Defeating Defeatism: The Activist’s Creed

“AstroTurf protests don’t last the test of time. #gunsense is nonsense.” –Guy on Twitter

Managing Editor Henry Koenig Stone
PC: Ilana Urman

So wrote a detractor on Thursday, in response to Unbound’s tweets about the March for Our Lives that is happening today all across the country. While people of all faith-stripes are praying and marching for change, others just don’t seem touched by the horror of the Parkland event or others like it.

And yet now, I’m saying a selfish prayer of thanksgiving for that one man’s dismissive Twitter response. Why? Because he managed to pinpoint my fear as I march: the fear that no action by people in the United States can break us from the systemic violence at the root of our domestic and foreign policy. I find it absolutely necessary to reckon with this seed of doubt, in order to contribute to these growing movements for change.

It doesn’t take many years of social and political awareness to recognize a common thread of disenchantment among people, a disenchantment which relates to all kinds of struggles. And whether the issue is guns or something else, that disenchantment almost invariably leads to inaction and overgeneralization by people of good intention:

• “The NRA will block anything like this gun bill, so let’s focus on things we can actually get passed.”

• “Christians are just self-righteous bigots; they have nothing good to say to me, so I have nothing to say to them.”

• “Both political parties are corrupt, so I refuse to participate in the election.”

• “If the Civil Rights movement couldn’t end racism, then why would the Poor People’s Campaign do any better today? We don’t even have a Dr. King!”

• “The best we can do in terms of foreign policy is to have a military so large, intervene so often, and kill so many terrorists that our enemies live in fear, deterred by the United States’ real-life Avengers.”

I do not really blame people for coming to these conclusions in a world of fear-based narratives. But the prevalence of responses like this still scares me, because if all these things were true and unchangeable there would be little point in pursuing any form of justice in the world—whether it’s a justice motivated by faith, by common sense, or by the nominal ideals of the United States.

Living in fear drowns out all room for the hope for change. But we can also choose to live in faith at the margins of the seemingly impossible. And so I share a new Activist’s Creed, inspired by faith but unbound from fear.

The Activist’s Creed

I believe:

• We can find the political will to give up some gun rights, voluntarily, in the name of children’s safety;

• We can shape the public impression of Jesus’ vision to reflect a more encompassing vision than that of homophobia and religious extremism;

• We can reform, with sufficient engagement, the standards of our political process to reflect the needs and desires of the people over the best-funded lobbies (like the NRA).

• We can bend the moral arc of the toward justice, if we join across borders of race and class and faith (as in the Poor People’s Campaign).

• I believe that we can seek new roads for peace, defying the norm of abusive “great people” politics.

These issues run far afield from guns…but my point is that, in taking on the NRA, we must defeat the broader defeatism which has seeped into American politics.

I still fear the danger of all our sound and fury coming to nothing. Lin-Manuel Miranda’s lyrics echo: “Who lives, who dies, who tells your story?” And yet, I do believe that we are the ones to write the moral story of this country. Perhaps it’s just my generational identity speaking.

I hope that you are joining us today, because It’s time to march. Let us defeat the test of time one day at a time, and continue on this path with signs and slogans and voter-registration forms. We WILL reclaim the soul of this nation, and will we do it with faith in our hearts and will for change.


P.S.  In case you need another hopeful reminder that there are allies in this cause, opposing the NRA’s unconditional support for guns, here is a statement by Veterans for Gun Reform:


AUTHOR BIO: Henry Koenig Stone serves in Louisville, KY as current Managing Editor of Unbound and Associate for Young Adult Social Witness. Originally from Rochester, NY, Henry comes from a long line of pastors and professors. His family has practiced an equally long critical tradition of having “roast preacher” for Sunday lunch. Henry holds a B.A. in Economics (2015) from the University of Chicago and an MPP (2017) from UChicago’s Harris School of Public Policy. His past work has focused on policy analyses of healthcare pilot programs and public health systems. A baritone, Henry is a fan of both sacred and irreverent vocal traditions. His favorite place on earth is Dunkirk Camp & Conference Center, where he has been a summer camp counselor for many years.

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