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Religion and Social Engagaement

In: Religion Topics

Submitted By BriWalker93
Words 1192
Pages 5
Though many sources have stated that religious concurrence betters the social resources of an

individual, no hard evidence has been found to prove this. Ties to social engagement, however,

can be found through many religions. Many religious groups view charitable activity such

as the giving of alms, and helping those who suffer as something they are obligated to do in

order to satisfy their faith, and uphold the principles that go along with it. Some of the most

prominent social and political activists of our time were motivated by their faith, and their own

interpretations of the sacred doctrine of their Religion. Not so coincidental, many hospitals,

social service agencies, and clinics can trace the roots of their foundation back to religious


Religion is not easily defined. Karl Marx once said “Religion is the sigh of the oppressed

creature. The heart of a heartless world, just as it is the spirit of a spiritless situation. It is the

opium of the people.” According to Marx, it is by the circulation of false beliefs that religion

allows the downtrodden and unfortunate to accept their lot. That statement cannot be proven true

or false. What history tells us is Religion can be a powerful force for change that challenges not

only social systems but political as well. Desmond Tutu, former Archbishop of the Anglican

Church of South Africa, was driven by his religious commitments to take a stand against

apartheid in his country. For theists such as Tutu, Religion is not a drug, but a guiding force for

social involvement and active resistance.

Swasti Bhattacharyya presents a trio of well-known, religiously motivated, social activists. These

men were positively influenced by their religions enough to take action in their aspirations for

social, cultural, and political change, and went on to make great strides in changing the face of

their society. Reverend, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, and Vinoba Bhave.

Dr. King, grew up in a stable two parent home, received an excellent education, and had strong

ties to his religious traditions, as his father Revered Martin Luther King was a well-known

minister. Though he grew up in a time of heavy segregation and very present racism, his Mother

instilled in him a sense of “somebodiness”, and to never let the system make him feel inferior.

At the age of 14 King had won an award for the deliverance of a speech entitled, “The Negro

and the Constitution”. Dr. King said “We cannot truly be Christian people so long as we flout

the central teachings of Jesus, loving one another.” Dr. King believed that Jesus’s show of love

was to be lived out in everyday relationships, and that the true pacifism is the “courageous

confrontation of evil by power of love.” After examining the writings and teachings of Mahatma

Ghandi, King developed ideas of how to interpret and apply the teachings on a social level.

Dr. King took a stand, he was a civil rights activists, and a beacon of faith in the AfricanAmerican community during a time in history when things were quite devastating for blacks. He

promoted peaceful protests, and had many times been arrested for acts of such, like sit-ins. His

message was love and this generated a loyal following of supporters. In many of his infamous

speeches Dr. King quotes the New Testament. He preached to his fellowship that violence was

not the answer, and would do no justice to the situation at hand. His faith enabled him to see that

there was a place for suffering in the world.

Malcolm X, formerly Malcolm Little was a sandy haired young man orphaned when his father

was murdered by local members of the Ku Klux Klan. His mother, consumed by grief and

depression was institutionalized soon after. Brother X bounced around a cluster of foster homes

until he reached adult hood and took to the streets. A life of drugs and crime led Malcolm X

to prison. For four years he studied principles of the Islamic faith and the teachings of Elijah

Muhammad which redefined the way he saw the world. When X was granted parole he became a

member of the Nation of Islam, and quickly rose to a position of prominence and respect within

the organization. Brother X went on to found the Organization for Afro American Unity, whose

mission is to eliminate political oppression, social degradation and economic exploitation.

A confidant and friend to the great Mahatma Ghandi, Vinoba Bhave is a man whose social

activism and involvement many people don’t know about. Bhave makes no religious claims, and

believes that it is right to love all people no matter their traditions or back-round. He is quoted

to have said that" his work is rooted in compassion and love”. Hindu is a word used to describe

a group of people that reside on the western border of India, who happens not to be Muslim,

Jewish, or Christian. Bhave believed that one should never act in a way or commit an act that

would cause regret or consequence. Poverty in India happened to be a huge problem; Bhave went

upon a campaign on his own. He walked tens of miles, across his country over the course of

years. Preaching for the rich to lend a hand to the poor and allow at least one unfortunate person

to live in their home and work the land. In 1959 A group of women who chose to follow Bhave

and his teachings formed Vidya Mandir, an ashram for women. These women live modestly and

their mission in life is to help the poor and preach the message of love to all. Bhave’s beliefs and

teachings have now inspired many to broadcast the message of social equality, love, respect and


Before reading this article I had never thought about the connections between an individual’s

religious traditions and their social engagement. Though I now realize how big of a role faith

plays in a person’s motivation to change the status quo. Early childhood experiences and

interpretation of the principles that dominate said faith also play a major role. Dr. King had a

stable upbringing, two-parent home and strong religious ties. The message he preached was

one of love and non-violent protest. He took a stand in a way many are afraid or simply don’t

know how to. Brother Malcolm X’s childhood experience included no parents, no siblings,

and no religious stronghold. His life experiences of his father being murdered, mother being

locked away, and him being placed in an orphan An individual of keen intellect and charisma

he preached a message that was uplifting but the malicious undertone of racism was perpetuate.

Vinoba Bhave, a man of no religious affiliation studied from the days of his youth beside the

great Mahatma Ghandi, and the only thing he cared for was love compassion and social equality.

Religions ties to social engagement run deep. Much of who we are is defined in our religious

beliefs and therefore who we become and what we do are heavily dependent upon the principles

that we decide to put into action.…...

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