Is “Peaceful Protest” an Oxymoron?
Is common sense being ignored in our pursuit of justice?
Does my desire to be heard ever authorize me to attack anyone with violence?
Has “peaceful protest” become an oxymoron?
It doesn’t surprise me in an election year that tensions have escalated. Diverse opinions—especially regarding politics—have always been hotly debated. Differing viewpoints are healthy when addressed with dignity and respect.
Add to an election year a pandemic and the old wound of racism, combined with outside agitators’ intent on provoking violence: and you have the makings of a volcanic eruption of anger. And, we see its destructive flow daily.
All of this poses the question: Are “peaceful protests” even possible?
I admit: I have to guard myself against reacting out of anger.
It’s easy to react rather than respond. A solid diet of news featuring violence over virtue requires us to disconnect so that we can reconnect with the Source of Love.
I also need to pay attention to how much time I spend on social media.
My friends are both liberal and conservative; Christian and non-Christian. I enjoy staying engaged with them through posts, pictures, and Messenger. It amazes me how technology enables us to stay connected — even though distance separates us.
This past week, I spoke to three churches in Armenia who participated together via Zoom. Separated by over seven-thousand-miles, we connected, reaffirmed our love for each other, and allowed God’s Word to strengthen us. Although I do not speak Armenian, my interpreter made it possible for us to communicate. Amazing!
Technology isn’t our problem. The condition of our heart is.
Media, Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter cannot express hostility. Only you and I can do so.
Unfortunately, it’s humans that spew out hatred – Christian and non-Christian, conservatives or liberals, alike. None of us are immune to un-righteous behavior. I keep reminding myself: Un-following someone does not mean I don’t love them. I do so because I care for my soul.
Without dignity and respect, differences of opinions can quickly turn into hotly debated arguments. When I become aware that these two virtues are absent, -- whether on social media or at a party, it’s time for me to protect my soul and kindly “un-follow,” or “disengage” from the conversation, less I become angry.
Jesus recognizes that anger requires our immediate attention.
Most people acknowledge it’s wrong to murder another person maliciously. The Pharisaical leadership that Jesus interacted with also believed that the spiteful taking of another person’s life was sinful. One of the Ten Commandments says so: “You shall not murder” (Exodus 20:13).
The Pharisees agreed. But Jesus explains that this Commandment extends beyond the physical act of murder. It equally applies to the internal attitude behind the violent action. He reveals that assuming a position of superiority over another, or speaking derogatorily of another is a reflection of unhealthy anger that burns in a sinful heart:
“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.”
Unhealthy anger left unattended feeds divisiveness, encourages distraction, undermines unity, and blocks productivity. That’s a good indication that we have an anger problem that needs attention.
The best ideas we have to reconcile differences are insufficient when unchecked anger is allowed to continue. That’s why Jesus insists we handle anger quickly. Failure to do so imprisons us (Matthew 5:25-26).
In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, he writes:
“Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.”
Each of us experiences anger. It’s okay to be angry. What’s not okay is to sin (react) in our anger.
If you– like me—are aware of how angry life has become, perhaps meditating on Jeremiah’s words will re-focus, re-energize, and re-connect us with HOPE:
“…my soul is bereft of peace; I have forgotten what happiness is; so I say, ‘My endurance has perished; so has my hope from the Lord.’”
“But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. ‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I will hope in him.’ The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord” - Lamentations 3:17-18, 21-24 (ESV). [Emphasis mine]
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Mt 5:21–22.
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Eph 4:26–27.