— Midweek Meditations:
thoughts, inspiration and encouragement
from ACF community members —
This Tuesday, the 76th session of the UN General Assembly will open. On Friday, another ‘Fridays for Future’ demonstration is to be held in Freiburg (and worldwide). On 26 September, the next Bundestagswahl will be take place. Each event has already generated heated debate. The issues that each concern are longstanding – e.g., positive peace, climate change, social justice – and the proposed policies well-rehearsed. Yet the underlying problems seem perpetual. Might it be that ‘some problems have no solutions’?
The meaning – or more, meaningless – of our activities thereby is put into question. Does our informing ourselves about the international agenda, marching through city streets, and casting ballots make any proverbial difference? Can we as individuals or as collectives contribute in some way to the public dialogue, to say nothing of bringing about the sought-after ‘positive change’?
I believe that this way of understanding political activism, of our engaging with the issues, is fundamentally misguided. Rationalizing effort according to expected outcome, calculating the utility of public deeds, can only lead to feelings of futility and ultimately, to inaction and indifference. For the ability of even visionary, commanding political leaders – ‘great men’ – to improve human life is, as history attests, significantly constrained.
We need to leave means-ends reasoning behind, to transcend its self-defeating logic, and to break free of political paralysis. We should instead take a different approach to individual and collective political action, namely one that corresponds to our universalizable ethical imperatives.
Allow me to elaborate. As humans, we depend biologically on each other; as social animals, we require community to live safely and comfortably; as political beings, we are concerned with the organization and functioning of our shared world. We must accordingly go beyond ourselves and exchange with and seek to relate to the other(s).
As Anglicans, however, our conscience and creed compel us, I believe, to do more than just the needful. Anglicans are called to live out their faith. Its principles and values give direction and, even if they will never be fully realized, ideals to strive for. Our faith should influence our positions on the ‘big issues’, determine our priorities, and drive our conduct. Like all Christian communities, the Anglican is called not merely to pray for God’s kingdom to come on earth but to work constantly for it. Those who confirmed their baptism have committed to “seek and serve Christ in all people, loving your neighbour as yourself”, in matters both everyday and existential.
In this the season of our discontent, let us therefore use the resources of time, talents, and money available to each of us to fulfil this aspect of our Christian ministry as well, i.e., to transform the world. It is the right thing to do, and it is the only thing that can be done.
Help us, Lord, in public as in private life, to act not according to any external considerations about impact or results but according to our internal convictions and for our spiritual selves.