Free to protest

Over-to-you.  BBC Radio Humberside 8th April 2009

There just seems to be so much news around at present that there is ever the danger that you miss the really interesting, but less sensational, stories.  This was particularly true yesterday, all the international attention was on President Obama’s visit to Iraq and a story from the Iraqi Appeal Court received little attention.  But the court ruled that the sentence given to c the journalist who hurled his shoes at President Bush, had been too severe and it was cut from 3 years in prison to one – which is still a long time for him to ponder the wisdom of his acts.  Zadai claimed that had thrown his shoes, a grave insult in Arab culture, as a protest on behalf of  the Iraqis who had been killed, orphaned or widowed since the US-led invasion of their country and in President Bush’s own words “it is one way to gain attention”.

It  raises the question – how do we gain attention when we feel that everything is going wrong? It comes as we absorb the concerning video footage associated with the death of Ian Tomlinson at last week’s G20 protest, scenes which ask serious questions about police behaviour.  When the powerful stop listening, how do we gain their attention and make them aware of our disquiet?

One of the stories about Jesus, which we read during these days leading up to Good Friday, is about him wreaking havoc in  the Temple, turning over the tables of the money changers.   It is a story of protest, a violent protest and Jesus’ actions were every bit as insulting in Jewish culture as an Arab throwing his shoe. Yet Jesus had found that the powerful had stopped listening and as the story unfolds it has a very modern feel, for the powerful used all the apparatus of their power to resist the truth Jesus was expounding.  The nature of Jesus’ protest against the abuse and corruption of truth becomes increasingly silent and the authority of his protest becomes greater as he offers a contrast to the anger, threats and violence of those who seek his death.

I think that to protest is to exercise our God given freedom to use our minds, to have an opinion and to speak about how we understand truth in this world.  Yet like all freedoms, there has to be responsibility and those who protest have to keep a fine balance between on the one hand making the powerful listen to their views and on the other becoming so forceful that the powerful have an excuse not to listen.  Over the years there have been many protests at the G8 meetings about the way the world economy was being run – they became very violent and the violence ensured that the protesters were not listened to by those with the power to change the economy.  As we now live in the grip of a terrible recession which is wreaking havoc in the lives of so many people, we may well feel that wisdom was actually found to be with the protesters, for it is painfully clear that the powerful who ran our economy  got it very wrong.

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3 Responses to Free to protest

  1. Ernest says:

    I think that this reflects my feelings about protest and the way that it is treated these days. Notwithstanding the perceived overreaction of Police to the G20 summit arrangements, they are in a hard place. Upholding the law as directed by their superiors and preventing disorder and protecting society is their brief – perhaps they just did not get it quite right this time.

    More importantly, people in Government and in business and finance have a moral responsibility to do the “right thing”, but morality, integrity and a sense of responsibility appears to have been surrended in a spiral of greed, selfishness and self interest.

    Never more was there a time, when the Church and Christians and all people of all faiths of goodwill to speak out and to protest in well reasoned, peaceful ways against this decline in essential values.

    The Church and other faiths have problems, which we need to resolve, however, this does not absolve us of the need to fill the real gap and the need to point out the wrongs and injustices in society and the world today.

  2. Dave Swannack says:

    Goodness- how this sorely exercises me!!How silent we are as ‘Church’ at so many issues that cause our society such ruin!! If we wait for the ‘occasional’ pronouncements of Archbishops and Pontif on climate change and social injustice and rely on these to guide our engagement with society and the world which we so enjoy then we will have missed the point of ‘kingdom of God’. Our view of the juxtaposition of Church and society is crucial to our view of the world and the Church’s mission to it. I find the radical engagement that Jesus has here ‘in protest’ (never seen it in such a way before) a real challenge to my view of how we currently engage.Don’t we love to acquiesce and retreat in to acceptable zones of ecclesiastical post-modernism- but can we find a way to to make our voice heard- not just for the sake of hearing ourselves drone on yet again about morality but in a way that makes a real difference to our world and the lives of those we share this space with. We only have to look at how TV presents those of a ‘religious’ flavour to see how ineffective we can be at times!

  3. Jojo says:

    Gorgeously put. So many of us feel this way…The question this brings ever to mind is: What will make them listen? Jesus knew that the money changers would pay attention when He attacked their money…hmmm. Somehow we need to threaten their power by assigning it to where it truly belongs and through His mercy be guided and strengthened to do it the right way. Remember that He has always been a Lion in Sheeps clothing. We would be wise to follow that example and not mistake meekness with weakness.If we could only become ONE flock we would have something. I belong to a Christian sect often misunderstood and alienated by fellow Christians. What a waste. We all carry a common interest but fail to combine effectively the way the opposition has been able to. Until we can all act with accord we are no match for the powers that be. Jesus made no separations- he peacefully accepted people from all walks of life as long as they believed in Him and His teachings; he admonished us to do the same asking us to become one and love one another. If we ever could, the power would be ours and our protests would be overwhelming.

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