Our civilization, a modern incarnation of the mammon of unrighteousness is effectively akin to a pool of water. It is stagnant, and putrid, and is the host to cultures of flesh-eating bacteria, hiding an anaerobic swamp of slothful, covetous sin and creeping things, carefully submerged underneath a thin layer of tepid film, an undisturbed, whitewashed veneer of false peace and status quo, empty promises of ‘everything is going according to plan.’
The prefered method to dealing with this mess seems to be to ignore it, to live comfortably with it, to not disturb it, to react against anybody who does, and to paint it with another coat of whitewash and look the other way. After all, breaking the surface of the water will only set the mosquitos into a frenzy, putting everybody at risk of discomfort, not to mention unleashing the rancid stench contained by the top layer of flimsy film. Anybody who uncovers the falsehoods and moral decay of society is necessarily the ‘bad guy’ and spoilsport, who should only learn to live and let die, going along to get along.
The only way to actually deal with the situation is to agitate the environment, to stir up all of the ugly symptoms made by putrefaction and stifling silt, to drain the dark filth of moral leprosy and spiritual deadness, deftly dealing with the root cause, getting one’s hands dirty because somebody has to make that sacrifice and do hard things: like tearing down strongholds, destroying falsehoods and established, institutional principles, so that the way can be made for fresh water to be pumped in, as well as the life-producing effects it brings.
Agitation is persistent, long-term advocacy for social change, where resistance to the change is also persistent and log term. This definition applies to the efforts of individuals like Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, Jr., Glora Steinem, and Cesar Chaves, as well as to historical figures like William Wilberforce (who fought to eliminate the British slave trade), William Lloyd Garrison (who battled for the elimination of slavery in the United States), Susan B. Anthony (who fought for women’s suffrage), and John B. Gough (who argued for temperance). (The Rhetoric of Agitation and Control: Third Edition. John W. Bowers, Donovan J. Ochs, Richard J. Jensen, David P. Schulz. 2009)
While many people from different backgrounds throughout history can be said to be called ‘agitators’, the practice of agitation must have a consistent worldview by which to engage in moral suasion. That worldview is a Biblical one, considering the moral vehicle of Natural Law is piloted by Nature’s God and his unchanging and perfect stance on righteousness. In fact, He constantly advocates for His followers to be agitators, among lost societies, and among their own society, characterized by personal responsibility towards mutual accountability.
For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light: (For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth;) Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them. For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret. But all things that are reproved are made manifest by the light: for whatsoever doth make manifest is light. Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light. (Ephesians 5:8-14)
The greek word ‘elegchó‘ for reprove in verse eleven is an imperative to convict, refute, and especially to expose. In order for unfruitful works of darkness to be reproved and repented of, they must first be exposed and quarantined, made distinct through shame and conviction so that they maybe be replaced with fruitful deeds of light and restoration unto God and Neighbor.
Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;) And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching. (Hebrews 10:23-25)
Some readers may have an emotional aversion to the word ‘agitation’, linking it to sentiments of contentiousness or unnecessarily abrasive confrontation. However, the word has a firm foundation in human history to dismiss these knee-jerk reactions. Probably the most famous agitator of the nineteenth century, William Lloyd Garrison, focused heavily on the chattel slavery practiced by many Americans, but equally recognized the incompetence of human civil government to adequately address it. These sentiments were wholly inspired by his Christian worldview and interpretation of the Gospel.
Above all, Garrison was an “agitator.” Because he placed a radical faith in the individual conscience, he believed that anything that gets people thinking and talking about an injustice would eventually contribute to its overthrow. “There is nothing,” he wrote in 1838, “like agitation. Free discussion will finally break all fetters and put down all usurpation.” Agitation was the ultimate political tool of the radical liberal, for it sought revolutionary change without coercion.
Garrison’s liberal faith in agitation allowed him to maintain an open, ongoing dialogue with many people who had not yet embraced his most radical positions. (He was, unfortunately, far less charitable to those who had once held his own views but then abandoned them.) The Liberator’s “Refuge of Oppression” section always gave ample space to proslavery or (anti-Garrisonian) perspectives—partly to denounce them, of course, but partly to underscore the liberal value of free speech. Though Garrison personally renounced all violence and participation in government, he acknowledged that more moderate activists could do much good. “Thousands who are not prepared to come into the fulness of our principles,” he wrote in 1839, “have been aroused by the light they cast upon the corruption of governments to labor to purify them.” (Dan McKanan. Identifying the Image of God: Radical Christians and Nonviolent Power in the Antebellum United States. New York: Oxford University Press, 2002.)
This mode of Abolitionism necessarily helps to give it a flair of tireless ‘extremism’ and intensity as a bulwark against the apathy of a whitewashed, sepulchral society. It was so fundamental to the professing abolitionists of chattel slavery, that historians will write books on this topic alone because it is included in any detailed reference to the era. Articles are still being written to highlight the uncompromising, unstoppable force of anti-slavery agitators who carried the torch of Abolitionism, not to be dissuaded or distracted by the more moderate and lukewarm proponents of anti-slavery sentiment.
