Can Christian Protest Learn from Vigilante Justice?
Protest is woven into the fabric of the United States, a nation born protesting Britain’s rule. With the U.S.’s recent political polarization, though, it seems more and more are resorting to protest. I believe that protest, and the right to do it, is a good and wonderful freedom. However, I also believe that our system for expressing dissatisfaction is broken. The essential questions to ask when protesting are “What am I trying to accomplish?” and “What are my actions portraying to those around me?” Too often, especially in cases like Colin Kaepernick’s, people are so taken aback by the apparent disrespect that they completely ignore the reason for which action is being taken.
To get our idea of protest back on the straight and narrow, I think we should consult the movie V for Vendetta. The story follows a young woman in the fascist UK who is saved and changed by V, a revolutionary vigilante. V brings a spark of hope to a bleak world, showing the citizens of the UK that their tyrannical government can be stopped. “People should not be afraid of their governments,” he challenges at one point, "governments should be afraid of their people.” It’s a simple concept with astounding impact. Life without fear of government is a life worth having and worth fighting for. In a time when people in government seem against us and rights seem up for question, we must recognize that standing up for our beliefs—whatever that “standing” looks like: boycotting, voting, or picketing— is necessary to change the way society works. “When injustice becomes law, rebellion becomes duty,” V says. What injustices have become law? If they are there, then what might our duty be?
How, then, should we stand? How can we make a lasting change? In the movie, V employs various methods of “attack” to get his point across. If you are choosing to boycott, kneel, picket, or march, make sure your message is clear. Make sure you are asking for change, not just bemoaning a problem. Make sure you have done your research and are knowledgeable about the stance you are taking. Pro tip: Twitter is not the most trustworthy of sources.
The movement that V begins highly values individual thought and idea. “Knowledge, like air,” he lectures, “is vital to life. Like air, no one should be denied it.” V strongly advocates for a nation wherein the government cannot inhibit the pursuit of knowledge or silence an idea. In order for people to truly recognize an injustice, they must first have knowledge: knowledge of what they are standing for and knowledge of what the other side believes. People are often too lazy to put in the time and effort to be informed, instead siding with an argument based on their emotions. V’s informed protest offers a model for knowledgeable protests of our own.
Here is my final question: how do we recognize injustice, true injustice, not just something that makes us unhappy? I believe the first thing we must do is acquire the knowledge necessary to fairly assess the situation. Second, we Christians can look to the Bible to define justice. Proverbs 21:15 says, “When justice is done, it brings joy to the righteous but terror to evildoers,” and Proverbs 28:5 says, “Evildoers do not understand what is right, but those who seek the Lord understand it fully. ”Seek knowledge from the Lord; find how he defines justice. It is only then that we can take a stand.
It is important that we recognize the wealth of rights we have in the United States. Unfortunately, it is too easy to spend more time complaining about perceived problems than celebrating the blessings we enjoy. Kaepernick, for example, kneels for a commendable cause. I would argue, however, that the way he is going about it is not the best way to solve the problem. He has brought more attention to himself than he has to police brutality and racial inequality in our country. People know his name, but they don’t know his cause. Protesting well will require more effort on our parts, efforts which are well-demonstrated in V for Vendetta. V recognizes a problem, educates himself, then makes a move toward change. Let us do the same.
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author. They do not claim to reflect the opinions or views of the Defendant or its staff members.