The Christian imperative to protest
After a hate-fueled gunman killed nine black churchgoers in Charleston, a 30-year-old activist took matters into her own hands with a prophetic act of civil disobedience. Bree Newsome woke before dawn, strapped on climbing equipment and scaled the 30-foot flagpole outside the South Carolina Statehouse.
Bree knew she would be arrested saying, “We removed the flag today because we can’t wait any longer. We can’t continue like this another day,”
Meanwhile across the world in Australia, Christian leaders have been holding rolling protests in the offices of politicians across the country. They want answers on why vulnerable children seeking asylum remain in detention on the island of Nauru - shipped there by the Australian government.
Since the Love Makes a Way movement began a year ago, at least 138 have been arrested, including nuns, priests and pastors of every denomination.
Remember the words of Jesus - "Whatever you did for the least of these, you did for me."
With higher stakes, in a country known to crack down brutally on protesters, Cambodian activist Tep Vanny and 6 fellow activists placed their beds in the middle of one of Phnom Penh's busiest intersections to protest the flooding of their slum by illegal developers.
Their street theater was meant to highlight the fact that they have nowhere to sleep, since their homes have been the target of illegal evictions and development. They were arrested and sentenced immediately to a year in prison.
These activists are the latest in a long line of prophets who were masters of symbolic acts, street theater and performance art with an edge.
I believe these acts are sometimes the most Christ-like response to a situation of injustice - especially when we stand up for the poor and vulnerable. Each of these activists spoke out against injustice in creative ways. But they are nothing new - in fact the Bible is full of these prophetic acts...
For example, an Old Testament activist named Isaiah went naked and barefoot as a sign against Egypt and Cush for three years (Is.20:2-6)! His protest was designed to show his fellow countrymen that these two countries (allies in which Israel had put their hope) would be led away into exile, naked and barefoot, by the Assyrians. This prophetic action vividly, shockingly, challenged Israel's foreign policy.
Another activist, Jeremiah, broke a clay jar at the valley of Ben-hinnom in front of some of the elite leaders of Jerusalem. His protest was a warning that God would soon break their people and city in like manner if they did not turn away from injustice (Jer.19:1-13; see also Is.20:2-6; Ez.12:3-12,18-20).
An activist named Nehemiah shook out the front of his garment as a dramatic piece of performance art. He then explained to the people in Jerusalem that God would shake out from their houses and possessions the men who did not turn away from exploitative lending practices (Neh.5:13).
These were not isolated incidents. In fact here is a partial list of prophetic acts in Scripture:
I Samuel 15:24-29
I Kings 11:29-38
II Kings 13:14-17; 13:18-19
Isaiah 8:1-4; 20:2-6
Jeremiah 7:29; 13:1-11; 16:1-13; 18:1-6; 19:1-13; 25:15-38; 27:1-28:17; 32:6-15,25,42-44; 35:1-19; 43:8-13; 51:59-64
Ezekiel 4:1-17; 5:1-17; 12:3-12; 12:18-20; 21:1-7; 21:18-22; 24:2-14; 24:15-24; 32:17-21; 37:15-23
Hosea 1:2-9; 3:1-5
Zechariah 6:9-15; 11:4-17
I Corinthians 11:23-26
Wherever there is injustice, hatred and exploitation, we the people of God should be there, laying down our lives. It's time to get freaky, to engage in acts of Holy mischief and prophetic artistry.
It's time to put ourselves on the line for those who are being downtrodden.
What kinds of creative acts have you been involved with to highlight injustice?