Radical Political Engagement for the Shalom Activist

When I feed the poor they call me a saint, when I ask, ‘Why are they poor?’ they call me a communist. – Dom Helder Camara

It is true.  In the midst of all our charity we sometimes forget to ask the question, ‘why?’ (for another post on this, click here)

Shalom activists pursue the ‘why?’ question relentlessly.  Often times it is messy.  Here is are some good words from Noel Moules that move us into the practicalities of being a shalom activist.

Radical political engagement involves devising plans and schemes that confront concentrations of power in societies that stifle spirituality and humanity; strategies, which are creatively imagined and fearlessly executed and beautiful in their outcome.

  • Politics for the ‘Shalom Activist’ is spiritual work leading to practical outcomes.
  • Politics is about structuring, enabling and empowering community.
  • Politics must involve building cultures of shalom.
  • Politics requires a ferocious love that endeavours to draw difference into dialogue.

This work is costly.  The Quakers call it a ‘Testimony to the Truth’ which leads hem to ‘speak truth to power’.  This creative confrontation has its background in the stories of Hebrew prophets who stood before kings and challenged them, exampling the principle: ‘The one who rebukes boldly makes shalom.’

Noel Moules, “Fingerprints of fire… Footsteps of Peace: A Spiritual Manifesto from a Jesus Perspective” page 54.

How can we be creatively practical in our pursuit of shalom?

In partnership with Forge Canada, Noel Moules will be doing 2 sessions at Emmanuel Mennonite Church here in Abbotsford on Monday June 10th.  If you are in area be sure to check it out!  Click here for more details.


  1. Jordan · June 6, 2013

    Funny you post this today when this news just broke in Abbotsford…


    Maybe time for some action?

    • Chris Lenshyn · June 6, 2013

      Wait! What? This is a horrible, yet very intentional statement by the city of Abbotsford! What would you think next steps would be? I would assume the 5 and 2 are all over this…

  2. Chris Gorton · June 7, 2013

    My dear brother Chris, one of the frustrations I have had with my young blog, is that to-date most replies have been somewhat nondescript general agreements. I pray I will not offend you if I try to stir the pot for you here. 😉

    While I agree with the ends that you clearly desire, I think that you may not have thought through the implications of the means that you advocate. Were you not wearing the moniker Anabaptist, I would be inclined to think that you were simply being consistent with the “Christian right” and had no problem forcing your ethics on those who behave in an evil manner.

    I may be wrong, but I assume that your use of the term Anabaptist implies a basic agreement with their most idiosyncratic trait of nonviolence; even to the point of suffering, and allowing others to suffer rather than disobey your Lord. Having come to their historic theology independently, before ever hearing of Anabaptists, I am dismayed to see their decedents picking and choosing among their beliefs, as if there was no underlying, unifying principles. (In retrospect this sounds arrogant on my part – it may just be that I don’t understand those principles and have derived different ones.)

    Anabaptism was not simply a new social movement dedicated to peace and free thinking. It was a new society based on radical obedience to their king Jesus. Radical does not mean extreme – it means “basic” “getting to the root.” In their case the root was the cross – not just Jesus redeeming them, but their taking it up. They could not earn their salvation with their behavior, nor could they save their neighbors with their works. But they did work – and they prayed – believing that therein was the real power to change society.

    Sorry, I got carried away – I hope I am preaching to the choir here. The point is they disavowed the use of force. Ultimately the use of politics IS the use of force. What is the difference between walking into a corporate office with a gun, and forcing them to take a certain action, and voting in a law requiring the same action. The only difference is the level of social acceptability.

    But the early Christians and Anabaptists recognized a deeper danger. The fact that political involvement required commitments that destroyed the basis of THEIRE society, and the power of their prayers.

    I understand that in today’s democratic societies this sounds strange and even irresponsible, but I invite your comment, and would welcome the opportunity to answer your questions.

    Your servant in the king whom we serve,


    • Chris Lenshyn · June 10, 2013

      I think you are absolutely right. Why we advocates is an important question to ask. The means by which we advocate is extremely important! The way in which we come to the place of advocacy is important! You are speaking to the foundations of what is a strength of Anabaptism. It is easy to get wrapped up in our own agenda.
      I appreciate your brief history of Anabaptism, but it lends itself toward separatism and passivity to the larger context. Some Anabaptists, historically were a people who withdrew for the very reasons you speak of with unfortunate implications. They didn’t engage the world enough with this message of shalom which is foundational to Anabaptism.

      Gelassenheit is a value that comes to mind which may need some reclaiming, or re-engagement. It was a deep yielding of obedience to Jesus. Advocacy must always come from that place. Community practice helps with this, so does nitty gritty spirituality and ‘letting go.’

      One of the critiques of ‘Christian Advocacy’, maybe for some Anabaptists, or even just left wing or liberal Christians, which I believe is rightly so, is that people often leave Jesus out of any pursuit of justice and peace which effectively it castrates the gospel. I have had conversations with many folks who offer this concern, and in some places it is wholly accurate! To quote an activist I admire “Social Justice is important because the Gospel is important.”

      I hope I engage your comment in a helpful way.

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