Justice

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Justice

Thoughts on True Activism

July 15, 2016 by

the author, Bill Button, pushing his wife Dottie in a wheelchair
Bill with his wife Dottie: love made concrete in a living bond.

I see the word “activist” used a lot these days. There are as many activists as there are causes, from “Black Lives Matter” to “Blue Lives Matter,” from refugee support groups to anti-immigration crusaders. But who among us truly knows the costs and rewards of activism? I also hear a lot of talk about “civil liberties,” but there is little said about “civil responsibilities.”

The word “activist” is sometimes used dismissively, but that is a mistake. There are good causes – there are also bad causes – and there is nothing wrong with being active and concerned for a good cause.

The biggest problems come from those who are inactive, apathetic, and indifferent about issues that should concern us all – whether these issues are economic, political, religious, educational, or scientific. At least an activist is working for and promoting something he or she values in life. Non-activists have found nothing to work for and live for, and have no meaning in life beyond their own personal, often selfish, interests. This is a very sad waste of life. Everyone needs a cause to live for, something to which they can make a commitment.

But the question is, which cause, or perhaps better, what kind of cause? Is it a cause for the common good, or a splintered, divisive group?

The greatest cause I have found in my eighty-six years is the cause of brotherhood and sisterhood of mankind, under the love of God the creator. Some call this “the family of man.” The premise or foundation of this brotherhood is the spiritual command to “love God with all your heart, soul, and mind, and to love your neighbor as you love yourself.” Following this command led me to a faithful commitment in all relationships, both material and spiritual. It led me to intentional Christian community, love made concrete in a living bond with fellow believers.

a middle-aged woman and an elderly couple talking together
Bruderhof members talking together

How did I find this cause? The best guide is the New Testament, which is truly a handbook of life. The Gospel tells us which thoughts and behavior lead to life and gathering, and which lead to death and separation. Only the person who is willing to sacrifice and serve others will be saved from selfishness. The key to living together is listening to others with love for them in your heart.

True activism is a deeply life-changing thing. It’s also a daily struggle, as repentance and forgiveness are essential in community. Reverence for the nature of the universe we live in is also necessary. These are the “civil responsibilities” that are missing in many demands for “civil liberties.” It’s not mere political or social hobby, for the benefits of this active love transcend political and social change. This, then, is true activism: something life-giving and meaningful not merely for me personally, or for a small segment of humanity, but for the brotherhood of all.


Bill Button, a grandfather many times over, lives with his wife Dottie at the New Meadow Run Bruderhof.

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  • Amen, and Amen. It is so easy to tear down, any force, even evil force can do that, but it takes love which by the way is the most powerful force to build.

    Jake Gross
  • Thanks so much, keep up the good work.

    anioymous