“Antislavery activists proposed colonization, establishing an American colony in Africa for freed slaves and free blacks, as a safe alternative to emancipation. Immediatism, or the immediate abolition of slavery, originated in the anti-colonization movement and agitation from immediatists resulted in Britain abolishing slavery throughout the British Empire in 1833.” (The Abolitionist Movement by Julie Holcomb)
“Two phases of antislavery agitation occurred in the United States during the nineteenth century, one pacific and intended to persuade the South that slavery should be given up, the other seeking to induce the North to use her influence in congress to wipe out what was considered a blot on American civilization. Of the first movement Benjamin Lundy, a New Jersey Quaker, was the leading spirit. He was persistent and patient, and wished to secure the cooperation of slave holders, who generally feared that antislavery agitation would suggest insurrection to the minds of the slaves. He traveled extensively in the South, organized emancipation societies, and published a paper, The Genius of Universal Emancipation, as a means of promoting his ideas. He met no opposition from Southerners, but succeeded only in the sections in which there were few slaveholders, and chiefly with his fellow Quakers. His period of activity extended from about 1815 to 1831.” (Bassett, John S. Short History of the United States. New York, 1913.)
The role of the prophet, well-established throughout scripture, has always been one of agitation, rightly dividing the word of truth and making straight the very narrow way of salvation and faith; exposing, rebuking, and condemning the wicked works that lead men wantonly into the socialist bondage of coveting the deceitful benefits of magistrates and the providence of their civil institutions. The agitator is against the world, for the world, defying every delicate sensibility to boldly proclaim justice and mercy in an unjust and merciless society. He takes it upon himself to intercept public opinion in the market places and public squares, and oppose it with the opinions and injunctions of the living God, needing no other authority but his conviction, and no other strategy but preaching the Kingdom of God in the face of the kingdoms of men. He wields reason and conversation as apologetic tools, arguing with those who profess themselves wise, but are really fools, believing in the pragmatic gospel of men in bondage.
The concepts of bondage and liberty are not political issues to be delegated to and regulated by the policy of politicians. Rather they are sin issues and repentance issues belonging to the heart of every man who can blame no other but himself for his own slavery, who must begin to take back his personal responsibility towards social virtues in order to begin seeking first the Kingdom of God. This is the posture of every prophet in Scripture. They proscribe the practices of Man, made in God’s image, immorally exchanging his equity and power of choice to false gods and their national economies for temporary comfort, safety, and fiat prosperity. When slothful, covetous men endeavor to make covenants with other gods through Social Security, the agitating prophet assumes the unpopular aim of counterculture. When cannibals enter into the flesh pots of rulers, binding themselves together in mutual surety, compelling each other’s forced contributions to sustain their standards of living, the prophet protests, declaring the practice to be a murderous rejection of God’s will. When parents bastardize their children, selling them into bondage for tax write-offs, placing them on the altars of the Molechs, Baals, and Nebos, outsourcing their responsibilities to nurture, raise and teach their children, agitators boldly proclaim this to be child sacrifice and the destruction of God’s political party – the family.
These are just a few examples of the common obscenities proudly practiced by those who profess themselves to be Christians, who claim that Christ has set them free while they themselves are servants of corruption; while they walk into religious service providers on Sunday mornings, saying ‘Lord, Lord‘ with their lips, but their hearts are far from Him. Agitation, Agitators, Prophets, and Gadflies are necessary for the preservation of a people beholden to a whitewashed culture full of slothful people, sluggardly asleep in the Valley of Dry Bones.
Agitation is not for cowards. It is not for hypocrites. It is not for the lost. It is for the Christian who knows that Christianity comes at a price, who knows that seeking a Kingdom based on service and charity will be met with the imperialism of the kingdoms who rule by force and fear and wrack and ruin. True believers must not lose their saltiness or hide their light. They must stand on truth alone, not on false peace, and must boldy carry out their duties to the Great Commission, faithfully declaring bondage to be sin, liberty to be righteousness, and the people to be in grave danger of literal damnation characterized by economic, social, and spiritual collapse into weeping and gnashing of teeth.
I AM aware that many object to the severity of my language; but is there not cause for severity? I will be as harsh as Truth, and as uncompromising as Justice. On this subject I do not wish to think, or speak, or write, with moderation. No! No! Tell a man whose house is on fire to give a moderate alarm; tell him to moderately rescue his wife from the hands of the ravisher; tell the mother to gradually extricate her babe from the fire into which it has fallen—but urge me not to use moderation in a cause like the present. I am in earnest—I will not equivocate—I will not excuse—I will not retreat a single inch—and I will be heard. The apathy of the people is enough to make every statue leap from its pedestal and hasten the resurrection of the dead. (William Lloyd Garrison, The First Issue of ‘The Liberator‘ . January 1, 1831)
Awaken those who falsely believe they are free. Do hard things. Be the villain in a society that villainizes true heroes for the sake of leisure, comfort, and fattening their hearts in the day of slaughter. Organize together and make remonstrance and demonstration. Be willing to be labeled as seditious and treasonous for righteousness’ sake. Be willing to be martyred and crucified to establish a real, lasting Kingdom for posterity. Demand the immediate, unconditional, and total liberty for those made in God’s image, declaring ‘Let my people go‘, accepting no compromise. Demand it from the people, including yourself, who have willingly gone with the multitude to do evil, trading your God-given rights and responsibilities for false god-given privileges and contracted obligations. Christians were not called to live comfortable lives. They were meant to be ambassadors of a King and His Gospel to a lost and perverted generation playing the adulteress to human civil government. Go and do likewise.