I had a conversation recently with someone who was trying to find out what “brand” of Christian I am. They asked if I was Protestant, to which I replied, “No, I’m not protesting anything!” My comment was not intended to make light of the significance of the Protestant movement that incidentally celebrates its 500th anniversary this year [i]
Although I do speak out (especially on social media in protest against some injustices in the world) I’m not really big on protest marches and demonstrations. I do however certainly believe in the right of people to do so, as long as it is done in a peaceful and respectful way. And that’s the problem. From what I’ve seen over the past year, peace and respect seem to go out of the window when passions run high.
A year ago I went with my eldest daughter and some of her school friends to the March for Refugees in Melbourne. Thousands of people were there, the crowd was well behaved and the speakers inspiring. But on the sign-up table were leaflets promoting Marxist propaganda. I asked the guy at the table why Marxism was being promoted at this event. He didn’t know why and I told him I thought it was inappropriate. I guess I was protesting at the protest! Along the route of the march there were people handing out a newspaper produced by a far-left union movement. Again, totally inappropriate for any one group to self-promote at a rally to uphold the dignity of some of the world’s most oppressed and marginalised people. Imagine the outrage if I had a team of people there handing out literature promoting Christianity!
On a more local level I joined with a group of people last year to protest against the removal of over 200 trees in the Bayside Melbourne area in order to make way for a school. Once again I witnessed protesters behaving badly. At an evening meeting held by the school authorities, one of the protesters started yelling questions, interrupting speakers and generally being disagreeable. This sort of behaviour does nothing to advance a cause and in the end all the trees were removed.
Last week Australia witnessed more protesters behaving badly. A large march in Sydney, organised by some Indigenous elders (and others) to protest against the date of Australia Day, was hijacked by some people of the radical left. The march turned violent, people were injured, an Australian flag was burned, and the cause they were marching for took a step backwards. While I’m all for changing the date of Australia Day so that all our Indigenous people feel included in the celebrations, using violence, obscenities and inflammatory language does nothing to advance the cause and convince others.
Calling Australia Day “Invasion Day” is wrong and shows a complete lack of understanding of what took place on 26 January 1788, when the First Fleet limped into Stingray Bay (now Botany Bay). Many of the convicts had already died during the voyage and the rest were in a terrible state because of a lack of food, clothing and clean water. None of them were in a condition to “invade” anything or anyone, in fact so harsh was the new environment that “more people died in the first eight months after arriving than had died on the eight-month voyage from England.” [ii]
The new colony was made up largely of petty thieves who had stolen small amounts of food in England just to survive. These people were imprisoned and then, because of dreadful overcrowding in England’s prisons, some were shipped to Australia. They were not invaders. In saying this I’m not suggesting that there were no injustices committed by the British against Australia’s first inhabitants for history shows there have been many. And it’s for that reason I stand for a change of date for Australia Day. But the language of Invasion Day is unnecessary and does nothing to advance this cause. It’s about protesters behaving badly.
Ultimately our example should be the one set by Jesus. Yes, on one occasion He made a whip and cleared the Temple of those profiting from the worship of God (much like the system of Indulgences promoted by the Medieval Roman Catholic Church), but the rest of the time we see Jesus in action getting alongside the poor, the rich, the marginalised, the sick, the sinful and the lost helping them up and bringing dignity and salvation. We would do well to remember the Royal Law in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” If you really keep it you are doing right [iii] and you won’t be tempted to be a badly behaved protester!
[i] The Protestant movement began in 1517 when Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses that protested against the system of Indulgences promoted by the Roman Catholic Church. The system had deteriorated to the point where people would say certain prayers, do good deeds or pay money to receive forgiveness from sins and have some or all of their punishment in purgatory remitted.
[ii] 1788 The Brutal Truth of the First Fleet – David Hill
[iii] James 2:8