Professional ALL Life: Why I protest and encourage you | The trade

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I am convinced that Christians sometimes have to say something and protest. And the reality is that all Christians believe this on certain issues. For example, it doesn't seem controversial when we march for life. But it seems controversial when we march for racial justice, and I think it's worth investigating why.

Earlier this week I marched to the Bronzeville neighborhood in Chicago to join thousands of others in a peaceful protest led by African-American leaders.

Image: NBC5-Chicago screenshot

Yesterday my family and I went on a lawsuit in Wheaton. I tweeted at the time, "Wheaton lamentation with my family. Congregations across the country come together to mourn and work for justice. I've never seen a group like this in Wheaton. It's encouraging." And I was serious.

Well, mind you, I do more than just protest – things like church collaboration and donations to affected communities, but I'm now getting back on the road to be part of a local protest.

I think protest. Let me explain.

Our legacy

As Protestants, protest is part of our heritage. That is why we are also called Protestants.

Martin Luther's 95 theses protested abuses in the Catholic Church. When he received a papal bull from Pope Leo X, who called for his revocation, Luther burned him in protest. He was called heretic and worse, but he stood by his beliefs. In fact, we refer to Protestantism to those who followed Luther in protest after he left the Catholic Church at the Reichstag in Worms in 1529.

As a particular burden within Protestant Christianity, evangelicals have a long history of protest. We derive our theological heritage from English Puritans who differ from the Church of England.

As Americans, it's part of our bourgeois heritage (one that we often venerate in textbooks and on vacation. The one that strikes our national conscience is the Boston Tea Party, one of the earliest protests of the American Revolution against which people gathered the oppressive tyranny of King George.

And as evangelicals, we are people who are partly defined by our legacy of revival, reform and renewal. We are at our best when we call on ourselves, our churches and our communities to resist both dead orthodoxy and empty moralism. At our core we should be people who protest against mental lethargy.

Christians have also protested moral errors over the years.

Recently, evangelicals and other Christians have consistently protested – and against significant public pressure – against abortion, including participating in a large national march for life each year.

Our call

Far from a recent development, modern evangelicalism was born out of the rejection of the isolationism of fundamentalism. Carl F.H. Henry's The Uneasy Conscience of Fundamentalism pointed out how theologically conservative Protestants in America had lost sight of the social dimensions of the gospel. Later, in his book A Plea for Evangelical Demonstration, Henry would focus more practically on the issue of public protest by calling on evangelicals to take our faith seriously:

This is a call for authentic Protestant protest. A sensitive Christian conscience has to deal openly with persistent and persistent social injustices. Biblical Christians do not have to do without a moment of open identification with those of other faiths and foreign views to protest what everyone recognizes as unjust. "(1)

As Peter Heltzel rightly remarked, this was "Henry ablaze for lasting social change as a vital expression of our Gospel witness". Henry made a clear parallel to Martin Luther King's famous admonition to the moderate clergy that "injustice is injustice everywhere" and urged Christians to protest "what everyone recognizes as unjust". (2)

With relentless surgical precision, Henry repeatedly addressed not only the systemic nature of evil but also the need for a public response from God's people. The result was an inevitable call to the evangelicals to view the call to protest as closely and inevitably linked to their faith.

Our current situation

We have seen countless marches and demonstrations in the past two weeks to protest not only against the murder of George Floyd but also against the broader problem of systemic racism. According to other tragic reports about the recent deaths of African Americans, Floyd's death appears to be a turning point in getting people to act.

However, there seems to be a difference between the protests of the past two weeks and the litany of those I just mentioned above. The difference with these recent protests is that some conservatives (often evangelicals) seem to intend to focus on other issues in order to avoid the essence and point of peaceful protests.

It is worth going into their reasoning.

Even as the signs of violence and prejudice increase and the requests of their brothers and sisters of color increase, their social media feeds instead focus on the riots and looting. Some bind the protests and riots together and try to dismiss the former over the latter.

Here's the challenge: you can speak out against systemic racism, looting and violence at the same time. Evangelicals sometimes struggle with the former, but demand the latter. Followers of Jesus must do both.

Faith Leader March

The faith leaders with whom I marched for justice in Chicago modeled this duality. As they walked the streets, they called the victims by name and announced that black lives are important.

