The state of West Virginia had their teachers go on strike recently. It is the second time in a year these teachers have had to rise up against a system that was creating difficulty in their work.
Many of these teachers stepped out into cold weather, and stood with signs raising awareness in regards to a broken system. It was a hard decision for them to make, especially when they knew many kids who depend on them, had to stay home.
Obviously, this is not the only protest that has been occurring in our nation, as of late. There are people rising up to speak out against sexual abuse, racism, sexism, bigotry, religion, abortion, etc.
Although many are disturbed by the protests, I actually find it refreshing. It is pretty great to see people using their constitutional right to speak out and use their voice for change.
The only struggle I have, is when the protests move from peaceful and insightful, to petty and discouraging.
I feel like it has been easy for people to start name calling and using hateful words to speak against others. It is almost as if they lose their self in the process. They get caught up in making catchy phrases on poster board, that will point fingers and make individuals look bad, in turn it can take away from the very thing they are protesting.
For instance, when there is a group protesting against hate speech, but have pasteboards calling people who participate in hate speech, hateful names, it goes against everything they are trying to change. Protesting is great, but when the purpose is lost due to our emotions, it loses it’s power.
We celebrate protestors like Martin Luther King, Jr., not because of his harsh words pointing fingers at individuals, but for standing up and speaking truth into brokenness. He stood with peace, as he promoted peace, and pushed for social change.
We celebrate Nelson Mandela for his time he spent in prison, revealing a broken system. He stood against racism. He stood against oppression. He didn’t stoop to name calling to get his point across.
Gandhi is revered for his peaceful protests. He sat in a hunger strike. He never returned hate with hate. He spoke truth. He challenged those with power. He didn’t resort to their ways. He held firm to his convictions, without losing the purpose, nor himself.
So, how do we protest well? How do we stand against oppression and broken systems, without turning toward hate ourselves?
Perhaps it’s when we remember that our enemies, are humans too. They have families. They have emotions. They are broken, just like us. It may keep us from turning against our message, in order to tear them down.
We need to reflect on what it means to love our neighbor, as we love ourselves. Our neighbor may not be the greatest person in the world, but let’s face it, neither are we. We all have our sides that others can hate or take issue with. So, instead of name calling, stick to the issue, and spread love in the process.
I kind of like to lean on what Jesus said, but if you’re not a Jesus follower, listen to the wise words of Dalton (Patrick Swayze) in Roadhouse…
If somebody gets in your face and calls you a (bad name)*, I want you to be nice. Ask him to walk. Be nice. If he won’t walk, walk him. But be nice. If you can’t walk him, one of the others will help you, and you’ll both be nice. I want you to remember that it’s a job. It’s nothing personal.Dalton-Roadhouse
*Remember I am a pastor and this is a blog with a Christian perspective. I had to keep it clean.
Be nice. It’s easy to look at the other side and feel justified in name calling, but it doesn’t do any good. Stand up for what is right. Be bold. Speak truth. Do justly. Don’t lose yourself, or your purpose, in the process.