Friday, December 19, 2008

CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE THAT IS REALLY CIVIL

I've recently read that there is a protest being orchestrated against Rick Warren, Pastor of Saddleback Church in California who has been invited to pray the benediction at the inauguration of President-elect Obama. The protest strategy is that the participants are to "boo" from the beginning of Pastor Rick's prayer to the end. Have you ever wanted to protest something that way? I have. Maybe even long and meaningless prayers. Just kidding.

I've often wondered if during the sixties and seventies, which are often referred to as the decades of protest, I was not too blase' with regards to the gender and racial inequalities that were so prevelant in America along with some other issues worth protesting. I'm not speaking of using the pulpit in dealing with social issues, but as a citizen I have some personal responsibility in such matters. I know there is a fine line to be walked in being a preacher of the gospel and becoming nothing more than a social voice in the pulpit rather than the gospel voice announcing the need for a new birth, the One who provides that birth and the coming of a new Kingdom. I NEVER want to loose that voice in order to correct ANY social wrong.

That said, some wrongs are worth protesting. Without a doubt it requires courage to stand for the truth of the gospel and share it as christians. It requires that same kind of courage as a citizen to affirm standards that exist that are worth preserving as a society and to propose and defend any laws that make possible the order and justice and freedom of all our citizens. It could even take the form of "civil disobedience," I think with an emphasis on civil.

The protest decades that I mentioned earlier sometimes took an angry and even illegal tone to them. [Much as the booing protest which, it seems to me, is more out of anger than anything else.] It was an illegal and deadly protest that the man associated with President-Elect Barack Obama was involved in that created a pause inside me during the campaign me as to the qualifications of our new President to-be. But I digress.

However, to throw out protest altogether because some do it with anger or illegally would do great damage to our nation in my judgment. There does exist a form of protest worthy of praise; and it is that protest to which I'm drawing attention. To protest civilly against whatever would bring about the destruction of the moral order and the social order is an act of courage and piety I believe. That sort of protest against the enemies of order and justice and freedom will be heard far better than will violence or anger in the name of protest.

Those who see our protest when it's that kind may not agree with what we say but will more likely give our issue position a hearing. So I'm going to share some remarks I read concerning rightful protest in this age of ours when often it seems as if the bottom has dropped out of what we hold dear. The following is adapted from a source I found that was delivered long ago [30 years] but still meaningful to me.

CIVIL PROTEST THAT IS MORE LIKELY TO BE HEARD.

"If we protest, it ought to be a protest arising out of love, and not out of hatred;

that protest ought to be an affirmation that the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom.

That protest ought to be an affirmation of the dignity of man, not an appeal to primitive impulse.

That protest ought to be an affirmation of the ties of family and community, not an enthusiasm for centralized power or for the overthrow of private and public affections.

That protest ought to be an affirmation of the goodness of God's creation, not a denunciation of the life-impulse.

That protest ought to be temperate and patient, not an inciting to violence.

That protest ought to be undertaken in humility, not in the self-righteousness of the Pharisee.

That protest ought to reunite the generations and the classes, rather than becoming a declaration of war with sword in hand.

That protest ought to ask for the recognition of moral authority, and not for the casting of every person upon his private petty resources of intellect and appetite.

And that protest ought to be promulgated in the name of the permanent things, rather than being a shriek amidst the winds of doctrine.

Protest which ignores these aims and limits is no better than the howl of the fanatic. That howl echoes through the world today; it has been raised recently upon some campuses, in crazy protest against the President's visit to a German graveyard, in frantic demand that South Africa be reduced to the happy condition of Uganda or Chad. Before the stony idols of Unreason and Devastation, the modern mob bows down. Unreason often seems fashionably clever, and Devastation has its charms for the bored and the hopeless. But it requires courage to speak up for the truth with character in this time of troubles which is our age."

My final words of this post ...

I believe there is wisdom in these words for christians also who disagree and debate one another theologically. Or those who protest the actions of leaders or governing bodies in a denomination. This is one of the reasons I have supported and admired the actions of Wade Burleson the past three years. NOT because he is my son. But because he is a civil protestor as a christian in Southern Baptist life. May his tribe increase.

