How Are Movements Sustained? Part 2: Through The Slow Way of Substance, Sacrifice, and Simple Structures

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Mar 272012

Grassroots Movements with Substance Bring Change!

I want to start part 2 of my blogs on movements by sharing the story of a global movement against the injustice of slave labor in the Congo that occurred in the latter part of the 1800’s. This is a story that very few people have heard of, and is still part of the story of what is going on in Central Africa today.  To go forward we must look back. That is why studying history is so important.

Though this movement was ignited by a catalyst named Edmund Morel, he was only one of many brave souls, including a black journalist and historian named George Washington Williams and another black American named William Sheppard, who spoke out against the evil of slave labor in the Congo. Movements always start with a few catalysts and champions who are willing to sacrifice for the cause.

King Leopold II, the King of Belgium, desperately wanted to have a colony just like the British and the French. Because Belgium was not a big or powerful country, Leopold used guile and deception to colonize the Congo. Ostensibly, his motives appeared to be philanthropic. He claimed to be putting a stop to the slave trade and to be helping the people by welcoming in missionaries and investing in the infrastructure. Yet in reality, King Leopold was driven by greed and ego. He wanted to be seen as an important player in the eyes of the colonizing countries. He wanted a piece of the action in Africa, including the pillaging of Africa’s natural resources and people. It is estimated that between 5 to 8 million lives were lost through slavery in the Congo itself.

After observing the plunder of rubber and ivory coming off the ships in Antwerp, Edmund made the bold move of blowing the whistle on the egregious atrocities that King Leopold II and his minions were committing in the Congo. Below is a quote from the book King Leopold’s Ghost by Adam Hochschild, that tells the story of how this one man gave his life to start and sustain a global movement against the injustice of slave labor in Africa.

The Power of Global Movements to Mobilize

Brought face to face with evil, Morel does not turn away. Instead, what he sees determines the course of his life and the course of an extraordinary movement, the first great international human rights movement of the twentieth century. Seldom has one human being – impassioned, eloquent, blessed with brilliant organizational skills and nearly superhuman energy – managed almost single-handedly to put one subject on the world’s front pages for more than a decade. Only a few years after standing on the docks of Antwerp, Edmund Morel would be at the White House, insisting to President Theodore Roosevelt that the United States has a special responsibility to do something about the Congo. He would organize delegations to the British Foreign Office. He would mobilize everyone from Booker T. Washington to Anatole France to the Archbishop of Canterbury to join his cause. More than two hundred mass meetings to protest slave labor in the Congo would be held across the United States. A larger number of gatherings in England – nearly three hundred a year at the crusade’s peak – would draw as many as five thousand people at a time. In London, one letter of protest to the the Times on the Congo would be signed by eleven peers, nineteen bishops, seventy six members of Parliament, the presidents of  seven Chambers of Commerce, thirteen  editors of major newspapers, and every lord mayor in the country. Speeches about the horrors of King Leopold’s Congo would be given as far away as Australia. In Italy, two men would fight a duel over the issue. British Foreign Secretary Sir Edward Grey, a man not given to overstatement, would declare that ‘no external question for at least thirty years has moved the country so strongly and vehemently’. (p. 2)

How are Movements Sustained?

