoever gives one of these little ones only a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple, assuredly, I say to you, he shall by no means lose his reward.” (Matt. 10:42)
I’m not opposed to doing what is right. I’m not even opposed to being aware of what’s wrong. What I am opposed to is those who believe simple awareness apart from action makes them morally superior to the rest of us. That just won’t cut it, in my book. So let’s get out there and deliver a cup of cold water, in Jesus’ name, until He returns!