In the first part of our response, we have generally defined radicalism and activism. We establish a point that radicalism is a movement desiring rapid political and social change, which could constitute illegal and violent practices. On the other hand, activism is a social or political action seeking gradual change through legal and nonviolent means. When you put them together, radical activism connotes high-risk options of bringing justice against real or imaginative oppression.
We provide examples to give flesh to the complex idea of radical activism and compare them with the life and ministry of Jesus in the New Testament.
Related Article: Is Jesus Christ a Radical Activist? A Response to Rappler (Part 1)
How Radical Activists Conduct Themselves
“In choosing the side of the downtrodden,” radical activists fight for a swift change from the status quo. They are radicals in the sense that they want quick changes in a society based on their perception of reality. The examples of drastic acts that they perform to meet their demands include riot, rebellion, separatist violence, and anarchism. Black Lives Matter (BLM) and ANTIFA in the U.S. and CPP/NPA in the Philippines are in line with this type of extreme political action. Though both the left and right of the spectrum could induce extremism, the radical left tends to be more violent and delusional.
Radical activists tend to be demanding in pushing their beliefs. They mask their radical movements in the name of “freedom” and “liberty” to deceive the public. They assume that their “human rights” are being violated. They usually require the government for immediate action to the extent of using violence to meet their demands. When their wishes are not granted, they are more than willing to deprive others of their right to life, property, and liberty.
Do you think Jesus do the same extreme political action to meet his demands? Did Jesus destroy, burn, and loot properties as the ANTIFA and BLM did? Did Jesus create a New People’s Army to protect himself and his disciples against the ruling government?
How Jesus Conducts Himself
Jesus is far different from the radical activists of the left. However the left would like to link themselves to Jesus, distinctive variations are still evident.
- No Placards: Jesus did not recruit disciples and create placards to populate the streets with activists racing posters of opposition. He came to heal the sick and call the sinners to repentance. (Read Luke 4:40; Matt. 9:13)
- No Violence: Jesus did not arm himself and his followers with weapons. They did not rob, burn, and destroy properties. When soldiers bearing swords and staves came to arrest Him in Gethsemane, Jesus rebuked one of His disciples after harming one of the officers. And Jesus said, “Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?” (Matt. 26:53).
- No Media Publicity: Jesus did not require publicities to make Himself and His teachings known across the Roman Empire. Jesus usually preached out of the city and instructed people not to tell others about His miracles. (Read Matt. 14:13; Mark 1:40-45)
Where Is the Focus of Jesus Activism?
Yes, Jesus is an activist of some sort but not a radical one. His claims of being the Messiah is not radical, let alone political. Though He is not that gentle when it comes to attacking the Jewish religious leaders, He is not also violent to the extent of inflicting harm to others.
It is for the people of Israel, both poor and rich.
The focus of the life and ministry of Jesus was on the people of Israel. It is not just for the downtrodden but also for the wealthy. Jesus said, “I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matt. 15:24). “The lost sheep of the house of Israel” does not only pertains to the poor. Jesus was also followed by rich Jews, such as Zacchaeus the tax collector, Joseph of Arimathea, and some women supporters who probably donated expensive perfumes (Luke 8:3; 23:55-24:10).
It is against the religious leaders, not the government officials.
When Jesus criticizes leadership and hypocrisy, He points the criticism against the Jewish spirituals, not the oppressive Jewish and Roman politicians. The well-known exposition of Jesus against the scribes and Pharisees is the woes He declared in Matthew 23:1-36. When it comes to the government, He said to “render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s” (Matt. 22:21).
It is for the spiritual salvation of the human race.
Even though Jesus commonly speaks directly to the Israelites, He foretold the time “when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him” (John 4:23). This signifies the time when the Gentiles will come to repentance. The world of unbelievers will come to realize that “the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). From the lost sheep of Israel, the gospel of grace extended in the world of unbelieving Gentiles.
In modern history, the examples of non-violent or non-radical activists are Mohandas Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. With some influence from Jesus of Nazareth, Gandhi protested against British colonialism, which ignites nationalism and sets as an example of non-violent activism. The Mahatma was assassinated by a fanatic Hindu. With the influence of both Gandhi and Jesus, Dr. King organized non-violent protests for the rights of black Americans. He won the fight but he was also assassinated for his beliefs.
Activism is acceptable as long as it is not radically fanatic to the extent of harming others. It is careless for Rappler and its Opinion writer to say that the birth of Christ is about “Celebrating the birth of a radical activist.” On top of the writer’s non-sensical ignorance and the article’s obtrusive blasphemy, it is rightful to call it leftist propaganda.
The birth of Jesus Christ is about knowing Him as Lord and Savior; recognizing His death, burial, and resurrection; and, accepting the fact that the hope of this sinful world is Christ alone. Celebrating the birth of Jesus is celebrating hope, peace, and salvation only found in Christ.