I have only been involved in one serious public protest. For reasons I am still do not understand, I was drawn into a street protest in Houston Texas in late 1978. Even though I was exploring Houston's center alone, I was engaged. The triggering event for the protest was a state visit by China. Our cause was human rights, or lack of, in China. Since the problem remains alive, it is clear that we did not find a solution. Yet, it was and is important.
I still believe that it is important to stand up for those that are unable to take a stand. We live in communities. Part of being alive is looking out for others. Our freedom represents less if we ignore the pain of the weak and oppressed. Our moral values mean less if they do not call us into action when others are suffering. Even our grasp of Hope weakens when we refuse to bring hope to those without.
On that day, the cause called me into action. For the best of reasons, I demonstrated peacefully, yelling the chants, waving the banners. There was, at least initially, a wonderful momentum and purpose to what we were doing.
As the momentum began to build, almost in a rhythm reminiscent of the sea, the intensity of everyone began to push at the edges. Initially I rode the wave, letting my heart find its place in the collective energy. As I felt our cause go strident, I knew whatever followed had a life all by itself. As it turned ugly, I found myself between two groups, both out of control. In my mind, as the policeman nearest me was “yelling and hissing, the mob drowned him out. Now in full stampede, they dragged him out of town and pelted him with rocks.” (Acts 7.57) Fortunately, the worst was only in my mind.
Today you and I will take a stand, on one issue or another. It will be important. My advice is to be intentional, open, and always in dialogue. Otherwise, it can get ugly.
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