Paul B.

Civility isn't weakness..Anger isn't strength.

8 comments:

Bob Cleveland said...

Paul,

If I take some of those thoughts to some far-out conclusions, I might also conclude that God keeps after us, trying to get us to conform our lives to that of Jesus, not out of anger at us for getting it wrong, but from love which wants the best for us, and knows how to achieve it.

Yup. I think so. Would that all protests were similarly motivated and conducted (I am well acquainted with some that are).

:)

Paul Burleson said...

Bob,

You absolutely got it.

Kate Johnson said...

Thank you for this post. And thank you for your honesty about maybe being too silent way back when... and one of the things I love about your son's blog is his determination to protest in a civl and thoughful manner.

I think there are many ways to protest. Some are verbally and some are behaviorally and some are both. What I mean by that is that we can sit back or we can say something or we can do something (or a combination). I believe I protest against ill treatment everytime I give a seminar to a church body on abuse and helping those in need. I believe I protest whenever I speak out against abusive treatment of one another in the family. I believe I protest through educating others on how to minister. Others may not see it as a protest, but for me it is. It is protesting against all that was done to me, and all that was/is done to others. It is living out Rmns 8:28 and redeeming what was meant for evil and letting God use it for His good, which ultimately is also my good. It has given me a voice, this educational protest, and I pray I never lose it.

Kate Johnson said...

I also wanted to share this quote...

He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it. - Martin Luther King Jr.

Paul Burleson said...

A VERY good word Kate and an exceptiona quote. Thanks for commenting and Merry Christmas

Bobby Brown said...

I am a salesman. When we protest we are or should be, in my opinion, trying to make a sale. Making a sale is a form of argument. In order to win a argument you must impower the other person to continue the argument because if they get mad, offended, hurt, etc. and quit arguing then we loose the argument because they never become of our opinion. We impower the opponent to argue by being respectful of their opinion, listening carefully to their views, agreeing when we can etc.. Therefore when we protest we need to do it in a manner that the argument can continue until our opinion is accepted and the matter protested against is corrected or we loose the protest. Civil protest is more likely to be heard address' that issue. It is not only more likely to be heard but more likely to win the argument and correct the matter protested against.

Bobby Brown said...

Question. Did New Testament Christians (Bible characters)protest?

Paul Burleson said...

Bobby,

Some might say that Jeremish [Maybe Isaiah and others] used a form of protest. Jeremiah certainly used some odd means to get his message across. [He was famous for using props to demonstrate things.] There is no doubting the different circumstances but even if one admits his was a form of protest, the thing that strikes me is that all were willing to pay the high price for their protest. [Usually death or imprisonment.

In the NT Jesus is usually quoted as He drove out the moneychangers but that is a case by itself in my judgment. It was the Temple and it was the religious zealots whose ations He protested rather heatedly. [Ours would probably lack that kind of pure Righteousness I'm sure.]

Paul protested his arrest as a Roman citizen and appealed to the Highest Roman authorities. But, again, he was willing to bear the consequences.

I think the nearest modern protest to that would be those who, by conviction, refuse to serve in the military. They are generally willing to do what ever is required as consequences when it is a true convictional thing.

But if the idea is that as citizens a christian is NOT SUPPOSE to protest in ANY fashion because of a silence in the NT I generally, take an argument from silence as meaning, since there is no biblical command OR prohibition, each christian is free and responsible to be guided by conscience and the Spirit in making their decisions as citizens of their country. [Think pastoring in Nazi Germany and the death camps or a law making late term abortions legal in America.] I also think when a christian, by conviction, protests it would NEVER be a protest method that violates the clear Word of God or would involve anger or hatred of human beings no matter how evil one might perceive them to be.

I also believe a christians FIRST responsibility is to his/her citizenship in heaven and would NEVER do anything that would negate the ability or desire to share the gospel with a lost world. That MUST remain our priority it seems to me.

God may work differently in different situations. So I guess...no easy answer. Shoot..I like them easy.