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The Problem with Protest Violence



There is no doubt that self-proclaimed Christians were involved in the one-day Capitol protests that have filled news coverage for the last few weeks. [1] There are also self-proclaimed Christians involved in the Black Lives Matter protests that have been happening for the past few years. [2]


Peaceful protests are acceptable within a Christian framework. Using non-violent means to bring about reform is commendable, however, once someone initiates violence and needlessly raises arms against a person who is not personally responsible for their plight, they have crossed a moral line.


Regardless of any individual’s motives, those involved ought to consider that a Christ-like mindset does not condone senseless violence, even in the name of “justice.”


It is always wrong to do wrong. This fact has implications for one’s very soul, not merely their physical body. Those who call themselves Christians cannot allow the hatred which drives violence to well up in their heart, otherwise, they have become guilty of the very behavior Jesus condemns in 1 John 4:20.


“Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.”

Those who partook in the Capitol protest and Black Lives Matter protests have something in common: they feel their voices are being ignored. Apologists on both sides have justified their actions by using this language.


After George Floyd’s death, many protesters adopted a quotation from Martin Luther King, Jr. “A riot is the language of the unheard.” [4]


Protesters at the Capitol used similar language: “I think the mainstream media has largely failed to report upon very concerning evidence of voter fraud. And really we just wanted our voices to be heard.” [5]


These feelings of helplessness are part of being human and they should be approached with compassion. However, from the Christian perspective, violence is not appropriate. Jesus himself died an unjust death at the hands of violent authorities. He did not resist and, in fact, Jesus corrected his apostles for their violent resistance in Matthew 26:50-52:


“…the men stepped forward, seized Jesus and arrested him. With that, one of Jesus’ companions reached for his sword, drew it out and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear. ‘Put your sword back in its place,’ Jesus said to him, ‘for all who draw the sword will die by the sword.’”


Is there any one violent demonstrator in either of these movements who was more wronged than Jesus Christ? A man who was discriminated against, silenced, flogged, and brutally killed by the mainstream authorities?


In the words of Romans 12:19 “Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.”


If we excuse the violence of one side of this issue and justify the other, we are hypocrites. It does not matter if someone argues that one side has “real” grievances and the other does not because, from the perspective of the protesters, their grievances are real. That viewpoint is what will dictate their actions.


The only hope we have of stopping this polarization is to appeal to the common moral authority of Christians on both sides to understand that hurting others will not help their perceived slights. In fact, some researchers believe that violence can impair the success of a movement’s protests, which would certainly be counterproductive! [3]


Senseless violence does not help anyone and goes against a Christian viewpoint. The sooner we understand that, the sooner we can build a better society for everyone.


Foundations of Truth hereby waives all claim of copyright (economic and moral) in this work and immediately places it in the public domain; it may be used, published, edited, and distributed in any manner whatsoever without any attribution or notice to Foundations of Truth.


[1] Donovan Harris, “MB pastors condemn Capitol riots, saying they're concerned about 'Christian nationalism',” ABC News (January 9, 2021), https://wpde.com/news/local/mb-pastors-condemn-capitol-riots-saying-theyre-concerned-about-christian-nationalism

[3] “The Ferguson Declaration: A Black Lives Matter Creed (Long Version),” The Christian Century (July 31, 2016), https://www.christiancentury.org/blogs/archive/2016-08/ferguson-declaration-black-lives-matter-creed-long-version

[2] Emiliano Huet-Vaughn, “Quiet Riot: Estimating a Causal Effect of Protest Violence,” Middlebury College (August 2015), https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2331520

[5] Joshua Bote, “'A riot is the language of the unheard': MLK's powerful quote resonates amid George Floyd protests,” USAToday (May 29, 2020), https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2020/05/29/minneapolis-protest-martin-luther-king-quote-riot-george-floyd/5282486002/

[4] John Daniel Davidson, “‘We Just Wanted Our Voices To Be Heard.’ Capitol Protesters Speak Out,” The Federalist (January 14, 2021), https://thefederalist.com/2021/01/14/we-just-wanted-our-voices-to-be-heard-capitol-protesters-speak-out/


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