Votetivism is not Activism
In 1988, I had been a Christian for a couple years, when I first really read Matthew 25, "..when I was hungry you fed me, when I was naked you clothed me..." and James 1:27 "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world." I remember thinking, "I don't do any of that." That was the day I determined to be about, "A little less conversation and a lot more action" as Elvis would say.
Not long after that day, God called me to care for orphans. I knew that was my life calling. So, I proceeded to fight for orphans the best I knew how at age 19. I joined the fight against legalized abortion. I myself had thought I was pregnant as a 16 year old and I had considered abortion. Thank God I wasn't pregnant. Later, when I became a Christian at age 17, it freaked me out that I could have had an abortion without my mom even knowing. And worst, without really knowing myself what I was doing or my other options.
I became very active in the cause. I was arrested several times outside of abortion clinics during the late 80s and early 90's. No, I never screamed at a girl going in, I tried to talk to them if they were open to it, I mostly prayed and occasionally I got close enough to squirt glue into the locks on the doors and one time I did handcuffed my self to a trailer parked in front of the doors, hence the arrest :-)
I also volunteered in a crisis pregnancy center. I knew it was important to be both for something positive while being against something harmful. I believed then, as I believe now, that there has to be a real alternative offered, a caring action has to follow a protest against something.
But then over zealous fanatics started shooting abortion doctors. Things got crazy in the anti-abortion movement. What started as peaceful resistance, as calm, grace filled protest, had been taken over by people that could only see through fear and hate colored glasses disguised as righteous anger. I had to walk away.
But I still continued to be very politically active in the pro-life arena. And I found that was easier. I decided that I would just vote pro-life, like 99% of professing pro-lifers do and that would be the solution. Certainly, if we could get a pro-life president and/or a congress that was majority Republican, we could see the end to legalized abortion. So that's what I fought for. George Bush was elected, twice, served eight years as president, and the Republicans controlled congress. Yet, nothing changed. Abortion was then and still is legal. Small gains have been made, but the bottom line is, it's still legal to have an abortion through all nine months of pregnancy and women are still making that decision, many times, without completely understanding the full scope of what abortion is and also what it can do to the body.
So, around 2005 I started to once again reevaluate my activism. I had spent years watching Christian organizations spend thousands of dollars to rally voters, I had been an active member of these groups. They worked hard to get Christians to the polls to vote in "Christian" leaders but that resulted in very little positive change and sometime very negative change.
And as I started to research the effectiveness of moral voting, I discovered that since 1990 teen pregnancy's continued to dropped at the same rate under both Republican and Democrat presidents. and abortion rates steadily declined under both Republican and Democrat administrations, with actually a slight rise at the end of George Bush's presidency.
It was plane to see that voting in Christian candidates had no effect on the outcome of the issues I was most passionate about.
It was also around 2005 that the world of social media started to really blow up. Everyone started a blog, we all started communicating through Myspace, then Facebook and then twitter. And when it was election season, people started to use social media to raise awareness of issues, call out candidates on issues, organize online petitions, rally the troops. I really thought that all of this awareness would result in action.
But oddly enough, in the 2008 presidential election, the election that so many Republicans cared so much about on twitter and facebook, the one they felt could possibly usher in the Anti-Christ or not, voter turn out was down instead of up.
And that would be fine if it was because people started to realize that being change would generate better results then trying to just vote in change. But that was not the case..
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics,
The volunteer rate declined by 0.5 percentage point to 26.3 percent for the year ending in September 2010, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. About 62.8 million people volunteered through or for an organization at least once between September 2009 and September 2010.
and even more telling is this statistic, Persons in their early twenties were the least likely to volunteer (18.4 percent).
So basically, the most aware generation in the history of America, the generation that literally has all the information at their finger tips, the generation that screams the loudest on facebook and twitter about their "passion" are not voting and even worse, they are not being instruments of change either.
No wonder articles about "Clicktivism"and "Slacktivism" have garnered so much attention recently. Social media can be a great tool to raise awareness and rally action, just look at what happened in Egypt. But in America, voting and volunteerism statistics show the reverse effect. Instead of engaging in the cause dearest to our hearts, we have opted to sign online petitions or "like" a cause’s page in order to feel like we are helping in some way, like we are at least doing something.
Social media awareness and activism, can be a part of the solution. But the combination of awareness, legislation, and most importantly, action personally, is what it will take to see real change. When we vote pro-life but fail to take care of the children in the foster care system, and/or the AIDS orphans around the world, we are not really pro-life. When we vote for pro-family legislators but do little to help poor families, we are not really pro-family. We have to put our feet where our vote is and refuse to just be Votetivist and begin being real activist.