  • Slow and Small precedes Speed and Size: Most movements that last start very slow and small with a very simple, yet big idea. Before the movement gains traction amongst the masses, there has been an incubation period when the cause or idea is percolating.  It takes time before there is a tipping point, or before the idea snowballs, picking up speed and momentum as it spreads. If you look at the issue of the invisible children and Kony in Uganda, there have been people on the ground addressing this issue for many  years. Suddenly the issue has caught the attention of the mainstream. My dad spent over 20 years in Africa modeling the practice of crop rotation and summer fallowing as a way of farming. It took years before a few Africans decided to adopt this practice, instead of the short term subsistence-living worldview which had resulted in poor crops by draining the soil of nutrients year after year. Every year, they would query my dad about why his crops were so much better than theirs, and every year he would tell them to practice crop rotation. Finally, after some years, he was able to convince a few to switch their long held patterns of planting the same crop in the same field over and over, to crop rotation and summer fallowing.
  • Substance and Sacrifice trumps Sizzle and Sexiness: What is clear in our day and time is that the subject of social justice is on the radar of most people. Thus, motivating and mobilizing, especially young people, to get involved in justice issues is an easy sell. The potential downfall of this is that people get moved and involved for awhile till some other thing comes along to grab their attention, or money and fame issues hijack the integrity of the movement. Case and point would be the movement started by the book Three Cups of Tea written by Greg Mortenson, about building schools for poor children in Pakistan and Afghanistan. There were allegations presented by 60 Minutes last year of financial indiscretion and embellishment of the truth. Whether the allegations are true or not, we need to learn some lessons.
  • The sudden spotlight with Kony 2012 and the ensuing pressure seem to have triggered a breakdown in Jason Russell, the leader of the movement. The pressure was too much to handle. Our human nature is to prematurely promote and publicize a movement so that it takes off quickly, rather than giving it the test of time.  Instant or fast success can be the greatest enemy of a fledgling movement. Often these movements are not ready to handle the sudden infusion of money and the deluge of attention that comes with quick notoriety. What started out as a good thing crumbles or fades.

What Africa needs are people who will give their lives to see things change over a lifetime. I just watched a documentary about a couple who have moved to the city of Goma, the nexus for much of the strife in the Congo. This women and her Congolese husband have started a center to see healing and justice come to the many women who have been sexually abused in the fighting in Central Africa. They are bringing healing to the emotional wounds these women have been scarred by, through the trauma they have experienced . They are training the women in marketable skills to support themselves. They are working to reform the corrupt justice system one step at a time, by bringing perpetrators of these crimes to account one by one. Their lives are a beacon of light pushing back the darkness, one life at a time. They know it takes a generation to change deeply entrenched worldviews and practices.

  • Structures must remain Simple and Serve the Original Life:

    Movements are like Spiderwebs

    Most movements start off with very little organization. Then as the movement grows, the natural propensity is to build systems and structures around the movement to support it and protect it. What usually happens is that the organization takes on a life of its own and begins to outgrow the organic life of the movement. In fact, any new shoots of life are seen as a threat to the existing structures and are resisted. Movements that last keep empowering the grassroots, and keep fighting to prevent the power from moving to a few in the center.

  • Some Movements do have a Shelf-Life: A disclaimer to the above would be that some movements are meant to start something and then die. This doesn’t mean that they were not successful in accomplishing their purpose for a period of time. Whether the Kony 2012 movement lasts for a few months or a year, if it heightens the awareness of the next generation to the justice issues in Central Africa and motivates a few to serve the locals in finding some lasting solutions, it will have been worth it. This same principle holds true for spiritual movements, movements of churches, or political movements. Either they need to morph, champion new movements to sprout from within the movement, or die after the raison d’etre has been fulfilled.  May we be wise students of history that do not repeat the mistake of holding onto the halcyon days of former movements that inspired us or movements that we helped start.
  • Questions For Reflection:
  1. Where are there shoots of organic life popping up or percolating around me in vision for a big idea or in relationships?
  2. What simple structures are needed to serve that life?
  3. Where am I still living in the past glory days, missing the new movements happening right before my eyes?
  4. Who are the people and where are the places that I will commit to for a lifetime?
  5. What slow, small movement with a big idea do I believe in, and am willing to serve and sacrifice for?

