Some activists possess a certain quality that's hard to put your finger on; you just know it when you see it. They are hopeful when the situation seems hopeless, they are gracious—even to those they struggle against—and their powerful convictions are reflected not just in their speech but in the way they live their lives. In Living Faith: How Faith Inspires Social Justice, reconciliation studies professor Curtiss Paul DeYoung describes these compelling figures as "mystic activists," people driven by an activism that consumes them but is "yet deeply rooted in their faith and in the mystery of the divine." This inward-outward faith is lived intensely, through commitments to spiritual disciplines such as prayer, meditation, and fasting and an unwavering determination to work for justice.
To better define the qualities of "mystic activists," DeYoung highlights three influential, faith-inspired social justice advocates of the 20th century: Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Malcom X, and Aung San Suu Kyi, each representing a different faith (Christianity, Islam, and Buddhism, respectively) and culture. DeYoung's brief biographies are page-turners; in succinct chapters he does a fine job encapsulating his subjects' life and work with special attention given to the foundations and formation of their faith. Their journeys are then mined for clues that might help give shape to the description of "mystic activists."