How can political activism be a path to know God? What do those words even mean? From dictionary.com:
Activism – 1. The doctrine or practice of vigorous action or involvement as a means of achieving political or other goals, sometimes by demonstrations, protests, etc. 2. Philosophy. a theory that the essence of reality is pure activity, especially spiritual activity, or process.
From Wikipedia: Modern spirituality is centered on the "deepest values and meanings by which people live." It embraces the idea of an ultimate or an alleged immaterial reality. It envisions an inner path enabling a person to discover the essence of his/her being.
Activism is a means of expressing and living one’s highest values. Once a person understands and adopts a spiritual belief system, the next step, traditionally, is to reject the trappings of the former life, and devote one’s self to living in alignment with the new system. Jesus preached his “good news” in every town, offering a method to reach salvation. For those who are not born the Redeemer, another path is needed. That path is to live a life guided by moral principles – and that means be active politically.
A simple example is the belief in the value of all human life. The believer can give away all worldly possessions, but the effect is limited. A more universal act is to change the system so that all individual basic needs are met. The political activist can feed the poor in violation of local laws, can work to pass universal care policies, or can work on providing minimal “life support” (food, shelter, health care) to everyone. All these are political activities designed to change society to align with spiritual beliefs.
Most spiritual and ethical systems start with respect and care for others, so, unless you have adopted Ayn Rand as your spiritual mentor, the next logical step on the path is to work for societal improvement. The most effective way to do that is to get active. While the mystics who separated from the world to live in seclusion and prayer may be admirable for their devotion, they did not change society. Feeding, educating, delivering health care and shelter are the actions that demonstrate love and compassion on this plane. It is impossible to care for a soul that has been driven from the body by starvation or illness!
To know God is to understand the demands of the spiritual life, then to live those ethics and help others to reach the same awakening. “A people that recognizes itself to be the focus of God's special concern, or that devotes itself to the exemplary life called for by the truth, also recognizes that it is responsible to manifest the highest standards of faith and behavior.” (WORLD SCRIPTURE : A Comparative Anthology of Sacred Texts, Dr. Andrew Wilson, Editor, International Religious Foundation, 1991).
Thus the steps of awakening are: 1) Adopt a value system; 2) determine what needs to happen on earth to bring about that value system; and 3) get active with others (the polity) to make it happen!
Tess Pender is an ordained Interfaith Minister, active in 12-step programs for thirty years. Her spiritual practice began in Native American Sweat Lodges under the guidance of a Medicine Women, led to four Vision Quests. She led a Teen Spiritual Education Program for four years, teaches classes on accessing intuition, practices Earth-Centered Spirituality and co-founded two Wicca-inspired groups.
Any spiritual path demands political activism! Belief alone is never enough; action is necessary to embody an ethical and spiritual system in the world. Working to change society is an integral part of spirituality, and political activity is the reasonable way to effect changes. Whether you run for office or join a prayer group, action is the key to involved spirituality.