Protests, Protesters and Protesting


It’s pretty exciting, awesome, and at times, scary, to watch the Occupy Wall Street movement sweeping across the country.  It reminds me of being a ninth grader reading about the Civil Rights era and realizing that we were talking hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people standing up for the rights of all people.  Even though I had heard about the Civil Rights movement over the years, as a young high school freshman I thought “that is exactly where I want to be when I grow up, right on the lines of protest to bring about change.”

Fast forward to my first major protest in 2002.  I had participated in a few campus demonstrations in college for workers’ rights, boycotted Gardenburgers in response to a lack of a fair wage for their workers (but to be honest, I was just playing around with vegetarianism in college anyway and would eat chicken all the time) and had written letters of protest.  But in 2002, having graduated seminary, I and a few other clergy friends made poster-board signs and went into downtown Boston to protest against the upcoming war in Iraq, as the talk was escalating in Washington about going to war, and President Bush was in town to support then-gubernatorial candidate Mitt Romney.

There were over 500 of us gathered at the waterfront, protesting against the war, hoping our voice would be heard and that we would get some coverage by the media.  However, after standing, chanting, shouting for over an hour, some of the voices that began to speak up were not of peace.  Some carried signs calling for violence against the government.  Some showed pictures of the President with a noose around his neck.  Some just shouted vulgar language for the heck of it.  During these moments, we clergy turned inward and prayed in silence.  We sang “This little light of mine” and found others, including many who didn’t affiliate with a religion, joining in with us.  We had moments of being able to speak about Jesus’ way of peace and why we were protesting, but often, our voices were drowned out by the more vitriolic rhetoric of a few protestors.

I’m excited about the opportunity for Occupy Wall Street to bring about change in our country, to really speak out on behalf of the poor in the country.  I hear the saying “We are the 99%” but in reality, the ones whose voices need to be heard, the poorest of the poor—the homeless children, the disabled and sick veterans, the mothers working three jobs to make ends meet—I’m not sure their voices really are being heard in all of this.  We have to be careful that when we speak up for the poor, we really mean it.  And we have to be sure that the protestors who do act in violence, who do speak out of their anger but cross over into hatred, that those voices are not the majority, that those voices do not speak for the ways of Christ’s peace nor do they make a difference for those who are really in need.

And on top of it, we need to remember that in this economic crisis there are many more homeless, poor, and orphaned people in our world that need our voice.  The voice of Occupy Wall Street must also speak out for the war orphans of Iraq and Afghanistan where much of our money to fund the war has funded the killing of hundreds of thousands of parents.  The voice of Occupy Wall Street must speak out for the tens of thousands of dying children in the Horn of Africa from starvation because we’re cutting aid programs to save money.  The voice of Occupy Wall Street must also speak out for the children of Eastern Europe and Asia who are trafficked into this country because we can’t spend enough money or time or resources or just plain attention to the fact that our country participates in human slavery.

The voice of the movement must speak to the voice of all the lost and least if it is truly to be a voice to bring change in the world.  The voice of Jesus calls us to do no less.  And while I might live in a small town far away from city life, I must speak my voice on behalf of the poor, and I must do it with or without poster board, with or without crowds of people with me.  I must do it because to follow Jesus, I am compelled to speak out for those that are often forgotten.

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This entry was posted in Christianity, ethics and tagged , , by Rev. Mindi. Bookmark the permalink.

About Rev. Mindi

Rev. Mindi Welton-Mitchell is an ordained American Baptist minister married to an ordained Disciples of Christ minister and mother of a child with autism. Mindi grew up in Alaska, lived in Oregon, Massachusetts and Oklahoma, and now lives in the Seattle area. She is a pastor, creator of Rev-o-lution (http://rev-o-lution.org), retreat leader and writer, and a citizen of Red Sox Nation. (Note that her posts are her personal views and do not necessarily represent the views of her congregation).

2 thoughts on “Protests, Protesters and Protesting

  1. You shall not wrong or oppress a resident alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt. You shall not abuse any widow or orphan. If you do abuse them, when they cry out to me, I will surely heed their cry;
    — Exodus 22:21-23

    If you lend money to my people, to the poor among you, you shall not deal with them as a creditor; you shall not exact interest from them. If you take your neighbor’s cloak in pawn, you shall restore it before the sun goes down; for it may be your neighbor’s only clothing to use as cover; in what else shall that person sleep? And if your neighbor cries out to me, I will listen, for I am compassionate.
    — Exodus 22:25-27

