Why I Don’t Protest

As you guys know I rarely, if ever, get political. So with that in mind I hope you won’t find this post political. I don’t really care about politics. I don’t really care if you’re a republican or democrat or who you voted for in the last election.

But, like many of you I’ve been watching the recent national protests from the “Occupy Wall Street” movement.

I won’t even pretend to have a real grasp on the issue but I like the way Brent McCracken summed this group of protesters up:

As a “movement,” Occupy Wall Street doesn’t reveal an organized grassroots agenda as much as it represents a general climate of anger, frustration and antagonism against the “haves”—a suspiciously narrow (1 percent), heartless, no good very bad group whose entrepreneurial and capitalistic success apparently oppress the 99 percent of us have-nots who are being unfairly kept from sharing in the 1 percent’s riches.

I can see why they might be upset, but their tactics, while certainly their right,  seem a little off to me. I’ve never been much of a protester.

I’ve never carried a sign.
I’ve never participated in a march.
I’ve never been a part of a sit in.

I agree with Bruce Wydick who wrote,

Like most protests, the Occupy Wall Street folks are better at identifying something that is wrong than identifying a way forward that is right.

And this is why I don’t protest.

The reality is there are things that need to be changed.

Our political system needs change.

Our financial system needs change.

The Church needs change.

But I think all this “protesting” just shows that we would rather point fingers, lash out, and fight, than share blame and own up to how we’ve contributed to the problems we face. It sounds a little too much like Adam in the garden saying, “This woman made me do it.”

There is no area of your life or our nation where true change begins with blaming. Blaming is for cowards and sluggards.

True change begins when we realize that we’ve all added to the problems we face in our nation, in our churches, in our families and in our individual lives.

54 Responses to “Why I Don’t Protest”

  1. As usual, I have to agree with you a lot. I find the church is more guilty of this than even the political types, actually. It’s just that we “protest” through blogs, cynical Tweets, and hateful Facebook posts. Everybody considers themselves to be the Christianity Police. And that always gets ugly.

  2. Andy says:

    Pete
    Thank you for sharing this. I agree with everything you have shared. Everything is not right and it is our responsibility. We can’t point fingers anymore.

  3. PaulaSwift says:

    Agreed! You said what was in my head much more politely. :)

  4. dan says:

    Great post man.

    I think you nailed it, & I agree. For a long time I’ve noticed that people, sometimes myself included, are more than willing to stand up & say that something is wrong but rarely have a plan to put into effect when they’re met with the question: “What would you do to change this?”

    We’re a nation that was born out of protest & we’ve taken that to heart. But we’ve forgotten that the founding fathers had a plan; not just for the war, but more importantly for when the war was over. They knew the war would be costly; they knew there would be a need for an official government once the war was over, & they planned for all of these things.

    Hope that didn’t come across as political, it most definitely was not intended to.

  5. Julie says:

    Well said Pete. Resolving problems is hard. It takes work and commitment. It also takes self reflection and a willingness to change. Protesting is much easier! :)

  6. liz says:

    What about the civil rights movement? MLKjr? Rosa Parks. When anyone with no power is being abused by anyone with all the power-you stand up & defend them. Peaceful protests can & do bring change. We just heard on the news last night Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac, that was ‘bailed out’ their executives just received 7 figure bonuses. Millions of homes are still in foreclosure court. I bet evreyone in church knows someone who is losing their home :(

    • Jennifer says:

      Liz, MLK was all about moving forward to something that is right. That was his whole stance–he pointed out the wrongs and offered solutions.

    • Carrie says:

      Sadly, Liz these protests aren’t peaceful. It has already been reported that 10 people have been raped at these protests. And the people that have to face people yelling at them as they go in to work to support their families aren’t feeling the love or kindness from this crowd. I’ve seen peaceful protests and have friends who have been a part of them, and they say nothing like this has ever happened at their events.

      I’m thankful people have a right to protest in this country… but peacefully without harming others or the community should be the goal.

    • Laura says:

      I agree with Liz. Just because the Occupy movement is not clear about their desired solutions does not mean that all protests are worthless. It is important to support communities that need help. Maybe not the 99%, as it is a rather ridiculous and arbitrary number, but the poor, the discriminated, and the abused do need help and people need to be aware of it so that marginalized groups do not become invisible. Protests not only show solidarity and command attention, they organize groups of people to action beyond the protest itself.

    • Pete Wilson says:

      I agree to some degree Liz. The Civil Rights movement certainly brought needed change of equality. Some of that change may have even been influenced by the protests but MLK was also brilliant at establishing relationships and building bridges that led to change. He had a “dream” not just a “sign”.

