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Can Peace-Making Include Protests?

Can Peace-Making Include Protests?

By Paul Graves

It seems everywhere we turn these days, someone is protesting something, and often at the top of their lungs! Angry protests make for “good” TV and media coverage. Angry protests even break out in family kitchens or the grocery store parking lot. We’re overwhelmed with protests!        

People of faith, particularly Christians, seem to be conflicted about whether protests do any good, or even if protests are “Christian.” Aren’t we supposed to be peace-lovers, even peace-makers? Certainly. So, I ask: Can peace-making include protests? In 2 words: OF COURSE.        

Contrary to what too many Christians believe, our biblical faith traditions are filled with protests. God drew people into protests of all kinds to bring some degree of peace and justice into people’s lives.       

What Biblical Peace Includes

Biblical “peace”, however, is not merely the absence of conflict. It is more the presence of relational wholeness, completeness, inner/outer harmony, hope and justice.        

And justice? I repeat what many others have declared: The work of peace is justice. Social justice and personal justice are the fruits of peace-making. Protest is often the method.        

As Jesus rode down the Mount of Olives on what we call Palm Sunday, he stopped, saw the city of Jerusalem (Luke 19:35-44) and wept sadly. “Would that even today you knew the things that make for peace.”        

What were those things that make for peace? One of those things that make for peace, personally and socially, has always been protest.        

Why We Protest

But we must be clear as to why we choose protest to seek peace. Violence is not peace-making protest! Victimized by violence, Jesus still embodied peace-making. We’re called to live the same way, non-violently!        

Whether the guilty verdicts in the highly-charged Derek Chauvin trial bring you relief or frustration, let your future protests be for peace-making and for justice. Let your hearts be non-violent, so your actions can follow in kind.        

Free Methodist pastor Benjamin D. Wayman wrote a compelling Nov. 4, 2020 article for Christian Century called “Why Do Christians Protest?” He’s right when he declares “Christians…are political specifically because, like Jesus, we are passionately concerned with people and the world God has created. Our faith doesn’t align with any political party, but our politics displays how we choose to live together.”        

Keep A Clear Head

We can’t always control the consequences of our protests. But we can stay clear-headed about why and how we protest for the Others whose lives are bruised by injustice. Our peace-making protests stand decidedly with and for those Others.        

On the other hand, when we shrink from standing up and/or speaking out for Others, our claims of peace expose themselves as shallow. And this, I observe, is where we live most of the time.       

Want a new start? Learn more deeply how protests and peace-making live at the center of our faith tradition. Check your fears at the door, and learn something new about your faith tradition.        

Find an issue, or people, you feel passionate about. Look for simple ways to protest that issue. That will connect you to other religious, or nonreligious people, passionate about the same issue. Don’t let religious or political labels distract you from joining with others to protest a wrong you know hurts people. Protests seek to right human wrongs.      

Remember Your Reason  

Whether your protest method is letter-writing to political leaders, picket-carrying for a cause you believe is righteous, the gentle loving of a lonely person, or volunteering at a food bank, remember why you choose to protest. Every act that serves an Other can be a protest for peace.        

When our protests help us bring some kind of peace, some kind of justice, into another person’s life? Priceless!

About Paul Graves

Paul Graves is a retired and re-focused United Methodist pastor and a long-time resident of Sandpoint, Idaho, where he formerly served on city council and mayor. His second career is in geriatric social work, and since 2005 he's been the Lead Geezer-in-Training of Elder Advocates, a consulting and teaching ministry on aging issues. Since 1992, Graves has been a volunteer chaplain for Bonner Community Hospice. His columns regularly appear in the Spokesman-Review's Faith and Values section and he also writes the Dear Geezer column for the Bonner County Daily Bee and is the host of the bi-weekly Geezer Forum on aging issues in Sandpoint.

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