White, Middle-Class, American Slacktivism

College Student with the "boyfriend jeans" Indie look, with a waterbottle and a Fair Trade leather purse texting

So, the problem with being a sociology minor is that I start to see everything in terms of bigger cultural structures. For example, while there are still lots of self-centered, fast-food eating white American college students, there is a quickly growing counter-cultural group of “fair-trade-coffee-drinking-go-“green”-and-recycle-and-wear-Toms-shoes-to-stop-social-injustice” white American college students (see image to the left.) My caption will probably make no sense to you, unless you know a college student like this, or, unless you enjoy the blog “Stuff White People Like” as much as I do.

These college students, with their comfortable upper-middle class lives, like to feel like they are doing something to help the world, and so they change their facebook statuses to raise awareness about stopping child soldiers in Uganda, and drink out of nalgene waterbottles (or at least recycle 50% of their waterbottles if they don’t have a nalgene). They are the kings and queens of slacktivism: doing things to make themselves feel good about helping the world, but don’t have any actual practical benefit.These college students come in the Christian version (they follow people like Shaine Claiborne and David Platt), or the non-Christian version (they follow people like Bono from U2 and Che Guevara). But it boils down to pretty much the same thing.

Sometimes I am scared that I fit into this category too well. I don’t have any Toms shoes, but I do like Whole Foods. And I read more blogs on social justice than I actually engage in it.

Th problem is, the counter-cultural green-fair-trade-social-justice college student is just as self-centered as the fast-food-eating one. It’s still all about me. Making myself feel good for being socially active and aware. How do I know that going to South Africa to work with iThemba is not just one more thing I’m doing self-centeredly to make myself feel better than others?

Thankfully I have prayed enough about working with iThemba to know that this is what God wants me to do with the next step in my life, regardless of how it “looks” to other people. The aim is not to make myself feel good, the aim is to be obedient to God. Working with iThemba is something that God has been shaping me for, and it is a huge blessing that I get to be a part of it. I still think I am going to get more out of it than I actually give–which would still make it selfish, I suppose– but perhaps that’s part of humility: a realization that God’s work is on-going, and it’s bigger than me.

So I guess I am realizing that Jesus lets anyone serve in his Kingdom–even those that fit the white, middle class, social activist college student stereotype.

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