      I agree that those with no power or very little power have to find ways to make their voice heard. However, I still stand by the fact that true change starts not by pointing fingers but with owning responsibility.

      The mess that we’re in financially as a nation comes from a sense of entitlement which we all have not just the 1%.

  7. Carrie says:

    Amen. Sadly, these protests are about blaming everyone else but themselves. And the crime and the atrocities that are being committed where they are protesting are destroying the lives of the people who actually live there. I wish these people would see a third world country and see what real poverty and hardship is. I’m sorry, I can’t feel sorry for people who are protesting this injustice with their iphones, ipads, department store clothes on.

  8. Jason says:

    Well said, Pete.

  9. mpt says:

    Protest is necessary when “power” is enemy. While the way forward might not be planned out, if you don’t rally together and point out the ugly truth, the “powerful” will often pretend that the problem doesn’t exist. Nearly every major social change in America started with what some called a crazy unnecessary unorganized protest… Women’s Right To Vote, Prohibition, overturning Prohibition, Civil Rights, Equal Rights… and in church history, protest has been used throughout to stop what some called the “evils” of the church…

    Pete, you wrote that… “True change begins when we realize that we’ve all added to the problems we face in our nation, in our churches, in our families and in our individual lives…” And that’s true in a lot of ways. However, we are all not equals in every situation. It’s not fair to compare the equality found in a family relationship to the inequality that exists in corporate America…

    You’re right; pointing doesn’t always help. But if the person you’re point at is a big powerful rich narcissist who won’t own up to his/her mistakes and they’re using their influence to hurt others, then sometimes those who have been hurt have to join together and point.

    While it’s different in every situation, people protesting has stopped a lot of awful things: from child trafficking in other countries to innocent people being put to death.

    Sure, protest is not always helpful, but sometimes, it’s a very good thing and a wonderful freedom that we have here in America…

    • Jennifer says:

      “However, we are all not equals in every situation.”

      Exactly. That’s life. So why is it okay for people to feel entitled to something they haven’t earned?

      • liz says:

        I don’t feel entitled. My home is being illegally foreclosed. We are NOT bums working the system. I worked for over 35yrs. My husband still works,TWO jobs! Thank you Matthew Turner :)

    • Pete Wilson says:

      As usual, good point Matthew. You can see my comments to Liz above. I’ll certainly admit there are some over generalizations in the post. I still stand by the idea that true change starts with us all owning the problem. The problem of entitlement we have in our nation goes well beyond corporate America.

      I think we all agree change needs to happen!!

      • mpt says:

        “The problem of entitlement we have in our nation goes well beyond corporate America.”

        I agree wholeheartedly.

        But you know, it’s probably unfair of us to point at the Occupy protestors and simply cry “entitlement”. While some of the loudest and most extreme might feel entitled to something, if you listen/read the stories of the majority, I think you’d have to admit that they have a point, that they’re standing up for far more than what can be downsized into the word “entitlement”. These people have stories. And while some of them might be showcasing their outrage with unnecessary angst, most are there because their stories, their experiences warrant them being there.

        It’s easy for those of us on the outside, most of us with jobs and/or health care, etc etc, and cry “entitlement”. But do we understand that word? Because the truth is, we as Americans are all entitled to some things. It’s not something we can help. Being born in America entitles us to certain rights. So certain “entitlement” is a part of our culture in America… but again, the issues and frustrations that these protestors are rallying for go much deeper and are much bigger than merely entitlement.

        But to the point of your post, rather than simply protesting the protestors, what can we do to help the way forward? Isn’t that what we want to do? Not simply protest their protesting, but come to the table with a plan?

        And doesn’t that begin with…

        -Let’s not assume that we know exactly what these protestors want/hope to achieve.
        -Let’s listen to their stories rather than listen to the pundits’ opinions about these people’s stories…
        -Let’s pray for them and ask God to give them wisdom and peace…
        -Some of these people are our brothers and sisters in Christ… and while many may not agree with them, pointing at them and calling them “entitled” doesn’t help…

        So let’s help them… rather than protest them… if we’re all a part of the problem, then we are all a part of the solution…

        • Pete Wilson says:

          Great points again Matthew. I love what you said about by simply being born American we are entitled to some things.

          Not real sure where we got off track though. I’m in no way pointing fingers and calling the protesters “entitled”. I’m just saying that the issue of greed goes well beyond Corporate America. I think it might be most obvious there but spreads to the hearts of almost all of us at some level.

