Socialists vs Christians: Assessing the tactics

“Perhaps it’s my closet-communist speaking, but I have a smidge of admiration for the outspoken partisans among us.”

Before leaving for my next lecture, I always map out a route.

This is far from a petty time-saving mechanism, a mere ploy allowing me to steal front row seats from my tardy classmates. Rather, this is my way of avoiding socialists.

Over the course of my studies, these revolutionaries have tracked me down just once. Yet my solitary socialist encounter was not as unbearable as I expected. While I did have to wait four minutes for my turn in the conversation, my friendly neighbourhood activist was willing to heed my concerns. She forced nothing down my throat. Nothing besides a four page flyer.

My intuitions implored me to keep hold of this brochure. Sure enough, it soon came in handy, becoming a priceless addition to my Marxist costume at a fancy dress party. It was during that night—a night where strangers signed my phony petitions—that I achieved enlightenment. I began to understand the inner workings of a socialist’s mind.

Our far left leaning neighbours often have a point. Some of their tactics may be aggressive, and their arguments confusing, but their hearts are often in the right place. And I don’t just mean that in an anatomical sense.

Rumour has it socialists care about human rights. Their actions are driven by the ideals of equality, justice, and emancipation, buzz words nobody would dare oppose. They aspire to build a better world, whereby everyone’s lives are free from violation.

The main problem is, half of them make you and I feel like the exceptions. The irony smacks you like a hardback compilation of Marx’s bibliography. Creating a public nuisance is their strategy for developing a utopian society; patronising alternative perspectives is their way of protecting individual dignity. Of course not every socialist is a hypocrite, but it’s far easier to remember the attention-seeking radicals over their badge-selling comrades.

But who am we to denounce their practices? There is no concrete methodology for communicating a message, otherwise advertisers would be raking in millions. The market is open to ideas, and they each deserve to be tested out.

There is no shortage of zealous societies on campus, each desperate to make their statement heard. Charity groups want your sponsorship; political groups want your votes; fledgling clubs want your membership. Religious groups are no different, as they attempt to sell the most elusive product on the market, God.

Indeed, Melbourne University has nine listed Christian groups, many of whom have an evangelical focus. They overwhelmingly outnumber the socialists, who weigh in with a mere two groups and just a dozen active campaigners.

Yet the local Christians could only dream of attaining the same level of bad press. With so much ammunition yet nowhere near as much gunfire, you’d be forgiven for wondering where the armies of Bible Bashers are hiding.

Today’s campus missionaries are equipped with a new line of attack—the fire-and-brimstone spiel is fast being overtaken by a few surreptitious schemes. Today’s Christians have greater concerns than your eternal fate. Hidden behind their smiley faces and surveys is a malignant mission to become your friend.

Relational proselytising is the new black in campus activism, and it’s a business model that lefties are beginning to adopt. The jury is still out on whether it’s any more effective than the traditional milk-crate rant. Yet it seems to be a more sustainable concept. Hostile arguments are a way of the past; subtle, systematic banter is the way of the future.

It’s almost an apologetic way of operating, a civilised counterbalance to the hellfire preacher or banner-waving protester. And who would fault them? These latter individuals are the greatest enemies of the minorities they claim to represent. Christians do everything they can to distance themselves from their Apocalyptical namesakes. The milder socialist factions, meanwhile, waste half their campaigning time with disclaimers that they’re not extremists.

Perhaps it’s my closet-communist speaking, but I have a smidge of admiration for the outspoken partisans among us. It must take serious balls—and a hell of a lot of conviction—to put oneself on the pedestal and say it how (they think) it is. Especially when nine out of ten passers-by avoid you like the plague, and the other one is shelling you with stones.

But that’s where my compassion ends. My aim is to stand up for the short guy. And there’s nothing short about a long-haired hippy, condemning me from his soap box.
My policy is to regard such militants with the same respect with which they treat me. My other policy is to dissociate the individual from their larger organisational body, something that’s easier said than done. But at least I’ll be getting some opportunities to practise.

With election week arriving soon, the presence of activists—not to mention the volume of street-level squabbles and the trade of homemade flyers—is likely to erupt. But don’t be disillusioned into thinking that every party is a sham, or that every campaigner is a louse.

Spare your rudeness for the loudmouths who demand it. The rest are just scrounging around for some dignity, and the least you can do is humour them. Save for a paper cut or two, their handouts are harmless.

Besides, you never know what fancy dress parties may be lurking around the corner.