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Just a few years ago, when protestors came out in strong opposition to President Bush's foreign policy, some conservatives branded the protestors as "unpatriotic" or "anarchists." Liberals, of course, rallied around free speech and celebrated the American tradition of peaceful opposition. Now, when regular citizens speak out against some of the healthcare proposals, the left is calling them "racists" and "Nazis." Those on the other end of the political spectrum are, naturally, celebrating free speech and peaceful opposition.
A little consistency would be nice, but in an era when high political rhetoric is the primary weapon in the war of persuasion, it is to be expected (though not necessarily accepted). Through it all, an important question has come up that I do not trust politicians or the media to properly address. It is this:
Should Christians ever protest their government? And, if so, how?
Pacifists and those wishing to suppress Christian involvement in political matters immediately point out that Jesus Christ avoided direct government protest and political participation. While it is true that the Son of God had more important things to do than rally against a political issue or party, it is also true that much of the political system of his day was run by the Pharisees, who were Jewish religious leaders, and he certainly was not afraid to challenge them. But I believe the more important counter to this argument is the fact that Jesus also abstained from marriage and never had children. He also willingly delivered himself up for a wrongful state execution. Is that what every Christian should do? Of course not. The question is not so much, "What would Jesus do," but rather, "What would Jesus have me do?"
We do know that Jesus was angry with injustice. He chased the moneychangers out of the temple and he called the religious (and political) leaders snakes and sons of the devil. On the topic of anger, there are two admonitions given to Christians that I believe are relevant to the protests going on today: First, be slow to anger; second, be angry but do not sin.
I do believe that the American tradition of free speech and peaceful assembly are gifts from God. I also believe that with those gifts come great responsibilities. We know that we will not agree with everything that our government does. So we must have patience as we work to change things. And we must change them without giving in to further sin.
Martin Luther King, Jr. exemplified this during the 1960s. He never saw the total realization of his dream, yet he refused to allow himself to be consumed with an anger that could easily be justified by the abuses suffered by African-Americans. He was vocal on the point of anger without sin, as he rebutted the militant efforts of other black leaders and held fast to peaceful protests. The Nation of Islam and the Black Panthers would have started another civil war. But Dr. King helped change the nation forever without adding to the violence and bloodshed. By the grace of God, his way prevailed and America is better because of it.
The man who shot Dr. George Tiller, the renowned Kansas abortionist, was rightly angered, in my opinion, by the homicidal practices of "Tiller the killer." But he went beyond anger and sinned by committing murder. He did not have the patience to continue the work of changing people's minds and changing the law in order to stop abortion on demand.
So as we face healthcare and other important political issues, I do believe that we must raise our voices at times and "shout it from the rooftops," to use another Biblical analogy. Christians must not be silent; otherwise we allow ungodliness and foolishness to run amok. We must speak up, but we must be slow to anger. If we are pushed to the point of anger, we must not give in to sin. If we follow this model, we can have the maximum impact in our nation without being conformed to the world.
Author: James Robison
Editor: Randy Robison
Word Count: 740
About the author: James Robison is the founder and president of LIFE Outreach International, a Christian media ministry and mission relief organization. He and his wife, Betty, host of the television program Life Today; He has authored numerous books, including The Soul of a Nation, The Absolutes: Freedom's Only Hope and True Prosperity.
Media Contact: Randy Robison, editor at jamesrobison.net . Photo available upon request. Reprint rights granted with attribution for complete, unedited article. Revisions allowed only with approval.