This past weekend I had a respectful email conversation with a friend about some of the things going on in our country. My friend reached out to me with questions. Below is a rather long email I sent in response. I appreciate my friend respecting me enough to reach out. Civil conversation is what we need during this time in our history. Since I spent more time in correspondence that I anticipated, I thought I would turn my long email into a blog post. It was helpful to me to write these things down. I hope you find it interesting, challenging and inspiring. Again, to my friend, if you read this, “thank-you.”
I have been involved in our local protests, I have been following the protests in other cities, and I have friends who have been protesting in those other cities. My experience has been the protestors are peaceful and it has been outside agitators that have created most of the chaos, violence, and destruction. I have had friends arrested, abused, and injured by these agitators. While antifa is often blamed for the chaos, to date, as far as I know, antifa has not killed anyone. The deaths, and most of the violence, chaos, and property damage, have been caused by extremist white groups. Also, “antifa” is not an organization. It is a term given to liberals by conservatives and is meant to stroke fears and win votes. “Antifa” means “anti-fascists,” and we all should be anti-fascists. That’s what WW2 was fought to defeat fascists. The “Confessing Church” in Germany was a protest against Hitler’s fascism and the evangelical church in Germany complicity by not standing against Hitler and fascism.
I do not condone violence, chaos, and destruction of private property. I believe in non-violent protests, like the Boston Tea-Party. The hope is that non-violent protests will be peaceful, but sometimes violence, chaos, and destruction occur, not because non-violent protestors cause it, but because the non-violent protests bring out the worst in people who are benefiting from the status quo. In other words, non-violent protestors know they may experience violence against them but vow to remain peaceful and not retaliate. I believe Dr. King was right when he said, “Protesting is the language of the unheard.”
From a purely historical perspective, the exodus from Egypt was a protest against slave labor. From a purely historical perspective, John the Baptist protested against Herod by confronting him about his immorality. John the Baptist was non-violent. Herod was not. From a purely historical perspective, Palm Sunday was a protest against the military Empire of Rome. Yes, all these events where more than a protest. Two of the events had deep and significant salvific meanings. But before we get to those meanings, we can’t ignore the historicity of these events and how they would have been viewed and interpreted at the time of the events. Furthermore, Jesus was crucified by the State because He was considered an insurrectionist. What He was teaching and doing was causing chaos and political/religious unrest. He was challenging the status quo. Jesus was crucified, not because He was criminal, but because He was accused of treason and insurrection. The Romans did not crucify common everyday criminals. They only crucified people acussed of treason and insurrection. From a Roman perspective, His execution was highly, if not entirely, political. The same thing can be said of the two men who were crucified with Him. All three of the men at Golgotha were political prisoners. One was the Son of God.
The very phrase, “Jesus is Lord” was a political protest, as well as a statement of faith. The phrase, “Jesus is Lord,” literally meant, “Jesus is Lord and Cesar is not.” The very reason persecution started against Christians was because the authorities understood what they were saying when they said, “Jesus is Lord.” They understood they were turning their backs on their country. Saying, “Jesus is Lord,” from a purely historical perspective, would be equivalent to not standing for the national anthem nor reciting the pledge of allegiance. To say, “Jesus is Lord,” meant you had no other allegiance but Him. Period!
Furthermore, I am a Protestant. The word “protestant” means protest. What Martin Luther (d. 1546) did by nailing his 95 accusations to the Wittenburg Door on October 31, 1517) was both a religious and political protest. History tells us there was violence, chaos, and destruction during the non-violent Protestant Reformation (1517-1648) As a Protestant Christian, protesting is in my DNA. It is what it means to be a protest-ant.
Protesting is also the most patriotic thing I can do. The American Revolution was a protest against England. At the time of the Revolution, there were Christian loyalists to the throne who thought the protestors (minutemen) were causing unnecessary violence, chaos, and destruction. These loyalists also used Romans 13 to condemn what our founding fathers did. The king of England was a vessel of God, they taught. Rebelling against the king was the same as rebellion against God. Again, based on Romans 13.
Dr. King’s Letters from a Birmingham Jail was written to white Christians (mainly white pastors) who did not like the protests Dr. King led because they were causing violence, chaos, and destruction. Dr. King was accused of being a Socialist, Communist, and Marxist. Even though he was registered Republican.
When it comes to Socialism, I think both Socialism and Capitalism CAN be evil. Both are man-made ideologies. Neither are Biblical nor non-Biblical. They are economic theories. The Bible is above all theories. No country in the world is completely Capitalistic because that would be extremely cruel. A few countries are Communistic, which is an extreme political form of socialism and is also extremely cruel. Most countries in the world, including the USA, are a mixture of both Socialism and Capitalism. We are actually a Welfare Capitalism economic system.
My understanding of poverty and what Scripture teaches is that poverty is not part of God’s plan and is a result of God’s people living in disobedience to God (Deuteronomy 15:1-11 and Matthew 26:6-13). All the Old Testament prophets condemned the nation/government for not taking care of the poor, widow, orphans, and immigrants. The Old Testament prophets condemned the nation/government for their unfair economic system, abuse of creation, and oppression of workers by not paying fair wages. Jesus’ parable of the Sheep and Goats (Matthew 25:31-46) is addressed to both individuals and nations/governments. Jesus came to redeem the entire world. That includes people, culture, and systems. You and I can help at the individual level, but it takes the government to change the systemic issues we face. If we, as followers of Jesus, can appeal to the government to overturn Roe vs Wade, why can we not also appeal to the government to raise minimum wage, overturn the death penalty, and provide universal healthcare, etc. All things the Bible addresses more than it addresses abortion. The number of Scriptures that are used against abortion and homosexuality, are less than 12, and many of those 12 are misinterpreted. But there are over 2,000 Scriptures that talk about the poor the widow the orphan the immigrant the economy, etc. I am pro-life (all life) and I believe in the Biblical definition of marriage and sexuality. But we (conservative evangelicals) spend a lot of time talking about things the Bible says very little about and very little time talking about what the Bible says a lot about. Why is that?
I know it seems the email stopped abruptly. However, in the original email I closed with some personal comments. I hope you enjoyed. Let me know what you think.