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I Protest

by Tim O'Hearn

These days it seems there is always a protest or march for or against something. There are gay pride parades; marches against illegal immigration, or against separating children from parents who immigrated illegally; picketing of abortion clinics; gun rights/control protests. The list seems endless. If there is a cause, real or imagined, somebody is willing to gather to support or protest it. In the light of all this activity, the question arises: What would Jesus do? What would the apostles do? What does the Bible say to do? (OK, that’s three questions, but one point.)

There are other questions, as well. What will be accomplished? What is the real motivation? Where is the consistency? What is the method?

Years ago there was a fundamental rift in the American Civil Rights movement. The problems of black people in America were real. There was discrimination; there was violence. In the late 1920s the Ku Klux Klan was reborn, and reached its maturity in the 1960s. (And it is not dead yet.) What was the proper response? What happened in America would affect what happened in other nations. Essentially, two philosophies arose. One was that violence could only be met by violence. This was the attitude of many in the Nation of Islam group. The other philosophy, most notably led by Martin Luther King, Jr, advocated for nonviolent means in dealing with the problems. This dichotomy has existed in approaches to other issues as well. So-called Christians have chosen to bomb abortion clinics or assassinate doctors who perform abortions. Others merely picket outside the clinics, while others merely offer counseling to women about to enter the clinics.

Sometimes the protests lose their focus, and protesters don’t even know why they are protesting. Such was the case with the execution of Jesus. That was also the case at least twice in Paul’s life (Acts 19:22-41; Acts 21:27-39). This seems to be the case with the protests of military funerals by members of the Westboro Baptist Church. Initially the protests were against those who were deemed (rightly or wrongly) as homosexuals in the military. The protests expanded to include all military funerals of a very public nature, regardless of the sexuality of the deceased. A handful of members of that church (including an 8-year-old girl) protested the memorial service of Fred Rogers of Mister Rogers Neigborhood fame. When a child who probably has little understanding of the ramifications of “gay rights” protests a man whose primary focus was comforting very-young children, the protests have clearly lost their focus. (And that even ignores the question why one would protest one sin to the exclusion of protesting murder, adultery, or even their own hateful behavior.)

The Bible only records two (or possibly three) protests in which Jesus participated. Matthew 21:12 and Mark 11:5 record the expulsion of the moneychangers from the Temple. (It is unclear whether this was one incident or two on consecutive days, considering the timelines in the two accounts.) While this was a very public protest, accompanied by a violent act (the overturning of the tables, and in John 2 the use of a whip), the scriptures are very clear that these protests were prompted by a clear violation of scripture and directed at members of the Temple staff. These examples, then, cannot be used to excuse protests against non-Christians. This is not justification for protesting homosexual behavior or abortion (or any other action or belief) when those being protested do not acknowledge the authority of the scriptures.

I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators: Yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world. But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat. For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? do not ye judge them that are within? But them that are without God judgeth. (1 Cor 5:9-13)