By Tim Schultz

How are Movements Started? Part 1: The Strength and Weaknesses of Viral Movements

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Mar 192012

Fast Spreading Viral Movement of Justice

Like many of you, I have been both moved and fascinated by the sudden and rapid growth of the Kony 2012 movement. This movement was initiated by the YouTube film produced by the group Invisible Children and Jason Russell, to draw attention to the plight of children in northern Uganda who have been abducted into the Lord’s Resistance Army. The tactics of the LRA has been to raid villages, kill the children’s parents, and forcibly conscript children into their army. These children are then forced to commit heinous acts. The LRA is led by a despot named Joseph Kony who used to be active in northern Uganda, but is now operating either out of the Central African Republic or the Congo. The hope of Invisible Children is that by making Joseph Kony famous, they can stir up a grassroots movement to put pressure on the powers-that-be to capture Joseph Kony and put a stop to this injustice. As of today, close to a 100 million people, many of them young people, have watched the half hour film, and a grassroots movement towards justice has been born.

I love the conversation starter that this film Invisible Children has become, tapping into the growing movement amongst millenials, those born after 1980, to get involved in social justice issues. So let me start by saying, anything that raises awareness of justice issues and gets the ball rolling is a good thing. Because living out justice is a central tenet of the Kingdom, we should be thrilled at any movement that mobilizes folks to get involved.

Having lived in Niger, one of the poorest countries in the world, and having grown up in Africa, that continent has a special place in my heart.

I love Africa

Africa is rich in both natural resources and in a beautiful tapestry of people that have much to offer the world. I long to see the corrupt and oppressive systems that abuse the people stopped and changed. Though I am no expert on Africa, I understand that lasting change there will not happen simply by throwing money at the problems of poverty and injustice through large NGOs or through being emotionally stirred by a film, as good as that is. It will happen through faulty worldviews being changed one person at a time. It will come as Africans and their friends devote their lives to finding solutions on the ground level to bring healing between longstanding tribal divisions, to develop easily reproducible ways for Africans to support themselves with dignity, to bring access to clean water, education, and health care to all, and slowly develop good governance and a less corrupt justice system.

The beauty of this latest viral justice movement is that very quickly, masses of people are being made aware of justice issues, and being mobilized to some sort of action to stop this injustice. My question is, how can this “viral justice movement” be sustained and address the long term systemic issues, whether that be in the Arab countries such as Egypt or in Eastern Central Africa?


Protesting Against Injustice

The breeding grounds for these nefarious individuals like Kony are power structures that are deeply entrenched. For every Kony there are at least 100 others like him. There are power brokers behind these men who gain both politically and economically from keeping age old tribal and political conflicts going. Mixed into that are multi-national companies who want to get a piece of the rich resources of gold, diamonds, timber and such, in Eastern Central Congo. These geo-political and economic issues must be understood and confronted as part of the problem.


As a student of movements, and one who wants to learn to catch the wave of movements that further what the Kingdom of God is all about, I will be doing a three part series on some of my reflections and observations on how movements are started and sustained. I will be referring to the Kony 2012 viral movement and other movements as examples.

How Do Movements Start?

  • By a Captivating Message with little Money: Movements start when a big idea or message resonates with people who grab hold of it and make it their own. An example of this is the book The Shack, which presents a different angle on who God is. The ideas explored in the book struck a chord in many people and the book sold like hotcakes. I believe that the Shack was first published in a garage, for only a few hundred dollars.
  • By a Messenger with the It factor: What is interesting to me is that many movements are started by young people who dare to dream of a better future and have the audacity to pursue that future in the present.  Jason Russell, the fellow portrayed with his young son in the Kony 2012 movie and the one telling the story, is in his early 30’s. The Welsh Revival in 1904 was led by Evan Roberts, who was 26 years old when the revival started. Evan’s sister Mary, who was also a key leader, was only 16 years old. Evan’s brother Dan, and Mary’s future husband, Sydney Evans, were 20 years of age. As one with a greying beard, I just want to cheer on the next generation to “Go for it!”, and tag along for the ride.
  • By a Medium that Moves the Message quickly: Movements have a medium through which the message spreads like wildfire, such as social networking systems today.
    The Mediums of Viral Movements

    The Koney 2012 message took off like a brush fire because of the mediums of Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter. In reflecting back on the Arab spring, we see the footprint of social media as the tool for mobilizing people quickly to gather and protest, such as in Tahrir Square in Cairo.

