Hans Fiene challenges the motivations of self-righteous activism


In his March 31/2016 article entitled "Gay Marriage Isn’t About Justice, It’s About Selma Envy"  http://thefederalist.com/2015/03/31/gay-marriage-isnt-about-justice-its-...

Hans Fiene, a Lutheran pastor looks behind the scenes at the motivation for social activism by the church.

            With broad brush strokes, he looks at the phenomenon arising from the classes taught in social studies where one learned of some knights or saints in shining white armor who came to rescue the disadvantaged, and then rode off into the distance with their halos shining all the more brightly.

            Fiene states:

... we wanted to find our own bigotry to eradicate. After years of hearing those saints sing “We Shall Overcome,” we were overcome with jealousy. We coveted Selma. We envied that march. We looked at that footage and hungered for our own cause to devour....

....Then, one day, manna descended from heaven in the form of gay marriage. Here it was! The cause we’d longed for all these years had finally arrived! Here was an injustice no one had ever opposed before. Here was a group of marginalized people no one had ever defended. So by embracing this cause, we would instantly be more compassionate, more accepting, more saintly than every human being who had ever lived.

And he concludes:

.....From the days of our youth, my generation hungered for a cause that would make us as righteous as the saints who marched on Selma. We have found that cause. We have sunk our teeth into that righteousness and, at this point, we couldn’t care less if it’s real. The Lord of Social Justice has finally answered our prayers. And Lord help the bigot who comes between us and our cause.


       Fiene is looking at the motivations of the heart and this is always a delicate subject, knowing that our hearts often have mixed motives. It appears though, that larger than the issue of gay-marriage, he is raising an important question, namely "Can self-righteous activism raise its head in the church?" If we bring this a bit closer to home, "Is it possible that self-righteousness could serve as a motivation for some of the activism within the CRCNA?...and how would we even know?" It seems that Fiene has hit something of a nerve when it is certainly in human nature to look for yet another noble cause by which one can polish one's individual or collective halo.

       Could it be that the rich Reformed doctrine of having a righteousness which is not our own, and is credited to our accounts, both individually and corporately, needs to be underscored all the more strongly in our preaching and teaching, as a healthy anti-dote to self-righteous activism?

What do you think? 

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The Fiene article claims that his generation doesn't march against Roe v. Wade but March for Life in DC has tens of thousands of participants from every generation. He also says that his generation doesn't care about poverty or human trafficking... umm... I think the Fiene article might be satire.   

Righteousness received by faith is lived out by loving our neighbor. It makes people act in the interests of others, especially the least of these. Underscoring righteousness that is not our own and is credited to our accounts, in preaching and teaching, as suggested above, will only result in more activism.

I don't know if self-righteousness serves as a motive for activism in the CRC. I think that assigning motives usually turns out to be a pretty bad idea.