All over my social media feeds, my friends are responding to the federal government’s policy of separating immigrant children from their families in detention facilities at the Mexican border. There are constant cries for those of us who call ourselves Christian to take action and speak up for these most vulnerable of our brothers and sisters. Many Catholic bishops, including my own, are calling the policy morally reprehensible and encouraging the faithful to take action. As much as seeing the handful of friends I have not yet deleted who post disgusting refutations and demeaning assumptions in favor of the Trump government, I still love the community created by social media in times like these. It makes me feel less alone on my horror and outrage. I don’t sit here wondering if I am the only wild-haired crazy one screaming into what so often feels like the vacuum of an isolated desert. But there is a drawback to that community as well. It is something I have termed “the rise of pseudo-activism” and of which I am repeatedly guilty.
This weekend I found myself clicking links, sharing posts, and contributing to threads that allowed me to take a stand for these families with one simple click. There was a moment in which I followed a link that allowed me to enter my zip code, and it located my congressional representatives, generated an automatic email, and with one click allowed me to contact all of them. Click. Click. Click. Action! And thank goodness, because I’ve only lived in Indiana a year, have never voted here, and have no idea who my representatives and senators are.
Just as I was about to share that link and let everyone know how very simple it was to do something to respond to their outrage, I felt that paralyzed stomach shock that kicks in when you recognize you are being idiotic. What on earth am I doing here? Is this the best I have to offer in response to a morally reprehensible degradation of the humanity of immigrants, of children? A three-click email option for which I do not even need to know who represents me at the federal level of our government? Is this what I am calling activism on behalf of the marginalized these days? And selling to my friends as a great option to do something, anything to raise their voices? Made all the better by the fact that is “so easy”.
What the hell is wrong with me, and forgive me if it is an over-generalization, but what the hell is wrong with us? Why are we so pleased to find ways to make one another’s lives easy when it comes to our moral obligation to defend the humanity of the weakest among us, when it comes to exercising our democratic right to call our government’s policies to the carpet and demand change, when it comes to our duty to inform our representatives of their constituents’ views and opinions so that their political action is truly on our behalf?
Why do I need you to make it easy for me? Why do I feel the need to make it easy for you? Because we know people are more likely to take action if we do the leg work for them, if we design programs that make it possible to be an unthinking advocate? Because we can add a voice to our rallying cry and they can feel good about themselves without any of us truly activating our hearts and minds, tapping into our passion and compassion, and articulating what we believe and why we believe it.
Lord, let it not be so. I repent. I ask your forgiveness and the forgiveness of those I am called to defend. I ask the forgiveness of the mother ripped from her child today, and the child who shivered alone and afraid last night. Let my heart break that the best I had to offer them was smug satisfaction that I could claim I had done something easy to help them.
Our response to the moral outrages in our society is part of our prophetic call as the people of God. We are meant to be the dirt-covered, sweaty-faced, hoarse-voiced wild ones running relentlessly to the lost places and demanding with all our beings that they turn their faces to the mercy of God. We are meant to call a nation to its knees in repentance. And here I sit, grateful that I can pretend to do something without my viewing of Queer Eye getting interrupted. A woman marked with the call of the prophet who is content to wallow instead in a pseudo-activism that is more about me feeling better about myself than it is about the poor and the suffering and the powers that oppress them.
I don’t want to settle for pseudo-activism. I don’t want to be that person. I don’t want your easy button. Keep it. And I won’t be offering you any either. We know what we can do to help. We know we have senators and representatives who have emails and phone numbers and secretaries. Let’s look them up ourselves. Let’s not follow someone else’s script when we call or write, but find our own hearts and our own words and speak our minds. We know that Catholic Charities exists and is on the ground in every county in the country. Let’s find out the location of the detention centers on our own. Look up the corresponding branch, see what they are doing to respond, and support them. Or ask why they aren’t responding if that’s what we find. Let’s read the whole article before we share it, know the image source, do our own fact checking. For God’s sake, let’s know the names of our own representatives and bishops and leaders.
Lord, deliver me from my tendency to look for the easy button, from smug self-satisfaction, and from willing ignorance that I parade as action. Give me your eyes, your ears, your heart. Give me the voice of a prophet and the willingness to pay a price for the call to justice. Do not make my life easy, Lord, make it holy. Amen.