    You shall not spread a false report. You shall not join hands with the wicked to act as a malicious witness. You shall not follow a majority in wrongdoing; when you bear witness in a lawsuit, you shall not side with the majority so as to pervert justice; nor shall you be partial to the poor in a lawsuit. When you come upon your enemy’s ox or donkey going astray, you shall bring it back. When you see the donkey of one who hates you lying under its burden and you would hold back from setting it free, you must help to set it free. You shall not pervert the justice due to your poor in their lawsuits. Keep far from a false charge, and do not kill the innocent and those in the right, for I will not acquit the guilty. You shall take no bribe, for a bribe blinds the officials, and subverts the cause of those who are in the right. You shall not oppress a resident alien; you know the heart of an alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt. For six years you shall sow your land and gather in its yield; but the seventh year you shall let it rest and lie fallow, so that the poor of your people may eat; and what they leave the wild animals may eat. You shall do the same with your vineyard, and with your olive orchard.
    — Exodus 23:1-11

    When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap to the very edges of your field, or gather the gleanings of your harvest. You shall not strip your vineyard bare, or gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the poor and the alien: I am the Lord your God. You shall not steal; you shall not deal falsely; and you shall not lie to one another. And you shall not swear falsely by my name, profaning the name of your God: I am the Lord. You shall not defraud your neighbor; you shall not steal; and you shall not keep for yourself the wages of a laborer until morning. You shall not revile the deaf or put a stumbling block before the blind; you shall fear your God: I am the Lord. You shall not render an unjust judgment; you shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great: with justice you shall judge your neighbor. You shall not go around as a slanderer among your people, and you shall not profit by the blood of your neighbor: I am the Lord. You shall not hate in your heart anyone of your kin; you shall reprove your neighbor, or you will incur guilt yourself. You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.
    — Leviticus 19:9-18

    When an alien resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the alien. The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God. You shall not cheat in measuring length, weight, or quantity. You shall have honest balances, honest weights, an honest ephah, and an honest hin : I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt.
    — Leviticus 19:33-36

    The land shall not be sold in perpetuity, for the land is mine; with me you are but aliens and tenants. Throughout the land that you hold, you shall provide for the redemption of the land. If anyone of your kin falls into difficulty and sells a piece of property, then the next of kin shall come and redeem what the relative has sold. If the person has no one to redeem it, but then prospers and finds sufficient means to do so, the years since its sale shall be computed and the difference shall be refunded to the person to whom it was sold, and the property shall be returned. But if there is not sufficient means to recover it, what was sold shall remain with the purchaser until the year of jubilee; in the jubilee it shall be released, and the property shall be returned. If anyone sells a dwelling house in a walled city, it may be redeemed until a year has elapsed since its sale; the right of redemption shall be one year. If it is not redeemed before a full year has elapsed, a house that is in a walled city shall pass in perpetuity to the purchaser, throughout the generations; it shall not be released in the jubilee. But houses in villages that have no walls around them shall be classed as open country; they may be redeemed, and they shall be released in the jubilee. As for the cities of the Levites, the Levites shall forever have the right of redemption of the houses in the cities belonging to them. Such property as may be redeemed from the Levites—houses sold in a city belonging to them—shall be released in the jubilee; because the houses in the cities of the Levites are their possession among the people of Israel. But the open land around their cities may not be sold; for that is their possession for all time. If any of your kin fall into difficulty and become dependent on you, you shall support them; they shall live with you as though resident aliens. Do not take interest in advance or otherwise make a profit from them, but fear your God; let them live with you. You shall not lend them your money at interest taken in advance, or provide them food at a profit. I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, to give you the land of Canaan, to be your God.
    — Leviticus 25:23-38

    For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who is not partial and takes no bribe, who executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and who loves the strangers, providing them food and clothing. You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.
    — Deuteronomy 10:17-19

    If there is among you anyone in need, a member of your community in any of your towns within the land that the Lord your God is giving you, do not be hard-hearted or tight-fisted toward your needy neighbor. You should rather open your hand, willingly lending enough to meet the need, whatever it may be. Be careful that you do not entertain a mean thought, thinking, “The seventh year, the year of remission, is near,” and therefore view your needy neighbor with hostility and give nothing; your neighbor might cry to the Lord against you, and you would incur guilt. Give liberally and be ungrudging when you do so, for on this account the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in all that you undertake. Since there will never cease to be some in need on the earth, I therefore command you, “Open your hand to the poor and needy neighbor in your land.”
    — Deuteronomy 15:7-11

    You shall appoint judges and officials throughout your tribes, in all your towns that the Lord your God is giving you, and they shall render just decisions for the people. You must not distort justice; you must not show partiality; and you must not accept bribes, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and subverts the cause of those who are in the right. Justice, and only justice, you shall pursue, so that you may live and occupy the land that the Lord your God is giving you.
    — Deuteronomy 16:18-20

    “Cursed be anyone who misleads a blind person on the road.” All the people shall say, “Amen!” “Cursed be anyone who deprives the alien, the orphan, and the widow of justice.” All the people shall say, “Amen!”
    — Deuteronomy 27:18-19

  2. This movement, the grievances of the people are tailormade for the Gospel. Voice to the voiceless, power to the disenfranchised, hope to the oppressed, resistance to the empire that executes our Lord… What the hell is the institutional church waiting for?? Oh yeah, the institutional church is suffocating under it’s own weight.

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