Peace Parade or Protest March?

There was a church this Sunday, so I heard, that had on its billboard outside the title to this year’s Palm Sunday message: “Peace Parade or Protest March????  Now granted we go to a fairly “radical??? church if when you hear the word Christian you think, Pat Robertson, George Bush, Josh McDowell or Paul Crouch, or you think of groups like “Focus on the Family,??? Willow Creek, Saddleback or other fairly media popular “christians.??? Of course if you are reading this blog, you probably already know where I am coming from.  What’s funny, is that our church had a “peace parade??? today, not a protest march but it wouldn’t be hard to make the switch.  I wondered whether that other church in Pasadena was directing that message to us or not, and though I won’t ever know its fun to think it was. 

Today is palm Sunday – the day that Jesus had his triumphal entry into Jerusalem – he entered on a donkey with crowds shouting “Hosanna, Hosanna in the Highest???  in other words hailing him as king.  The irony about the scriptures on this issue is that for a king to enter a city, on a donkey, followed by a rag tag group of fisherman, prostitutes and other select outcasts from the marginal regions surrounding Jerusalem is, of course, anything but a “triumphal??? entry.  Today we walked from the marginal area of Pasadena, the Northwest region, to the “symbolic??? center of power for the city at the Paseo Colorado Mall.  It represents much of what Pasadena stands for, wealth, prestige and power.  Malls, in our culture, represent a temple – a place where people “gather??? and “worship??? materialism, vanity, and practice greed.  We walked peacefully from one part of Pasadena to another, waving palm branches, talking, singing and laughing.  We of course were doing more than just symbolically walking from one place to another – we were also declaring that we as Jesus’ followers we stand for peace.  We were stating that we as Christians hope for, and encourage peace in the world. 

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So the question arises, were we having a peaceful parade or a protest march?  Well I guess another funny thing is that I think we did both, and that there is nothing wrong with either one.  In fact I think that Christ calls us to hold both seemingly opposing acts together.  Jesus peacefully paraded into Jerusalem, but he protested the temple tax when he flipped the money changer’s tables over because they were making a “den of thieves??? out of the temple.

Another theme that arises out of peaceful parades and protest marches is the tension between inclusive and exclusive people and communities.  I am intrigued by people both inside my own community and people I know from various activities that discriminate between one or the other.  I’ve found many people who are said to be inclusive, including many churches that make this their banner, that in the end turn out to be quite exclusive about the way they treat others, what they will and will not do, and what kinds of things they like including bands, movies, food, etc.  These people don’t tend to appreciate the “protesters??? because the protesters, like Jesus make a strong stance against/for something, but in a similar way they do this for a variety of their own things.  Then there are those who are on the other side of the coin, those who tend to be philosophically exclusive but in their day to day they tend to be more inclusive and ecumenical in the way they treat life. 

I think there is a need for both the peaceful parade and the protest march, exclusion and inclusion – Jesus embodied both paradoxes (and many others) – and the church is to do the same.  I am thankful for a church that, though not perfectly, is attempting to embody these Christ-like manners. 

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Wess

...is the William R. Rogers Director of Friends Center and Quaker Studies at Guilford College in Greensboro, NC., PhD in Intercultural Studies from Fuller Theological Seminary, served as a "released minister" at Camas Friends Church, and father of three. He enjoys sketchnoting, sharing conversation over coffee with a friend, listening to vinyl and writing creative nonfiction.

6 thoughts on “Peace Parade or Protest March?”

  1. Not sure I see the diff. Wes. Any parade that is truly “peaceful,” will function as protest. The same was true in Jesus’ day. And as you point out, the inclusive/exclusive question has less to do with parades and protest, and more to do with our way of being in this world.

    Jesus certainly seemed to hold the whole spectrum in his hand…

    b blessed
    russ

  2. Russ, I agree with you there isn’t much difference, though this church that was preaching on the subject seemed to think there was a difference. I guess the main difference I see, and it certainly isn’t always this way, is that protests in my mind are more clear cut and in your face (I think of the OT Prophets). Protests can be peaceful but not by necessity. Peace parades can be less in your face (maybe even should be), and aren’t set to disrupt so much as nicely encourage one issue or another. This is what we did yesterday. But in the end, the distinction is small, and you said it well when you said Jesus had the whole thing in his hands.

    I think the other point I wanted to make that I didn’t earlier, is that if a group sees one version (peace parade or protest march) as more appealing it may have more to do with the language we feel most comfortable with – whether exclusive or inclusive. I wish I could have visited the other church so I could say they were supporting one view over the other. Who knows…

  3. One of the signs in your picture really struck me: Jesus was a torture victim.

    What do you make of that?

    Is it an attempt at politicizing the “peace march” or is it simply a common sense comment. Either way, what do you think the benefit of this statement is? Does it draw attention to the sacrifice of Christ or to what some believe are the unforgivable abuses of power and uncalled for muderous actions of our government?

    I’m not sure what I think about it yet, I was wondering what the rest of you may be thinking? It just seemed a bit out of place.

  4. Right on; my unspoken but alluded to view is that a parade that is not at once a protest might be peaceful (i.e. irenic), but can never be peaceFULL. You seem to be rightly discerning between protests that are not peaceful (and so not peaceFULL), and those that *are* peaceful. The other alternatives (one already mentioned “peaceful, non-protest parades” and “obnoxious/violent, non-protest parades) I have little time for/interest in.

  5. Kevin, quite honestly I am not sure what to make of it. I am not much for shock n’ awe, well…maybe in somethings…but I guess not for public evangelistic purposes. I tend to be a bit more timid myself, and so I wouldn’t carry a sign like that. And on the other hand I think its trying to do both the things you suggest – politicize and be common sense. It definately contains more of the “protest” part that I wrote about, and less of the peaceful message I was in it for. I can’t say I disagree with the sign, but I don’t think I would carry it. It doesn’t seem to have much value in caring out our initial purpose for the parade.

  6. I think we need to be careful to clearly identify the purpose of the march that we are participating in. If there are too many conflicting messages, the “Gospel” intent may be crowded out.

    I’m not saying that all public displays are not effective, we certainly should stand up for what is right, but not if Jesus is being used to promote a political agenda that may or may not be in line with the purposes of the Gospel.

    Again, I’m not saying that this march was not effective or useful in the advance of the Gospel, I just think we need to be very careful how and with whom we carry on a public march.

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