How to Protest in a Violent World

“Nonviolence means avoiding not only external physical violence but also internal violence of spirit. You not only refuse to shoot a man, but you refuse to hate him.”

Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

Occupy movements, protests in the Middle East, and the ongoing fight to steward our environment, advocate for the poor, and stand against systemic human abuse all have made up some part of the global news cycle in recent months. The world seems to be both unsettling at times, but particularly unsettled in its own collective disposition in the 21st century. Unsettlement breeds all sorts of temperamental flare-ups and while it’s good and proper to protest against injustice or advocate for those whose voice is muffled, many of the current protests lack something.

When a person protests Wall Street greed by throwing a brick through a store window, no one really hears anything but the glass being shattered. When a Christian says something hateful about a Muslim, something is lost. When one political party demonizes another, both parties suffer.

Martin Luther King Jr., in his book Why We Can’t Wait outlines some rules for the demonstrators in the civil rights movement. They are summarized as follows:[1]

“Meditate daily on the teachings and life of Jesus.

Remember always that the nonviolent movement in Birmingham seeks justice and reconciliation, not victory.

Walk and talk in the manner of love, for God is love.

Pray daily to be used by God in order that all might be free.

Sacrifice personal wishes in order that all might be free.

Observe with both friend and foe the ordinary rules of courtesy.

Seek to perform regular service for others and the world.

Refrain from violence of fist, tongue, or heart.

Strive to be in good spiritual and bodily health.

Follow the directions of the movement and captains of a demonstration.” 

I am not sure I understand how to defend war from an individual perspective, it’s easier to discuss in political and statist terms. And I am not sure what protests will work and what movements will truly push us to a deeper level of human dignity, I think hindsight is helpful in this regard. I do believe, though, that the ‘how’ is important and that if injustice and the oppression of human beings is going to cease around the world, then demonstrators will have to choose their weapons with great wisdom and insight. The weapons of war are certainly different than the weapons of peace.

Pacifist Fight Club

Last Saturday I joined a ragtag bunch of Jesus followers for the first Pacifist Fight Club.  What started as a joke between Keith Giles and Chase Andre somehow led to 25 people wrestling about how to follow Jesus, especially when it comes to non violence and poverty.  We brought chili and chips and all our questions to the table.  While we did not figure it all out, we did walk away inspired to keep fighting for peace and comforted that we are not alone in our questions and struggle. 

The invitation to Pacifist Fight Club came at a time in my life when I was battling.  My prayer life felt like the frontlines of a war.   I felt attacked and exhausted, yet empowered and strong. It felt like Jesus and I were getting things done in the spiritual realm.  I hid behind him and fought for my life.  I stood with a shield of faith held up for my friends.  I came out swinging with the Word of God.  My prayers felt productive and mighty.  I ran into the presence of God excited for the fight.  I really like fighting with Jesus in this way.  I saw him working things out in life's circumstances and found I could rest and trust.  So when the invitation to Pacifist Fight Club came I was intrigued.  What does it look like to fight for peace?  How do I stand with a Warrior Savior who has said, "blessed are the peacemakers" and "turn the other cheek"?

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