  • By Mobilizing the Masses from the Margins: Movements empower the grassroots and begin to challenge the existing power structures by shifting power from the center to the margins.

Reflection Questions and recommended Reading:

  1. For understanding some of the historical context for what is going on in Central Africa and the Congo in particular, I suggest the book King Leopold’s Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror, and Heroism in Colonial Africa by Adam Hochschild
  2. For understanding the nature and characteristics of movements, I recommend The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference by Malcolm Gladwell.
  3. If you want a short but good read on Christian movements, Steve Addison’s book Movements That Change the World is a helpful resource.
  4. Questions for Reflection:
  • What “Big Idea” has so gripped me that I would give up everything to pursue it? Read the parable of the Pearl of Great Value in Matthew 13:44-46.
  • Who is a young person I know that I can encourage to make a difference in the world?
  • Where am I actively involved in turning the tide of injustice in my neighborhood and in the nations? “A ripple of change starts small with the power of one.” Read and reflect on Micah 6:8.
  • Examples: Helping to find affordable housing for the poor, especially single parents, becoming a friend with a Sudanese refugee family who have come from a war torn country and helping them assimilate here, going as a doctor or nurse to Africa to serve one month a year, or if you are a teacher, giving part of a sabbatical year to go teach in Africa, or you and some friends starting a simple movement to address a need in Africa such as orphaned children, the need for clean water,  or the need for micro-businesses that train and invest in Africans.
  • Go to Africa and let Africa get in your blood! Who knows you may end up moving there.

By Tim Schultz


How Do We Change Part 3: Developing Healthy Habits Through Forming New Grooves in Our Brains

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Mar 142012

Let me start by reviewing a couple seminal ideas about how we bring about lasting change in our lives. They are simple ideas that are foreign to our natural inclinations. First of all, we are only responsible to change ourselves, not other people. Let me tell you, after 25 years of trying to change my kids and my wife, I’m finally starting to get it through my thick skull that I can’t change anyone but myself.

Second of all, true change starts from the inside out. To change, we must be motivated to change or have a revelation of our need to change. This connection to our heart is what we typically call vision or passion. Then we need the information of how to change which requires a shift in our thinking or in our head.

Finally, we need to develop new habits, practices, disciplines, virtues, or behaviors, which I call the work of our hands. This cycle of  change starts from the heart, then moves to the head, and then translates to our hands. This inside out way of changing is what we need to pass on to  those we parent, mentor, pastor, and lead.

The changing of habits or the developing of new behaviors is where most of us give up when it comes to change. We get inspired to change and we get the information on how to change, and even start out with good intentions to change our habits, and then lose steam. Why?

One of the belief systems entrenched in some of us from religious backgrounds is the idea that we are powerless to change ourselves, and that only God can change us. Sounds so true, right? Anything that smacks of us partnering with God in the change process sounds too much like a ‘works doctrine’ that undermines the concept of grace, so we avoid doing our part. Grace has two sides of the coin in its definition. First, the doctrine that restored relationship with God, often called salvation, is a free gift and cannot be earned by our effort. Second, grace is defined as God’s power and resources to be who God has called us to be, and to do what He has called us to do.

The consequence of twisting this doctrine of grace is that we wait around for God to zap us with His power, so that ‘presto’, all our bad behaviors cease. Through this download we expect to become instantly transformed into super nice, perfect people who act like Jesus all the time. We sit around as ‘spiritual couch potatoes’ putting all the blame on God for not changing us. We rationalize our lack of character by claiming that God’s grace means that we can do what we like and get away with it. This is what Deitrich Bonhoeffer referred to as ‘cheap grace’  in his book The Cost of Discipleship. The truth of the matter is that we cannot change our hearts, only God can do that.  Yes, we need God’s help to act more like Jesus from the inside out. Yet, as the Catholic tradition so wonderfully teaches us, the developing of virtues requires intentional c0-operation and practice on our behalf. Change of habits doesn’t just happen! We must activate God’s power through some training and practice. (Read Titus 2:11-12)

How Are Good Habits Formed?

