The Importance of Reflective Activism

When faced with political tension, injustice on a huge scale, climate breakdown and the myriad other problems facing our society today, it is tempting to dive in and try and solve these issues straight away. Reflection can feel like a waste of time, and theology can feel irrelevant in the face of so much physical suffering and violence.

The #Activism101 blog series has equipped us with lots of practical advice on how to go about activism – there is a whole wealth of knowledge around how change is brought about, and how to run campaigns that make a real difference. But before the practical steps, it is vital that we as activists aren’t so preoccupied with the how that we forget the why – we need our work to be grounded in something deeper than seeing a problem and thinking up a solution, which is why as Christians we must ground everything we do in our faith.

The road to social change is difficult and long, and while some battles are won it often feels like we’re losing the war. Knowing why we act and having faith that our actions are part of a bigger plan is essential to healthy and constructive activism.

This is why the Faith in Action project has centred around theological reflection. This somewhat grandiose term is simply the practice of looking at a situation through the lens of our faith in order to decide how best to act in response.

We use the ‘See, Judge, Act’ method of theological reflection, which essentially involves looking at the facts of the situation, then looking at the consequences for the people involved, where the power is held and why, and drawing on wisdom from scripture and Christian tradition to decide on a response in the light of all these considerations.

This process enables us to devise a Christian response to an issue, and while it may not be very dissimilar to a response we would have had before reflecting, it is vital in seeing our small actions as part of a wider struggle against injustice. It helps us to centre our actions in love and hope for a better world, rather than coming from a place of anger or despair, which can either lead to burnout or to denial of the problems we are facing. Theological reflection helps us to see why we’re doing what we’re doing, and to continue this work joyfully and hopefully, and in this way is just as vital as the work of activism itself.

If you would like to try theological reflection for yourself, try using the worksheet below as a start, or you can book a faith reflection workshop for your group.