On Monday I attended my first protest. A very respectable protest if I’m honest. Lots of people talking about issues surrounding Trump, May and refugees. I was the most impressed by Natalie Bennet (yes, the leader of the Green Party) because she seemed to be speaking from a place of love. The majority of what she said was about Sheffield being a place of welcome to all people. But before I start to expand on why I agree with her message but not with the protest, I want to explain why I decided to attend the protest.
Stand Up or Stand By
One of the youth workers I have worked with has a set teaching session for when he wants to get his young people off their backsides: Obadiah. This very short prophet is actually aimed at Edom instead of Israel or Judah. They are being challenged to either start standing up for those less fortunate than them or “there will be no survivors from Esau.”
This has developed into the Stand Up or Stand By concept. Edom is told to not stand aloof or gloat over others in their misfortune. Today, we have the opportunity to do the same by not gloating over those who are less fortunate. To not stand aloof while others suffer even if we are safe. Instead, Obadiah challenges us to get involved with the less fortunate and to stand alongside them in their suffering. To stand up for them instead of standing by as they suffer.
The Choice Between Standing By or Standing Up is Not a New One.
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
I went to the protest because I don’t want to stand by. It is time I start standing up for those in need even if we don’t agree on everything because Jesus would. Not because I agree with them but because no one should be left to stand alone.
But most of all, I went to the protest because of I do not want to be alone if they come for me. For Christians in the West, sometimes it can feel like a matter of time before society turns against the Church. Should that ever happen, I don’t want to be left in a position where “there [is] no one left to speak for me”. The only way to make that happen is to speak and stand up for those who are persecuted now.
Natalie Bennet’s speech resonated with these reasons for attending the protest. I wasn’t there because I wanted to tear down the establishment. I don’t believe that Natalie Bennet was either. Her speech was one of inclusivity and bringing those who are suffering in to a place that could help remedy their suffering. Where others were calling for the heads of politicians, Natalie was focusing on the refugees we should be helping. That was why I was there. Because no one should be left to suffer alone when we could be helping.
No Hate, No Fear, Love is Welcome Here
One of the favourite chants at the protest was “No Hate, No Fear, Refugees Welcome Here”. While I’m all for the idea, I quickly picked up from other chants that love was not the driving force behind it. Instead, the driving force was of negativity, anger and hate towards Donald Trump and Theresa May. It was this realisation that made me realise that 1) I could not be part of continuing protests and 2) I needed to start praying there and then.
Standing there praying was one of the scariest choices I had ever made. I was terrified someone would ask why I wasn’t chanting. But at the end of the day, we need to be praying for God’s love to flood Britain NOW. To stop focusing on our fear and anger directed at individuals. To start focusing on hope, love and the good things we can do.
For that reason, I’m rewriting the chant to No Hate, No Fear, Love is Welcome Here because I believe that is God’s will for Britain. He desires to see a movement of people doing good things out of love. Not a movement of people protesting from a place of fear and hate.
To finish, I’ll leave you with wise words from two great thinkers: Yoda and Mick Woodhead. Please listen to Mick’s sermon from 15 January. In it he elaborates on STC’s vision for 2017: Join Us in Doing Good.
As for Yoda…