Monday, July 13, 2009

The power of protest

Janet Epp Buckingham is one of those people whom I respect a great deal.  I haven’t always agreed with her on every issue, but I would never accuse her of being a lazy thinker. She has taught me a lot in the years that I have known her, especially when we worked together with the Religious Liberty Commission when she was on staff with the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada.  So I tend to pay attention to what she writes. 

In the most recent edition of Christian Week, Janet wrote a brief op-ed on “The Power of Protest” in which she writes on the need for Canadian Christians to exercise their right to protest on issues that concern them.  Sadly we often don’t or we feel that our attempts at protests are ignored.  She writes:

Christians who are frustrated that their voices seem to be silenced—at least by the news media—might do well to ask why? What is it about our voice of protest that makes it easy to ignore?

An easy answer is that news outlets are biased. Statistically, those who work in the media hold more liberal views than the general population. This is certainly true of the Ottawa media.

A second answer is that news media often think that religious issues have limited appeal to their audiences. A friend in the Halifax media told me about trying to get her editor to allow her to cover a Christian festival in that city. Even though 20,000 people were expected to come to the city for the festival, her editor did not think this was "real news" because it was just a group of Christians.

A third answer may be that Christians come to Parliament Hill for a few hours and then they go home. The Tamils made the news because they came and they stayed. They closed down the road in front of the Parliament Buildings. Then they had a sit-in on the Gardiner Expressway in Toronto.

Christians may be too nice to want to be a bother. And sometimes being a bother backfires. Quite frankly, the Tamil protest was not a success and may have done more harm than good to their cause.

Canadian democracy protects the right to protest. As Christians, we should exercise that right if the actions of individuals or governments infringe our ability to believe and practise our Christian faith. Respectful protests get the attention of elected officials and can produce results.

The mainstream news media, however, may need a little education and more open-mindedness to help them understand why Christian protests newsworthy.

[click here to read the full article]

What do you think?  Should Christians protest?  If so, why?  How can we be more effective?  If not, why not?

No comments: