Slacktivism vs Authentic Engagement

Recently, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has taken the nation by storm.  From rock bands to former presidents, people of all ages and socio-economic statuses have bonded together to 'take the plunge,' so to speak, allowing themselves to be doused in ice cold water in the name of one cause: raising funds for ALS research.

(Sidenote:  some of the most popular "Ice Bucket" videos can be found here.)

Some claim that this viral campaign is yet another example of slacktivism:  a belittling term referring to slackers who claim some form of activism through feel-good measures that require little personal involvement.  

Earlier this summer, another image spread across the facebook world:  the Arabic letter "N."

This image, meaning "Nasarah" (Christian), is an effort to stand in solidarity with the persecuted Christians in Iraq who are being forced out of their homes and subsequently tortured, beaten, and killed. ISIS militants mark the homes of these Christians with the Arabic letter imaged above.  As headline after headline describing these horrific acts came across my newsfeed, I found myself feeling appalled and helpless, guilty for complaining about traffic jams and long Starbuck's lines when very real people were facing very real crises.  And then, I quickly moved on to the next thing, unable to contemplate such unpleasantries for very long.  In short, I did nothing, because I wasn't sure what I could do.

Reflecting on these two global movements has caused me to question: how are we as believers to authentically engage in philanthropic efforts and issues of global injustices?

1) Be informed. Before jumping on the latest bandwagon, take some time to do some research regarding the organization or movement that you are supporting. Not only will this help to ensure that the cause is trustworthy, it will enable you to be a more informed and effective advocate.  For an editorial news source highlighting cultural and global issues that require a biblical response, I recommend following Jim Denison's blog:  www.denisonforum.org

2) Pray. This one is obvious but its impact cannot be emphasized enough. Sometimes, prayer is all we can do.  And the God we are praying to is more than capable of using those prayers in the way He chooses to lovingly care for His creation.

3) Act.  Love your Neighbor.  Your LOCAL neighbor.  The internet has created a phenomenon called "empathy at a distance": we empathize with those suffering around the globe without having any sort of embodied presence with them, all the while ignoring the people right in front of us. We are not often afforded the opportunity to bring relief to tsunami victims or help the Eboli victims in Africa, but we CAN mentor a kid, serve in a soup kitchen, or visit the elderly. Opportunites to love our neighbors abound. 

Will you join me in praying today for wisdom in how to authentically engage in the world around us?

Micah 6:8:  …and what does the Lord require of you?  To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

Dr. Michelle Pokorny serves as an Adjunct Professor at Dallas Theological Seminary, teaching D.Min classes on Spiritual Formation, Spiritual Disciplines, and Soul Care. Michelle developed a passion for women’s ministry during her college years while serving as a counselor at Pine Cove Christian Camps. Her desire to see women thrive in their gifting led her to DTS to gain a solid biblical and theological foundation. After receiving her MACE in Women’s Ministry, Dr. Pokorny began working with East-West Ministries, International, where she served in Human Resources and on the International Women’s Ministries Training Team. Michelle's doctoral work focused on burnout and soul-care among Christian leaders. Michelle is married to Mark and their favorite hobbies include traveling, exercising, and enjoying food and laughter with friends and family. They have one active toddler, Alexander.