Ruth Dickinson on choosing activism over apathy

“The level of political apathy in the UK is appalling,” writes Paul Woolley in this month’s news comment, going on to lament the UK’s pitifully low turnout in the recent European elections.

I had to confess to him when he filed his copy that I didn’t vote, with a halfhearted explanation about it being a purely administrative failure to register in time.

“Pah,” he emailed back. His response was much more restrained than some of my friends. “That’s the worst possible thing you could have done…it’s an offence to all the women who campaigned for you to get the vote in the first place…it’s an offence to your country…it’s people like you that mean the BNP got in…You’d have been better off voting for the BNP than not voting at all…” And so it went on and on. I started to feel like something of a social outcast and rapidly changed the subject whenever the elections came up.

I’m not alone though – the majority of the country didn’t vote. Commentators have suggested it’s to do with anger or disaffection after the expenses scandal, but I suspect it’s also to do with comfort. We are comfortable enough – we don’t really need anything to change, so we don’t vote.

Life in the recession might be gloomier than we are used to, but as Tomi Ajayi’s feature highlights, we are still extremely well off compared to most of the world. People are cutting back on luxuries or even losing jobs and homes, but in developing countries, 90 million more people are expected to fall into extreme poverty this year because of the recession. They neither caused the downturn nor have any power to change it. But we do. As citizens of a rich, privileged country we have the means to make a difference. We have access to resources, money, communication, education and we live in a democracy. And so apathy is not only an abuse of privilege, it is an offence to God.

Thankfully not every rich westerner is like me. I interviewed Heidi Baker this month, who has actually done that thing which many of us think of as unrealistic or impossible – 14 years ago she left every comfort of the western world and went to live in Mozambique, then the poorest country on earth. She and her husband Rolland have seen God work in amazing, mind-blowing ways. Thousands have become Christians through their ministry, thousands have been miraculously healed, many others helped through the clinics, schools and hospitals which the Bakers have set up.

I wouldn’t be so naïve as to say that this is everyone’s calling. It isn’t. But what every Christian is called to do, is to yield their lives to God. I often have a sense of vague unease about not doing enough, not using my positions of privilege for anything beyond my own comfort and gain. Heidi Baker’s extraordinary story is nothing more, she says, than the result of learning to yield her life and let God work through her. It’s as simple as that, she says. She gave me a glimpse of what is possible when you put God first.

I hope this issue inspires you to use your privilege – whether it’s your vote, your voice, your income, your time or your gifts – to bring God’s kingdom to earth.