          You offer some great “next steps” as well. You’re spot on that we need to see where we can help bring justice to this matter. But you still won’t see me carrying a sign. :)

          I don’t want to protest their protesting. I’m just stating why I don’t protest. As stated in the post it’s their right to “protest”. I just have a different opinion on how real change is implemented.

    • liz says:

      Thanks Matthew. As a family we are in pain…we can see the judgment in people’s faces, even in our small group :( Everytime I hear or see another believer talk about entitlement-I think…Find out who these supposed entitled people are. We are sitting right next to you during worship, prayer time & communion & we are in trouble & pain :(

      • liz says:

        Entitlement…that word again. Both my husband & I have served on missions trips. We’ve seen & lived with ‘real poverty’. But that will never be an excuse for lack of love & understanding for the horrible injustices happening on our own streets & with those in our churches. Just because there are people in America who will ‘work the system’ and live on ‘hand outs’ it will never be an excuse for labeling & negating people, lumping them into groups and not really ‘touching the so called entitlement users’.

        • Pete Wilson says:

          Liz, I’m afraid you may be miss my point (and I may be missing yours). I’m sorry you’re in pain. I’m sorry you’ve been mistreated. I’ve dedicated a good portion of my life to fighting for justice for those who have been mistreated. I believe God has given me influence to speak for those who don’t.

          I don’t mind if people protest. As I stated it’s absolutely their right. I just personally choose to bring about change in different ways which is the whole point of the post.

          Again, so sorry to hear about your house. Praying for you.

          • liz says:

            I understood your post. I was responding to yours & others use of the word entitlement.in their replies. What are some other ideas to bring about change within Banks & Corporate america to help with the millions of job loss & home-foreclosures other than protests. Change is difficult enough on a personal level-how do we start change in the industries of power when people have no power.

  10. John Wallace says:

    Agreed. Sometimes we can fall into the trap of just taking the easy way out and let others pioneer a way forward and try to reap the benefits from their hard work. But you’re right, change won’t happen unless we first take responsibility for what we’ve done.

  11. Harold says:

    You know Pete 95% of the world could carry that same banner in reference to 100% of America. We ALL have it so good compared to the real have not’s in this world. I feel extremely guilty every time I wish I had this or that. Just by the fact of being born in this country I am blessed way beyond what I deserve. This country has more problems than we can imagine as does the church but we are blessed, 100% of us.

  12. Josh Robbins says:

    Pete, I completely agree with this. I think also think alot of it stems from a sense of entitlement that our culture breeds. People get so wrapped up in the things they don’t have in comparison to this so called “top 1%” that they forget they are probably in the top 2% of the WORLD! I think it’s a lack of perspective that really holds this country back. We are all so filthy stinking rich that our biggest concern is that we eat at Applebees compared to the top 1% who are at Mortons. Meanwhile, kids are dying across the globe every day from starvation. We complain that our kids attend public schools while the rich can afford private schools. Meanwhile kids across the globe are robbed of any sort of education or dreams. I see these protests and my heart aches for the true 99% that need help. Not us. We’re all rich.

  13. Jason Vana says:

    I always challenge my team not to complain about a problem if they aren’t willing to bring and work on a solution. I believe if we are bothered by a problem enough to go to the extreme of protesting, it’s probably because God put it on our hearts to be an agent of change.

  14. I dig this: “There is no area of your life or our nation where true change begins with blaming. Blaming is for cowards and sluggards.” The Tea Party is no different than this group.

    But, I would also say that there is a place for prophetic questioning of status quo. Many want lower taxes simply because the want to go and spend more at Costco, not feed the poor. And, some want that money given to them since they think its unfair for a few to have more than them. However, there is some prophetic happening here that we should be willing to listen to and answer.

    Who then is gonna make a clear agenda and lead? I fear what some disregard here could change more than we realize–for the better or for the worse.

    RK

  15. Stacie says:

    This is why I don’t

    http://www.weeklystandard.com/blogs/occupy-wall-street-causing-local-layoffs_607655.html

    I’m not all too political either, but it seems easy to do more harm than good sometimes.

  16. Pam says:

    I understand what your saying and agree to a point. I do however believe that change can come from peaceful protest when people are saying “we are tired of being treated this way”. Sometimes (many times) government is way out of touch with the everyday person and they need to be reminded in a non violent way.

  17. woody says:

    Get the knife out, the tension is pretty thick.