The opposite extreme in religious circles is working hard to change our external behaviors, so that we look good on the outside, yet our hearts remain unchanged, full of pride, bitterness, and greed. We think we can earn God’s love or a free pass into heaven by all our good works.  This is what Jesus called religion. (Read Matt. 15:8-9; Matt. 23: 25-28) Religion is doing all the right things from the wrong heart. We have our religious act down pat, saying all the right words and keeping all the rules, but lack  the joy, life, and freedom that flows from a heart that has been transformed by God.

So what is our part in the change journey?

I want to share with you some natural, yet supernatural ideas from the fields of leadership, the brain, and change, that I have found helpful in this journey of developing healthy habits.  What is being explored is the connection between the limbic system which governs our emotional responses, and the neocortex part of our brain that governs our rational responses. Most of us initially respond to situations emotionally, not rationally. Emotions are what make us human. How we govern our emotions is the key. This is called emotional intelligence, and is the key to habit formation.

There is a small part of our brains called the amygdala, which is our emotional command center that reacts to emergency situations with the fight, flight or flee responses. A person who responds to a ‘not life threatening’ situation with anxiety and anger has developed deep grooves in the brain from the amygdala to the right side of the prefrontal neocortex part of the brain. The amygdala flight or fight response is hijacking a healthy response to the situation. This is why a person who has suffered from brain damage to the prefrontal cortex part of the brain will struggle with outbursts of anger, mood swings, or depression, triggered by seemingly small things.

Creating New Grooves in the Brain

Those who have developed deep grooves over time between the amygdala and the left side of the prefrontal area of the brain are able to override the negative emotional responses triggered by the amygdala. This allows a person to remain calm and positive even in a tense or pressure packed situation. The good news is that if we have developed negative habits, whereby we respond to situations with anxiety, anger, or panic, it is possible over time and with practice to rewire our circuitry in our brain so that we respond in a more positive way.

Let me give you an illustration from my life. There is many a day when it comes time for me to go do my workout, that the amygdala part of my brain says to me, “Flee! I don’t feel like working out today.” or “Working out is so painful, give yourself a break.” Yet after years of working out, I have developed a deeper groove between my amygdala and the left prefrontal side of my brain, which overrides the emotional messages from the amygdala by reminding me how wonderful and energized I feel after a workout. Thus I have been able to develop a healthy habit of working out. Learning to govern our emotions, which in the Bible is called self-control, is one of the keys to developing healthy habits.

Are We Self-Aware?

An example of where I still need to keep developing new grooves in my brain is my epidermal or emotional responses of impatience when an reckless driver is tailgating me. Another growth area is my proclivity to launch into a lecture with a frustrated edge when my kids are spending too much time playing video games instead of getting outside and being active. “It’s not what we say, but how we say it that matters!”

“Self-awareness that leads to self-mastery is the first step to changing oneself.”

Questions, Recommended Reading, and Excercises:

  • What virtues do you admire in others?
  • What are some healthy habits that you want to develop in your life?

    Get Honest Feedback!

  • What are some unhealthy behaviors you want to stop? A good book to read on this is What Got You Here Won’t Get You There, by Marshall Goldsmith.
  • Ask those who love you most and know you the best what would be one thing you need to change to become a better parent, spouse, leader, pastor, or friend.
  • Start with forming one new habit, like exercising 2 to 3 times a week, giving your kids a hug once a day, or a date night once a week with your spouse.
  • Set tangible, measurable, and attainable goals.
  • Tell a friend, a coach and your family what new habit you want to start, and give them permission to give you feedback and follow up with them.
  • Reward yourself for any steps forward.
  • Keep practicing even when you blow it.
  • Pick up and read Primal Leadership: Realizing the Power of Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman and/or Virtues Re-born by N.T. Wright.