Philanthropy and activism

Photo by Wes Hicks on Unsplash

I used to think it was useless to give money to the homeless or serve in soup kitchens. I was cynical and didn’t think it changed anything. My stance was that those people are just going to go right back out into the same lives and the same system they’re finding themselves in now.

Come to find out, I was both right and wrong. Helping those in need doesn’t necessarily change the system, but it does help someone get through another day.

This is the philanthropic part of faith (no, you don’t have to be a Melinda Gates to be a philanthropist). But when we talk about real systemic change, what’s needed is something my politically conservative family never once talked about when I was a kid: Activism.

Both philanthropy and activism are needed — especially when a political system is in place that’s swayed toward dominance and wealth.

We, the privileged, have to speak up for the marginalized. We have to opt out of and rage against harmful, oppressive systems that benefit the few but harm the many. It’s on us who have a voice to be the ones to commit to action.

We’re the wealthiest country on the planet (according to some measurements) and it’s ridiculous how tattered our safety net is. The odds are so terribly stacked against those in the margins of society — the widow, the orphan, the refugee, the elderly, etc., etc., etc…

And so, activism. By nature, I hate confrontation. I’m not a born activist and I don’t know if activism will ever be my strong suit. In fact, I don’t know if any of this is my strong suit. Spiritual bypassing all of this is so much more comfortable to me.

But there are times when we need to be uncomfortable in order to shift the culture.

This is what faith calls us to.