    Pete, tomorrow, post one of those Wilson family videos of one of the boys doing something completely funny, or maybe you or Blake falling off the roof. Or the 23 hour, 59 minute video. Something light. I feel a laughter coming on…

  18. Jay says:

    Pete, while I understand your call for avoiding the blame game and owning up to our communal responsibility for bringing forth change, I fear that you post minimizes the importance of the prophets among us who clearly identify sin for what it is, and who call for God’s kingdom reality of justice and shalom to be made real on earth. Don’t get me wrong — I am not equating Occupy with the prophets of old (and frankly the jury is still out on what they are calling for). But there have been “protesters” in the past who clearly helped our society recognize injustice — folks like Martin Luther King Jr., who were led by God to lead others to take a stance for a vision of the beloved community which was rooted in the love of Jesus. Yes, I would agree that the occupy (as well as the Tea Party) movement represents a different call and space, but we must be careful that we are always listening to see whether what is being shared is simply clanking cymbals, or instead represents a new revelation of Christ’s love which we’ve never seen before. It is the prophets among us — as unpleasant as they are sometimes — who open us up to new ways of thinking.

    Not all of us are called to be prophets. Certainly I never expected to exercise a prophetic voice in my ministry, and yet there are times when one’s vision is opened up and we see the world with new eyes, calling us to speak on behalf of those who have no voice. Yes, we must all join together and take responsibility for our part in the brokenness in our world. But I thank God that there have been persons called by God to open us up to a deeper understanding of God’s vision and calling in the Kingdom of God.

    Thanks for a though provoking post.
    jv

  19. Natalie says:

    I agree!! One of the protestors that was interviewed said that she was protesting because the 1% are rich and there are starving people in the world. My thought – use the time you are protesting to work and earn money or volunteer and help feed the starving YOURSELF. Why does everyone think it is someone else’s responsibility to help or change the world? Be the change you want to see.

  20. Vicki Jay says:

    Very well said ….” Why are We angry ” I am NOT for the rich to get richer or the Corporations (in which Our Government has become the Largest ) to use Us as though we are serfs …but Nor am i for taking what is Not mine. Most are there because they have flashbacks of a greater Generation and the Noble causes for which they protested . Others to promote their own agenda’s . It seems to me that We have become a Nation of Covetousness People …and that is a Shame on all of Us . As i watch the World and our Nation’s upheaval i am reminded by this Scripture ” Mark 4:19 but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful.” …and “Thou shalt not acovet thy neighbor’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbor’s .” Should Corporations pay their Taxes ABSO-FREAKIN-LUTELY !

  21. Adam says:

    I have nothing of worth to add…so I will simply say, “Amen!”

    • Beth says:

      I went on a student protest once. It took place in London, we all took the bus together and there was no trouble. The reason for the march was to try and keep the cost of a higher education low. I was a politics student at the time and in the process of re-thinking my belief system, but the one thing I knew was my keenness to safeguard affordable educational resources for those who would study after me. At the time it wasn’t a particularly hot political issue. I felt safe testing this method of negotiating my role in society and was no doubt secretly happy it would fly under the radar, however I have since been reluctant to protest publicly about issues I consider to be much more important.

      I think the political act remains important in the relationship between the ruling political class and the public on whose behalf they govern. I don’t think this necessarily needs to be a sit-in, march, or protest though.

      Nowadays I try and work out my values by committing in small ways to things I believe in. Sometimes in very small ways. I like to think I can change the world! Or my own, at least. Lol.

  22. Pete Butland says:

    I can offer no wiser words to support you Pete, other than those in this song: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3gtKPL1XoRM

  23. David says:

    I appreciate your perspective, Pete. I’m trying to be less political these days – I’m drawn into debates and eventually just end up stressed out. I worry for my state of NC which will be voting on a Marriage protection amendment in May, 2012. I fear that the church will be more focused on winning the politics than on being the church. There’s a great song on Casting Crowns’ new album that says it best:
    “Jesus, friend of sinners, open our eyes to the world at the end of our pointing fingers. Let our hearts be, led by mercy, help us reach with open hearts and open doors. Oh, Jesus friend of sinners, break our hearts for what breaks yours.”

  24. Cam says:

    I agree that the protesters need a direction, but I think this really began as a protest to bring true awareness to how much the system needs changing.

    I don’t think anyone actually likes change, so most will put it off until it is an absolute necessity. We will brush things off and say “We’ll fix it later. There are more important things to attend to.” For example that leaky faucet that drips at all hours of the night, making you frustratingly aware of it’s need to be fixed. The majority of people probably won’t fix it until they get an exorbitant water bill or the faucet breaks and gushes water everywhere.

    These protesters are the leaky faucet, bringing awareness to a broken system that needs to be fixed.

  25. I’m with you Pete.

    Although, I believe the realization that I am the problem – my selfishness, willfulness, pride, self-obsession, desire to deflect blame – is even better than “we’ve all added to the problem”.

