As a Catholic, you know the Gospel has demands on all areas of your life. Including politics. Let’s say you want to get more politically active and help shape the future of the country. There are good ways to do it and not-so-good ways. Here are three tips:
1.) Stay Classy
Whether it’s a protest, the comments section on social media, or a conversation among friends, keeping it classy is always a good idea. Not only does it honor the dignity of all those involved (everyone is made in the image and likeness of God, after all), it’s also a better witness.
It’s not just about the issue you’re talking about, it’s also a gauge of your character. People are watching your actions and a bad witness, even if you say all the right things, will harm your cause. And you don’t want that.
Staying classy is especially important when you’re around “undecideds,” people who haven’t made up their mind on the issue you’re discussing. They might know virtually nothing about it, other than what they observe from your words and actions. If one side is angry and irrational and the other one stays classy and respectful, guess which one they’re most like to side with?
Political activism is all about making some sort of change in the world. Do your actions make that world a compelling one?
2.) Keep it Positive
When I say “positive” I don’t mean bubbly or touchy-feely. I mean being for the thing you’re for, rather than emphasizing what you’re against. It’s very easy to tear down another view and show why it’s a bad one, and sometimes that’s necessary. But unless you show what you’re for, what the “better” you want to replace what you just tore down is, it’s much less compelling.
Let’s say you’re taking a stand against alcoholism. It’s pretty easy to say “alcoholism is bad”, but that’s the negative, it’s not as compelling. Taking a stand for strong family life, healthy friendships, and whatnot would be the positive. And as a consequence of those positives, alcoholism wrecks them and thus we should help address it.
Or the pro-life cause. Talking about human dignity, how awesome life is, supporting people in difficult situations (especially crisis pregnancies), a true culture of life, all of these are the “positive” you’re trying to achieve. As Abby Johnson says, her goal isn’t to make abortion illegal, it’s to make it unthinkable. If no one wants to have an abortion, that’s a culture of life.
Of course, as you talk about what you’re for, you’ll have to talk about what you’re against. But people will see the Why behind it, and it paints a better picture of the world you’re trying to achieve.
3.) Live It
Political activism isn’t a one-and-done thing. Going to a protest, writing a blog post, commenting on a news article, whatever it is, is not the end of the story. By living out what you’re trying to achieve, you’re helping build a better culture.
Many states recently made euthanasia legal. Protest it, certainly, but also volunteer at nursing homes and hospitals, spending time with the elderly and terminally ill, showing them their dignity in suffering. Abortion? Certainly pray outside abortion clinics, it’s very effective and needed, but also volunteer at your local pregnancy center and let your friends know you’re there to support if they or anyone they know is in a crisis pregnancy; help people see that life is good. Refugee ban? Volunteer with an organization that helps refugees once they’ve arrived. Pretty much any cause, you can see where you can live it out.
Doing so will strengthen your witness, and that’s what activism is about: witnessing. Witnessing to an injustice being done and fighting to change it, witnessing to things that lead to human flourishing and encouraging them, witnessing to the Gospel and the “more abundant life” Jesus promises.
How to Protest Better | First Things