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DOES IT DO ANY GOOD TO PROTEST? PDF Print E-mail
Written by Jim Jordal   
Thursday, 11 February 2010

DOES IT DO ANY GOOD TO PROTEST?

By Jim Jordal

Those of us involved in the various charities and movements aimed at ending poverty often find ourselves caught between the personal satisfaction that comes from providing direct help to those in need and the sometimes strong urge to fight actively for what we see as right. We become angry and distraught over continued oppression of the voiceless poor by corporate America and the half-hearted attempts by politicians to remedy the situation. We become even angrier when we see the economic machine spitting out victims faster than any program, however effective, can help them.

So the question arises: Does it do any good to protest injustice, discrimination, exploitation and oppression? Are we wasting our breath when we oppose entrenched powers and structures that appear to be far beyond our small ability to effect change? Can anything make a serious difference?

Yes, protest can and does make a difference, but not always in ways we immediately perceive. Protest must be accompanied by action if it is to create lasting change. Passivity in the face of monstrous evil is not a virtue.

Obedience to God is one reason for us to speak out: He says, "Open your mouth for the mute, In the cause of all who are left desolate.  Open your mouth, judge righteously, And serve justice to the poor and needy" (Prov. 31:8-9 WEB). Notice that the focus of these Bible verses encouraging protest is not on attacking the forces of injustice, but rather on speaking out for silent, suffering victims. Attention is more upon the victims than the perpetrators. Demanding justice for the silent sufferers of oppressive systems is far more than mere politics—it is a moral act requiring courage and great dedication. It’s all too easy to "go along to get along."

Another reason to protest human injustice is that it does make a difference even though we do not always see immediate results. We think change happens when corrective legislation is passed. What we don’t perceive, however, are the small ways in which leaders become persuaded to act in favor of justice. All we see is the massive avalanche, not the minute changes in snow structure that caused it. So it is with social change—it starts small but can swell into a movement sweeping every resistance from its path.

A final reason might be that it is good for us to protest—it allows us to feel that we are doing something against the massive forces arrayed against us. As social commentator Jim Hightower says, "Even the smallest dog can lift his leg on the tallest building." Acting in any way—however small--against injustice imparts meaning to one’s life. If you’re looking for meaning, get active.

But a small note on the spiritual components of protest. We need to balance our anger at injustice with strong faith that a sovereign God is still in charge and will eventually bring about his will. Think back to the early church described in the book of Acts. They found joy and meaning in believing that victory in Christ’s earthly kingdom was imminent, even though religious and political repression under the Roman/Jewish temple domination system still remained. The fact that Jesus paid with his life for deliverance in all its forms provided the very life of the church and the reason for continuing on. And so it is with us.

We take our place with those who believe that God will do as he says, and will deliver the earth from oppression and injustice—all in his good time. We are his "hands" to accomplish his will—not just fighters who lash out unthinkingly at everything we do not understand or agree with.