Years ago, when I was a recent college graduate and enjoying my first job as a publicist for a trade bookseller, I met a young man named Steve Kemperman. He had written a book called Lord of the Second Advent, in which he recounted the gradual processes used to entice and “groom” him into joining the Reunification Church, more commonly known as the “Moonies.” I was tasked to creating a nationwide promotional tour to promote his new book. My work included lining up media interviews, book signings and the like.
To acquaint myself with his story, and adequately convince busy producers and editors that an interview with him would be compelling enough to warrant their attention, I spent time getting to know Steve. He was kind and intelligent and a deep thinker. He was also readily approachable and as we talked over lunch the first day we met I asked a question that burned within me: How could such a smart guy get caught up so easily in such a fanatical world?
He answered me in this way: Suppose three people are watching a newscast that highlights a human injustice. The first person responds by saying, “Glad that’s not me.” The second person reacts by saying, “That’s sad. I hope somebody helps them out.” The third person jumps up and calls the TV station for contact information.
Kemperman explained that he was that third guy; heart-drawn and passionate. Willing to dive in and quickly get involved, his natural activism went astray at first because he lacked maturity to be grounded and sensible and useful.
Writer Gary Thomas writes about activists in his book, “Sacred Pathways: Discover Your Soul’s Path to God.” Loving God through confrontation, action, and an internal drive that has the potential to exhaust those around them if unfettered, activists spring into action and stand out from a crowd. They view the world as a place inhabited by primarily apathetic people and to stand by and not express an opinion or develop a plan of action is torturous to them.
Are you an activist? If so, you are nourished by a good battle. Confrontation is a reasonable choice for you hope that people will eventually want to change their minds; they will see things in ways they’ve not seen them before; they will witness miraculous change and be able to connect it to God.
A fear of confrontation, turmoil and uncertainty repel many away from activism. It is, however, that same confrontational fear that creates a dependence on God that activists relish. They are quite willing to charge forward and act in public ways, identifying with God and His work, knowing full well some will disrespect and dislike them. They view this trade off as a sign they are faithful and engaged with God’s will.
Activism comes in many forms. Some blog or speak or write books. Some join organizations. Some join protest movements. Others criticize industries, then join them to force change from within.
Whatever the method, Thomas offers this encouraging hope: activism can move beyond protest, providing positive alternatives. It can create a force of amazing change.
Joan Bay Klope can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org