The first thing I do every morning is look at my iPhone. I read my emails and check for any messages or phone calls that I might have received through the night. But I also look at the headlines of various news outlets. A day rarely passes by that I do not read an article about people protesting over one social affair or another. Modern civility has cracked the door open to hear the voices of groups who are devoted to various issues. But there is a problem. Once the door was cracked open, many social advocates stuck their foot inside and forced their way into the home.
I am all for constructive dialogue carried out through civil attitudes which respects the person even when their ideology is opposed to my own. But that is not what I see happening across America. Instead there seems to be a very hostile and hateful movement of tearing down people who do not hold to the same opinions as the protester. I see a movement which does not care about their fellowman when they differ than them in politics and moral values. It is an intolerance masquerading as tolerance. And it is a major threat to democracy and free speech.
It should be said that I do not find protests altogether ineffective or unprofitable. A proper protest is comprised of people who are in full control of themselves instead of radicals who overwhelm any opposition and aggressively impose their agenda. But as this article will clarify, the latter mood of protesting has become the norm.
Emotionally Charged Protests
Protests have taken on a new disposition that is grounded in unbridled emotion and sensationalism. Advocating for the rights of others has become more about feelings shared and proliferated by mobs than well-reasoned and mature conversations. The protests of today are best characterized as groups of people who shout down one another and attack those who do not agree with them.
I argue that most protests today are an outlet for people to release built up tension at the expense of those who disagree with them. The fundamental reason for protesting does not seem to be championing a particular cause, but instead to expend a surplus of negative emotions upon other people. It has also occurred to me that people engage in protests because it gives them some sense of purpose in life. They may assume that they are doing good work that will be immortalized in the history books. And so any so-called notions of fighting for the rights of others is merely an unconscious pretense for self-serving exploits.
It is not that people are not passionate about certain issues, but those issues may be secondary to their own sense of purpose and self-worth. I of course would never make this claim for certain and for every person. But it must be recognized that many people join these mobs to feel like they are doing something important in life more so than fighting for a good cause.
Attitude of Protests
This behavior has reached far and wide all across the nation and in every institution. I continue to read and hear about students who voice their conservative opinions on college campuses only to be shut down by their professors and heckled by their classmates. The spirit of protesting today has taken the role of bullying others who do not assimilate and concede to their values and beliefs. Many people who protests are aggressive and belittle and demean others who hold to different politics or moral ideas.
Is this the kind of attitude that we have reached in this great nation? Are we now going to stonewall anyone who does not assent to the views of popular culture? America used to be a place where different ideas and points of view where discussed in a way that valued the person if not the view expressed. But now we are in the business of dehumanizing anyone who thinks differently than us.
Take for example the numerous cases where secular society has imposed their views on the religious rights of others. Many men and women have suffered at great costs for politely turning down their services to support gay unions. In every case that I have read, the business owners served both heterosexuals and homosexuals without distinction. But when it came to a wedding ceremony, they could not in good conscience offer their services to gay couples because it violated their convictions related to God’s plan for marriage.
In one such case, an elderly woman had been serving a gay man who she considered a friend for ten years. But when her friend, Robert Ingersoll, asked her to arrange flowers for his same-sex wedding, she very politely, and very lovingly declined. As she retells the encounter, “I put my hand on his and said, ‘I’m sorry, Rob, I can’t do your wedding because of my relationship with Jesus Christ.’ We talked a little bit, we talked about his mom [walking him down the aisle]… we hugged and he left” (Anderson, 97).
Barronelle Stutzman was nevertheless sued for discrimination. The state attorney requested that she pay $2,001.00 and concede to arranging the flowers for her friend’s wedding. And in a very pointed and thoughtful response, she wrote the following letter explaining why she could not agree to those terms:
As you may imagine, it has been mentally and emotionally exhausting to be at the center of this controversy for nearly two years. I never imaged that using my God-given talents and abilities, and doing what I love to do for over three decades, would become illegal. Our state would be a better place if we respected each other’s differences, and our leaders protected the freedom to have those differences. Since 2012, same-sex couples all over the state have been free to act on their beliefs about marriage, but because I follow the Bible’s teaching that marriage is a union of one man and one woman, I am no longer free to act on my beliefs.
