Guest blogger Andy Cope is campaigns officer for the SPEAK Network. He inspires us to be activists in the church, and we think this is well worth a read...
“I just wish there was something beautiful we could believe in, that would give us hope and wouldn’t let us down” she sighed, verbalising the mood shared by some of the other students slouched on sofas around the chaplaincy common room. We’d just gorged on a homemade vegetarian feast to celebrate the end of term, and the typically social justice-themed conversation had bounced between Amnesty’s refugee sleep-out the previous week, the People & Planet garden allotment off campus, whether my mate’s iPhone was manufactured ethically, and the practicality of using compost toilets.
Student protest and campaigning is once again grabbing the headlines worldwide, which is no surprise – university campuses have historically been the epicenters of revolution and social change, just check Wikipedia. Yet beyond the energetic fervour of those seeking freedom for the oppressed, there is, in my experience, a desperate spiritual-seeking in the activist scene.
Often excited discussions about changing the world end in empty frustration and pessimism – and the one described above was no different, as the opening question indicates. Below the surface of knitwear and dreadlocks can lie bitterness, rage, prejudice, distrust, and hopelessness (believe me, I know). There are false prophets with placards proclaiming that our hope should be in the mere ‘loveliness’ of people, or in the permanent exclusion of our enemies, or in revolution for revolution’s sake.
But I believe in a Jesus who told us to “love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you” [Matt. 5:44]. I believe in a Jesus whose message included equality, democracy, peace and justice, but also stretched far beyond these things. I believe in a Jesus who challenged the system not by military might or people power but by a radically humble lifestyle, who taught that “those who draw the sword will die by the sword” [Matt. 26:52]. And I believe in a Jesus who welcomes all to sit and eat at his table – prostitute and tax collector, protestor and banker alike. The gospel has so much light to offer to those who chant unrelentingly “this ______ could have been sold…and the money given to the poor” [Matt. 26:9].
And so this is our mission at the SPEAK Network, to ‘stand in the gap’ between the activist community and the rest of the church – in fact, it was the local SPEAK group who hosted the veggie feast for our mates that I mentioned earlier. We’re an eclectic mash-up of different faces (and yes, some of us look like hippies), but we’re all united in our passion for seeing some Jesus justice restored to this messed up world…and reminding people how much God loves them in the process.
After a pause I turned to the student who had asked the question, and she looked up from the few grains of cous cous remaining on her plate. “There is”, I replied…
The SPEAK Network connects together students and young adults who pray and campaign about issues of global injustice. If you reckon we might have something for you, give us a shout, we’re always looking to make new friends. Keep an eye out for us at Momentum and Greenbelt this year too – ours will be the stall made of painted recycled paper and string.
email@example.com, facebook.com/thespeaknetwork, @speaknetwork