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