Should Christians Protest?

It’s hard to find a biblical model of public protesting. Unlike modern Western democracies, public protesting against Babylonian, Persian or Roman policies was pointless and likely resulted in swift punishment…such as a trip to the lion’s den.

As I preach on Daniel, it’s hard not to think of the lion’s den and Daniel’s form of protesting that helped put him there.

Briton Riviere (1840-1920), Daniel's Answer to the King

Daniel’s Answer to the King, by Briton Riviere

While many Jewish exiles were relocated back to their homeland (Daniel 6), Daniel remained an influential part of Persian society (vv.6:1–3), which made his political rivals jealous. Knowing Daniel’s devotion to God, they convinced King Darius to establish a law mandating that only prayers offered to him would be legal (vv.6-9).

Daniel’s open refusal to comply with the new law can be misunderstood as a public protest. When Daniel prayed to God, he was not instigating confrontation with Persian authorities, he was just continuing his established pattern of faithful prayer to God.

I’m not saying that public demonstrations can never be a form of Christian witness, but Daniel shows us how consistent, disciplined discipleship is our best testimony against any ungodly demands of the state. Daniel was recognized by his enemies for his disciplined prayer life, so when that was outlawed he was easy to find.

How well do we stand out?

About Corey Sharpe

Where do we get our beliefs? Three theological perspectives have significantly shaped my Christian identity: Evangelicalism, the early Methodist tradition and liberation theology. From my coming to faith in a Baptist church and throughout my education in a Baptist school and college, I was nurtured by convictions that emphasized a spiritual rebirth, a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and the centrality of the Bible. Even when I disagree with certain aspects of evangelicalism, it has deeply influenced my sense of what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ. My seminary studies spawned my interest in early Methodism, particularly its approach to spiritual formation. Its leaders were convinced that only a foundation of doctrine and discipline would lead to a meaningful transformation of the heart and mind. In other words, having the mind of Christ enables me to be more like Christ. Life in a suburban culture obscures the increasing gap between the poor and rich, as well as the Bible’s close identification with the poor. My doctoral work in socio-cultural context exposed me to liberation theology, which helps me see redemptive history as a history of oppressed groups, written from the perspective of the powerless, about a God who is actively involved with the poor in their struggles. I am now the pastor at Huntingtown United Methodist Church in Calvert County, Maryland. Together my wife and I are raising 4 young theologians.
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2 Responses to Should Christians Protest?

  1. Zee Breidenbaugh says:

    I’m not so sure we stand out at all today. When we go to vote, or even to the grocery store, how do people know we are Christian? How do people know we love Jesus? Oh, our friends and co-workers know; our fellow parishioners know; but the community . . . ? I have often let people go ahead of me at the grocery store when I have 10 items and they have only two. They probably just think I am nice lady. I have never said, “In the name of Jesus, please go ahead.” Then they would think I was a crazy lady! Or would they? Maybe, I need to try that sometime and honor Jesus with my love while I still can.

  2. m says:

    Jesus set some pretty bold examples of nonviolent, public protest. Everything from sharing meals with the untouchables of society to turning over tables in the temple to loving enemies to riding a donkey into town to cooperating with his own crucifixion. He may be one of history’s finest examples of protest. In the context of his day he sure did step out of line a lot. Heck, he even treated women and children and slaves like human beings worthy of love and respect. Didn’t make him popular with either religious or political authority. One of many reasons I want to follow wherever he leads me.

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