Bolivia is very much a protest culture. When the citizenry feel they are being taken advantage of, they stand up and let the powers that be know that they will not go quietly into the night. Recently, I was in Santa Cruz de la Sierra and on the way from the airport was met by road blockades, bonfires, and masked protesters, changing a half hour run to the hotel into a two hour journey. Their outcry was certainly legitimate as the government was attempting to gerrymander the electoral voting results by delaying an implementation of a needed census.
The journey through the begrimed streets of Santa Cruz led me to wonder if my modus operandi is to play it safe? Do I take risks to stand up and object to the abuses that regularly happen in the pursuit of the status quo and the privileges of a few? Regrettably, I think my predominant style of being a ‘peacemaker’ hinders the ‘reformer’ part of my personality that periodically seeks to voice concerns.
I know one thing—Jesus didn’t play it safe. He took the risk to challenge the full powers of the religious ruling class (along with the Roman Empire’s mandate to squash any hints of insurrection), to wake a society up to the needs of the poor and oppressed while announcing the way for an authentic, abundant, and imaginative life in God.
Too often I prefer (and maybe you do too) the cautious way of Bilbo that dislikes adventure and settles for smoking a pipe on the front porch. Have we forgotten how to be counter-cultural as believers because we enjoy the good life too much? Maybe the poor of Bolivia have a sharper understanding of what really matters than we do in our comfortable, complacent north? Jesus didn’t settle or compromise and as his followers we shouldn’t either (note to self!). An Irish priest who knew a little bit about ‘intelligent protest’ reminds us of a deeper calling:
“Jesus called into existence a community of disciples to follow him at extreme risk. A safe Christianity is not genuinely Christ-like. Christianity will always be counter-cultural, a protest culture. And this means that we will always dare to stand up for what we believe in, to commit ourselves to our beliefs in spite of the tension between being a believer and belonging to the secular culture.” (Edward Farrell, Gathering The Fragments)
Something to think about whether from our classrooms, pulpits, offices, or armchairs.
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Thanks Alan for posting. Sometimes it is a "tug-of-war"! On the one hand, Biblically we are told to obey unless it is counter to the Bible Blessed are the 'peacekeepers'. Traditionally, in a democracy, we 'challenge and fight back' via voting showing either our acceptance or rejection - protest response. So peaceful route does not equate with 'not protesting or standing up for' in my own opinion. Jesus himself didn't say fight or protest, rather give to Ceasar what is Ceasar's.
Interesting question to say the least 🙏
Thank you for sharing this radical activist christian insight as you journey ...