Not since the 1960s have we seen protest in America like we have in the last year.
Whatever your opinion might be of our cultural situation, one thing is certain: People who have long denied the notion of objective truth and absolute evil are now crying out in protest of injustice and advocating social change.
For the last 60 years or so, there has been a progressive movement in our country that has mocked the notion of objective truth and absolute good that exist universally, regardless of whether a given person or culture acknowledges them. The “COEXIST” bumper sticker on your neighbor’s car, pleas for tolerance and the relativism of “what’s right for me may not be right for you” are all part of the insistent push in our culture to deny the claim that there is a singular, absolute truth.
Many of these claims have emerged from the very same communities who now rally in protest. I have no intention of defending positions on these issues, but I do find this terribly curious: On what foundation do protesters stand in order to protest? If truth is relative, as many of them might claim, then why the outrage about “alternative facts”? If good and evil are subjective, as many might suggest, then how can an immigration ban be “evil”?
Here’s the reality: Protest functions as a kind of simple argument for the existence of God.
A Standard for Beliefs and Behavior
Protest assumes that a given person or institution is behaving in a way that is false or evil. For example, protesters dissent against the president because they genuinely believe that he is behaving unacceptably or that he is propagating beliefs that are untrue. They are angry about this because they expect the president to behave morally and believe rightly. When protesters rally against pro-life policy, they do so because they are outraged at a belief they consider to be morally wrong.
We measure all things that claim to be true, good or beautiful against the revelation of God in Christ, in Scripture and in nature.
Since this is the case, protesters must logically believe that there is a standard for true beliefs and good behavior and that false beliefs and evil behavior should be measured against this objective reality. Protest always raises this question: How do we measure things that claim to be true, good or beautiful?
The Christian has a solid answer to this question. We measure all things that claim to be true, good or beautiful against the revelation of God in Christ, in Scripture and in nature. With this as our reference point, a Christian should be able to discern an accurate claim from a false one.
So when Christians protest, like Martin Luther King Jr., Dietrich Bonhoeffer or Richard John Neuhaus, they do so while standing on an unshakable foundation that gives them lenses to accurately assess truth, goodness and beauty. One can only face down Jim Crow, Hitler and the abortion industry with feet firmly planted on an unchanging standard of truth and goodness.
Responding to the Inconsistency
But how can protest be effective or accurate in its aim if it denies any ability to measure truth or goodness? On what basis does someone who denies that there is absolute truth and absolute good protest anything?
Here’s the basic way of approaching the issue:
1. The nature of protest is rooted in objection.
2. Protesters object to things that they believe are not right.
3. In order for the there to be right and wrong, there must be a way the world should be.
4. If there is a way the world should be, then the world has purpose.
5. If the world has purpose, then someone must have intentionally designed it.
6. Someone did intentionally design the world, and we call this person God.
So when it comes down to it, when someone picks up a sign in protest of anything, they immediately surrender their ability to meaningfully deny absolute truth or absolute good. Protesting presupposes that there is such a thing as “inalienable rights.” It assumes objective truth and good. And objective truth and good are rooted in the belief that there is a God who created the world to function a certain way.
Protesters are a simple argument for the existence of God. Every protest sign is a placard reading, “This isn’t right. This isn’t the way the world was created to be.”
A Gospel Opportunity Amid Protests
It is increasingly commonplace for us to encounter acts of protest—whether it is through talking with a neighbor or scrolling through social media. Regardless of whether you agree with the conviction being championed, realize that the people involved are protesting because deep within their soul they know that there is a way the world should be and this world is broken and far from perfect.
The Christian also wants the world to be made right and longs for the kingdom of God to reign on the earth. God has given us a mandate to push back darkness and evil so that the world around us will reflect the truth, beauty and goodness of the One who created it.
Even when the culture around us disagrees with our account of how the world should be, the Christian has an immediate contact point with the voice of protest. We can come alongside them in conversation and share in the desire to right injustice and hope for the world to be made whole.