Your offer reveals that you don’t really understand me or what this conflict is all about. It’s about freedom, not money. I certainly don’t relish the idea of losing my business, my home, and everything else that your lawsuit threatens to take from my family, but my freedom to honor God in doing what I do best is most important. Washington’s constitution guarantees us “freedom of conscience in all matters of religious sentiment.” I cannot sell that precious freedom. You are asking me to walk in the way of a well-known betrayer, one who sold something of infinite worth for 30 pieces of silver. That is something I will not do.
I pray that you reconsider your position. I kindly served Rob for nearly a decade and would gladly continue to do so. I truly want the best for my friend. I’ve also employed and served many members of the LGBT community, and I will continue to do so regardless of what happens with this case. You chose to attack my faith and pursue this not simply as a matter of law, but to threaten my very means of working, eating, and having a home. If you are serious about clarifying the law, then I urge you to drop your claims against my home, business, and other assets” (Anderson, 97-98).
This aggressive mentality reflects how protesting is out of control. It no longer strives to win equality, but strives to force everyone to assimilate to a given ideology through aggressively imposing certain views upon those who do not agree with their agenda. It does not matter if people show compassion and love like this elderly woman who befriended and employed people from the LGBT community. It only matters that people who do not fall in line are ostracized and broken. In other words, these are not protests of peace, but protests that convey a message which requires people to join them or die.
Violence of Protests
The truth about protests in our modern era is that they are violent and take on the persona of a bully. Just because people do not use their fists does not mean that they are not violent in nature. Whenever someone robs another of their right to speak freely, they are committing a psychological and verbal act of violence which hinders people from understanding one another in the pursuit of truth. This attitude is spiritually violent because it strips people of their voice and right to express themselves in positive ways.
But let us not pretend that physical violence is not a problem in these protests either. All you have to do is look at the violence which happened at Berkeley. Most of the scheduled events were peaceful until organizations like Black Bloc and Antifa showed up carrying weapons and dressed in all black—including masks to hide their identity. The violence and property damage that ensued was clearly premeditated which solicited the police to use rubber bullets and tear gas. I believe that it is clear that these premeditated acts of violence prove that most protestors are simply unwilling to listen to others. They will champion their ideology at any means necessary. It truly seems that these protests are simply a guise for riots.
If the case is made that peaceful protestors cannot be blamed for the violence of others, I must disagree to some extent. It is not about the peaceful inclinations of a few that matter, but the violent and terrible results which occur regardless of such sentiments that must be addressed. Recently, a woman was killed at a protest in Charlottesville, Virginia. Too often protests end with someone getting hurt or killed. Such gatherings only seem to escalate tension and hatred which creates a dangerous environment.
Coercion of Protests
Any headway made through these protests is completely devoid of enlightenment or an organic transcendence of morality. All ground gained through the majority of protests today are made through coercion, manipulation, aggression and fear. I say this because politicians and businesses cater to the popular view of their constituents and consumers. When looking at what happened with Phil Robertson from the Duck Dynasty show, who publicly stated his conservative position on marriage, this bending to the loudest voice is vividly apparent. Both A&E and Crackle Barrel reversed their decision to cancel the show when they realized that their customers were conservatives who held the same position as Phil Robertson and were upset with their decision.
When laws are reversed by merely nine lawyers on the Supreme Court, comprised of eight out of nine people from the east- and west-coast States, and no one from the south or a Christian worldview, it can hardly be said that the American people have had a fair representation (Anderson, 75). Any change to the law is not because people have a better moral code and are now embracing such a standard. It is because politicians and businesses feel threatened through vehement protests which puts their careers and profits at risk.
We can hardly say that the morality and thinking of the American people as of late is a natural progression fueled by justice or truth. It has been propagated and forced through coercion and fear. The problem is that when drastic change is suddenly imposed upon people without due process, they feel alienated and ignored and therefore are less likely to accept change.
The Truth About Protests
I am sure that if things continue on this path, that the history books will put pen to paper how men and women stood up for justice and liberty. But these books will paint a false and embellished picture that ignores the bullying and violence that forced a cultural and moral shift. It will be a book of lies that is the privilege of the prevailing ideology instead of the truth.
The truth about modern day protests is that they are more emotional than reasonable, are characterized by aggression and bullying, propagate violence, and are only effective through coercion and fear. This is why I cannot subscribe to the mentality of protesting. When children don’t get their way, they throw temper tantrums. When adults don’t get their way, they protest. There is very little difference.