Advocacy is the work of influencing the decisions, policies and practices of decision-makers, to address underlying causes of poverty, bring justice, and support good development. In many development situations there are underlying justice issues that contribute to people’s poverty. Until these issues are addressed other development help is going to make very little progress.
Advocacy is about people. The best advocacy helps people understand their own situation, and then to participate effectively in making and shaping the decisions that affect their lives.
There are many examples of advocacy in the Bible. Think of Abraham, when God tells him that he is going to destroy Sodom (Genesis 18). Abraham’s response is to intercede with God. He bargains with God to show mercy on the city for an increasingly small number of good people who might be found there.
“Lord, when you destroy the evil people, are you also going to destroy those who are good? Wouldn’t you spare the city if there are only fifty good people in it? You surely wouldn’t let them be killed when you destroy the evil ones. You are the judge of all the earth, and you do what is right.”
Advocacy is often a challenge to authority. When King David commits adultery with Bathsheba and organises for her husband Uriah to killed in battle, the prophet Nathan is sent to challenge him with what he has done (2 Samuel 12). He does it by telling David the story of a poor man whose pet lamb was taken by a rich neighbour. He gets David’s sympathy, and then turns the story to what David himself has done. “Then Nathan told David: You are that man! Now listen to what the Lord God of Israel says to you…”
David responds with repentance. By contrast, when queen Jezebel has Naboth killed, so that king Ahab can acquire Naboth’s vineyard, God says to Elijah “Go tell him that I say, ‘Ahab, you murdered Naboth and took his property’” (1 Kings 21). Elijah’s words were a challenge to Ahab, and a promise of punishment. Ahab pretends to repent, but actually his life does not change.
As followers of Christ, we remember that Jesus is our Advocate with God: “But if you do sin, Jesus Christ always does the right thing, and he will speak to the Father for us”. (1 John 2:1). Jesus promises that the Holy Spirit will be our advocate: “If you love me, you will do as I command. Then I will ask the Father to send you the Holy Spirit who will help you and always be with you. The Spirit will show you what is true” (John 14). The Greek work here translated as “help” can also be translated as “comfort,” “encourage,” or “defend,” which are all advocacy terms.
Think of specific examples of unjust situations and discuss how we as followers of Christ should be responding.
We must always:
Be uncomfortable amidst injustice;
Disquiet in the face of wrongs; and
Disturbed as unfairness persists.
We must never allow bigotry to be easy; or hate to normalize
We must remain defiant
We must resist.
More dangerous than hate is apathy
More dangerous than bigotry is silence
And more dangerous than injustice is the acquiescence to it.
Let us be resolved:
To be vigilant in the defence of others;
To be restless in pursuit of justice;
And let us never grow weary in the work of love
Cory Booker November 23, 2016