Monday, January 23, 2017

Lamenting Protest?

Given our political and cultural climate, I've begun the year reading Prophetic Lament: A Call for Justice in Troubled Times by  Soong-Chan Rah. I want to orient my heart towards God's sovereignty in spite of the environment I see around me and am in search of the right personal response.

In the second chapter, 'The Funeral Dirge,' Rah describes lament as expressing historical suffering. He then quotes from Brown and Miller, eds Lament: Reclaiming Practices in Pulpit, Pew and Public Square how lament takes the form of "arguing with and complaining to God about one's situation and protesting its continuation". Protest jumps out from that quote so Rah continues to say,
"Lament is an act of protest as the lamenter is allowed to express indignation and even outrage about the experience of suffering." (Prophetic Lament, pg 44)

These quotes burned in my heart over the weekend as millions marched in protest of the current administration. In an act of insufficient solidarity I posted the latter quote on Facebook. Meanwhile my wife, indignant over the response she saw from many who called themselves Christian on Facebook, stood up for the protesters.

I wasn't surprised by the response. But it does beg the question, should Christians protest?

Theologian Pete Enns wrote a post this morning addressing that very point. Enns doesn't ignore the paradox of our dual-citizenship as Christians. Although Christ's kingdom is not of this world, Enns notes that it is our civic duty to "hold powers to account when we see injustice being done". I'm not sure I'd go that far, but I have come to the conviction that Christians cannot remain silent in the face of injustice. Our voices can take different tones- vocal, relational, or financial support for the marginalized and oppressed, active protest, civil disobedience, and even lament.

Zack Hunt, author of the blog formerly known as American Jesus (that's not really its name, but that's what I like to call it) marched on Saturday. In doing so, he invited the online ire of many Christians. What would Jesus do? Would Jesus demand rights? Would Jesus incite violence? Would Jesus use vulgar language? (Would Jesus deal in alternate facts?)

I think those questions are immaterial. Jesus would listen. Jesus would welcome the protester into fellowship. Jesus would love because Jesus is love.

So why protest? Why not just sit comfortably behind a computer screen (like I'm doing now, I admit) and share platitudes like "Jesus loves you!"

Occupy Wall Street co-founder Micah White, in an article published by The Guardian, describes protest this way: "Sometimes, the people march. Other times we hold general assemblies, tar and feather opponents, occupy pipelines, go on strike, dance in a circle, riot in the streets or pray together. In each case, behind every act of protest is an often unarticulated theory of social change: a story we tell ourselves about why the disobedient behavior we've chosen will usher in the change we desire."

Doesn't this describe Christianity? Isn't this movement started by a band of working class, under educated, minorities an intentional lifestyle meant to usher in the change we desire? Isn't this exactly what Jesus taught us to pray, "thy kingdom come, thy will be done?"

And when we fail to see the answer to this prayer, "on earth as it is in heaven" isn't the appropriate response lament?

So that is why Christians should support protest. Because to live a Christ-like life in a culture that opposes it is, in itself, an act of protest.


Anonymous said...

Really Frank? I remember a time not so long ago when the "lament" came from the other side and was disparaged as unloving and not Christ like. When some would "lament" what was seen as an assault on God given liberty, and the rights that flow from them were margenalized and cautioned to be careful that one might be out of bounds with their very Christiany at risk. Now the shoe is on the other foot its all fair game? Participation in civic discourse for a Christian is fine and expected now but not then?
It is fine and expected for Christians to take to the streets and side with such a vulgar display and in soladarity with the taking of unborn children.
It was sad to feel the condemnation of my brothers on the left for my beliefs then and now. I am saddend again at the fluidity of their conviction now that the tide has turned.

Anonymous said...

Ed in Bako.

Fatha Frank said...

(this is where I regret being silent on this site for the past couple of years, speaking up now gives the impression I'm taking a particular side)

Ed, strip away the politics from my post that were only there to frame the point and ask yourself what is worth lamenting. We are called to love God and love our neighbor and everything else we do flows from that. Who is our neighbor? Jesus answered that it's the one with whom *we disagree*. And what I saw last weekend wasn't at all loving (and you could say the same for the protesters, but that will be a separate post). Thus I feel the appropriate response is lament.

It's not a now vs then argument for me. My issue then was the same as it is now, the danger of raising our politics above our discipleship. It may not be true in our hearts, but when our discourse becomes so heated over a political issue- when we take it personal- we communicate that our political stance is what's most important to us. It's not that our Christianity is at risk (who am I to say!) but rather our Christian witness- our Christ-likeness. I apologize that I made you feel that way because that is my number one concern- that politics divide brothers in Christ.