The Ten Commitments of Resistance in the Trump Era by Wallis, editor of the social justice journal Sojourners, was written to help Christians deal positively with the election of Donald Trump and the principles of his presidency. No matter whatever your politics, these commitments are important; they speak to values that all Christians of any party should stand behind. In this series of occasional blogs, I hope to bring my perspective as a Christ-follower to the commitments Wallis suggests, as I try to live like an apprentice of Jesus.
COMMITMENT 9: WE WILL PROTEST WITH OUR BEST VALUES
“We will protest with our best values.We will defend constitutional values and workplace fairness, and fight for climate justice and environmental protection as we serve as stewards of our land. Whether in our streets, our schools or our workplaces — we will provide resources and opportunities to protest with dignity, discipline, and non-violence, not with hate for hate. We will respect the Constitution and our democratic processes and expect the same from this new administration. But if those procedures are violated, we must not be silent” (from “The Ten Commitments of Resistance in the Trump Era,” by Jim Wallis of Sojourners ).
The year-long remembrance of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation has begun. We celebrate the fact that Martin Luther was a protester. The Reformation produced the Protestant Church. Protestants were conceived in protest.
The Bible is full of stories of protest. Moses led a protest march out of Egypt. Early prophets protested the behavior of the Israelite kings (Samuel to Saul, Nathan to David) Later prophets spoke ringing words of truth to their Hebrew brothers and to rulers of other nations.
Jesus himself was revolutionary, the model for Peter’s call for us to be “a peculiar people” (I Peter 2:9). He was not the revolutionary Messiah the Zealots expected, but his life and words challenged the religious and governmental establishments of his time. His days were full of seemingly intentional moments of protest (healing on the Sabbath, meeting with the woman at the well, a Samaritan, no less) as well as sermons and miracles that protested the religious and cultural world view (such as “the first shall be last” and ministering to the “least of these”).
The disciples and early Christians, each in his or her own way led lives of protest; the book of Revelation, written by a disciple who was in exile, is all about resisting the culture and trusting God for the future and ultimate victory.
Some in the Church are uncomfortable with Christians protesting. In fact, I read a line in a recent post that urged: “Don’t post, picket, or pout … live like Jesus!” I believe that civil protest is living like Jesus. We have the examples in Scripture as well as that of the Christian brothers and sisters who lived lives of protest before us; Sojourner Truth (slavery), Dietrich Bonhoeffer (Nazi Germany), Mother Teresa (poverty and care for the dying), Martin Luther King (civil rights), and Chuck Colson (prison conditions) come immediately to mind. Christians who are being “spiritually formed” train themselves to recognize their fear and anger and deal with it appropriately. And then they follow the leading of the Holy Spirit. Sometimes the Spirit’s leading can lead to action!
For me it is not enough to say that God is in charge; we should just rest in our faith. Of course, we live in the available and coming kingdom and will see the ultimate victory over evil. But while we are on earth we need not only to run to God but to run back out into the world to battle ignorance and judgmentalism and injustice. We need to take the cross into the war against evil systems and evil people.
In what has become my favorite quotes for the time we live in, C.S. Lewis (who was speaking to the turmoil of World War II and a culture that was being revolutionized by Nazi Germany) reminds us: “Enemy-occupied territory — that is what this world is. Christianity is the story of how the rightful king has landed, you might say landed in disguise, and is calling us to take part in a great campaign of sabotage” (Mere Christianity).
In How Now Shall We Live, Chuck Colson says, ” . . . when the church is faithful to its calling, it always leads to a reformation of culture. When the church is truly the church, a community living in biblical obedience and contending for faith in every area of life, it will surely revive the surrounding culture or create a new one” (page 37).
As apprentices of Jesus living in an age of political chaos and wrong turns, we must feel free to “participate in a great campaign of sabotage” and “contend for faith” through the use of civil protest which is in keeping with our Christian values. Protesting is giving feet to our prayers. Our love of God and for others can be offered through and demonstrated by protest.
MORE FOOD FOR THOUGHT
For an inspiring and challenging discussion on how American Christians should interact with our political systems, listen or read the transcript of Krista Tippett’s 2008 interview with Chuck Colson, Gregg Boyd, and Shane Claiborne.
For a view of Jesus as a “disrupter,” see my earlier post Being a Disrupter.
For more information on “being a peculiar people,” check out chapter 1 in The Good and Beautiful Community by James Bryan Smith.