    If I could only stop measuring other people’s contribution to the problem – in my family, my community, my church, my country, my world – and just grapple with my own, then we would see change. How can I possibly have a truly objective view anyway? The problem starts right here. I must lay ME down.

    I think that’s what Jesus showed and is asking His followers to show also.

  26. Thanks Pete – me too. I saw this on Ray Ortlund’s blog – not in the context of political unrest, but it seems to fit your point:

    “Let us then as Christians rejoice that we see around us on every hand the decay of the institutions and instruments of power, see intimations of empires falling to pieces, money in total disarray, dictators and parliamentarians alike nonplussed by the confusion and conflicts which encompass them. For it is precisely when every earthly hope has been explored and found wanting, when every possibility of help from earthly sources has been sought and is not forthcoming, when every recourse this world offers, moral as well as material, has been explored to no effect . . . and in the gathering darkness every glimmer of light has finally flickered out, it’s then that Christ’s hand reaches out sure and firm. Then Christ’s words bring inexpressible comfort, then his light shines brightest, abolishing the darkness forever.”

    Malcolm Muggeridge, The End of Christendom (Grand Rapids, 1980), page 56.

  27. Joseph says:

    Totally agree with you.
    Everything needs to change. But it’s easier to point out the problems and blame others, than look at how we can be a solution to the problem.
    Thanks.

  28. keith says:

    I totally disagree. This nation was birthed through protest. You need to freshen up in American history.

  29. Dan Weathersbee says:

    People are only moved to protest when they are left to feel unheard. Just as poverty, at it’s heart, is about the absence of relationship, protests draw attention to the chasms which have grown as a result of betrayed trust. Protests are not times for seeking solution; they are times when attention is being solicited to look, from a different perspective, at a problem.

    When protests are successful, they begin conversations from which a planopy of possible solutions emerge. Bridges can then be built instead of barriers. Sometimes, the only power one has is the power to say “NO!”

  30. tanya says:

    I do not consider myself political, but I forwarded this post to my husband, who daily gets into conversations/debates regarding politics at work, and his response, which he asked me to share was:

    The word “Protestant” comes from the word “protest.” The Protestant movement began with a protest against the Catholic church because they didn’t believe the Catholic were true Christians teaching the truth of Jesus Christ.

    The American revolution began by Protesting, abolishing slavery began with protests, unions protecting workers rights began with protests, women’s rights began with protests, as did the Civil Rights Movement and the fall of ruthless dictators.

    Unfortunately we live in a corrupt world controlled by money and the people with it and those of us “have nots” voices historically are not heard unless we gather in numbers and have a united voice together despite our diversity in religion, politics, or social beliefs. Protesting comes in many forms, some hold signs and others gather in church.

  31. Ric Booth says:

    Pete,

    I read you a lot but comment very infrequently. On this post I am compelled to comment.

    Of course, the US was founded on the ultimate protest, a.k.a., war. The establishment always looks down on the protestors. It’s what we do. But occasionally, (and in the US, frequently) the establishment eventually listens to the heart of the protestors. The core message. The Civil Rights sit-ins and marches were derided vehemently from white pulpits, while other pulpits danced very carefully. The Anti-War protestors of the 60’s were called everything from pampered-pot-smoking college kids to communist spies. However, as a result of these protestors, the collective attitudes about civil rights and war in Vietnam actually did change.

    We (those of us with jobs/healthcare/cars/houses/security/etc), as part of the establishment, should carefully learn from history. Whenever the establishment does not hear the *valid* cries of the protestors, nothing good ever follows.

    Some millionaire personalities who will remain nameless, like Glenn Beck, are coming off sounding like, “Let them eat cake!”

    The OWS movement has very few (if any) solutions. However, they do have some valid complaints. I think we need to be careful listeners. We need to try to identify the core, key concerns. Most importantly, we need to humbly accept that we might actually be blind to the real issues because we exist in the comfort of the establishment.

  32. Jason says:

    I find all of it a little insane. All that time and energy wasted, because at the end of the day they have not contributed anything to the issue other than another opinion. It is easy to protest. Much harder to get in their and do something to help.

    • Jason says:

      Which is why I like people like Glenn Beck who have started grass roots movements to gather people together to help people. People and local communities are what will solve the issues, not the government which only helps itself to our money.

  33. comparative says:

    Can I just say what a relief to search out somebody who actually knows what they’re speaking about on the internet. You definitely know tips on how to bring an issue to mild and make it important. More people need to learn this and perceive this facet of the story. I cant believe you’re not more widespread because you definitely have the gift.

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