I am aware of the concerns about the BLM movement (and have posted about these concerns here), but that does not negate the meaning of the sentence. In fact, those who answer "All Lives Matter" miss the point. All lives don't matter if black lives don't matter. (A biblical parable can be found in my article #HellenisticWidowsMatter.)

Instead of throwing back occasional soundbites, we should worry that we have reached a place where so many in the African American community believe that their lives don't matter to us. Regardless of politics, it is a tragic failure for us to live the commandment of Scripture, to be known for our love.

In addition, when we marched through Bronzeville for reasons of justice and fairness, the leaders condemned the destructive power of the riots and looting not only in terms of the aims of the protest, but also in the communities in which we wanted to shed light.

No Christian confirms a violent uprising, but this is the straw man that some use. However, consider how the same tactic is used in other protests against us. When extremists bomb an abortion clinic and kill an abortion doctor, we are defensive when others try to use the incident to tare the entire pro-life movement. Even if we condemn this violence as opposed to the movement, it can quickly become a topic of conversation to call the movement violent, hypocritical and self-destructive.

If we ask others to avoid Strohmann tactics to silence our protests, we must resist the same temptation to silence others.

Behind the protest

One of the disappointing facts in debates about the nature of the protests is that the underlying message can get lost. However, the reality is that the act of protest itself is not the problem. In fact, focusing on the protests can often be a smoke screen for too many to avoid dealing with the harsh reality.

Instead, there are endless debates about how to properly protest. If only African Americans (and others seeking justice) protested the right way, we would understand and deal with the problem, we hear. I can't think of a better way than a peaceful protest that goes through Bronzeville in a march led by African-American pastors.

It must not be lost that so many of these marches in the gospel are saturated and led by ministers of the gospel. Indeed, David Neff reminds us that one of the best-known civil rights songs, "We Shall Overcome", was adapted from Peter Seeger from Louise Shropshire's "If My Jesus Wills (I & # 39; m Overcome)". The fact that so many whites only see the looting edge and not their brothers and sisters in Christ speaks for centuries of oppression.

I hope and pray that the Church will build bridges today instead of burning them. Otherwise, something far worse than property will be destroyed.

Stand and march for lives that are important

I stand with the unborn child who was ignored. It's interesting to see how many show me this again on social media, but I wonder if they joined us at the National March for Life or even the Chicago March.

Many people have tweeted about abortion in the past few weeks. I'm glad I'm worried about the innocent unborn. I didn't tweet back to ask how many have joined us for such marches of a lifetime. Tweets are simple – action is difficult. I hope you will.

I assure you, it was pretty cold in Chicago when I spoke on this March in Chicago. And yet I saw the Anglican Bishop Stewart Ruch. And I saw him again this week. I tweeted: “I saw the Anglican Bishop @StewartRuch with the faith leaders on Tuesday in March AND we see each other regularly on pro-life marches. I love its persistence. "

This weekend, many of your African American brothers and sisters need to know you are taking care of it. I was first invited by James Meeks – Meeks is an evangelical pastor who is trustee of the Moody Bible Institute and a PhD student in our Wheaton College graduate program. How could I not stand by my brother in Christ when he asked me to stand against injustice with him and to stand by him in the pain of his church?

I was surprised that James Meeks insisted that I join him at the top of the march – that's me in the middle that pierces the Y and James who holds the D. (It's blurry on the item image above, but here we are together – and I'm happy to be by his side.)

I didn't want to be in the front, but he and Charlie Dates explained to me that it is important that white allies are present and obvious. So I listened to them.

Many evangelical pastors were there that day and I was happy to be part of it. You might consider participating in such a peaceful event near you this weekend, because protesting is what we Protestants have been doing since day one.

Don't let the marginal voices on Twitter stop you from advocating for justice with your neighbor.

You probably already knew that the unborn need your voice. Well, your African American brothers and sisters who were born into a world where they wonder if their lives are really important.

Here are some additional resources on last week's topic:

When you leave, wear a mask and follow best social distancing practices.


(1) Carl F. H. Henry, A Plea for a Protestant Demonstration (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1971), 13.

(2) Peter Goodwin Heltzel, Jesus and Justice: Evangelicals, Race, and American Politics, 86.

Ed Stetzer is executive director of the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College, dean at Wheaton College, and publishes church leadership resources through the Mission Group. The Exchange team contributed to this article.

Ed Stetzer on Vimeo

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