Protest Dance

What is a protest movement? I would say it is a collection of people who want to change the rules of the larger group, but they can’t because they don’t have real power; and so they just complain really loudly to get the attention of the rulers and of the more powerful groups. This only works if most of the people in a society believe that the purpose of the society is to make everyone happy, and if indeed they believe that their society is just the best that it could possibly be.

If most people believe that, and yet are confronted with some non-criminals and non-foreigners who are not happy, then they may start to question whether their society is really all that great. This opens the door for the protest group to speak up and get serious consideration for their complaint, which generally would involve getting some wrongs righted, or some laws reformed, or some policies modified, or some special consideration granted. In other words, the protest group loves the ideals of the larger group and they want to be part of the larger group, but they want it on their own terms, because they think the people in charge of the larger group are not really paying attention to their special concerns.

Of course, Protestants would be an example of a protest movement. They wanted to be Christians, but they didn’t like the way the Pope was handling some things. Some of the German princes also wanted special treatment. So they appealed to certain ideals of the larger group, such as the veracity of Scripture. Eventually they found that they had some irreconcilable differences with the Pope. At the point where they decided to make a separate church, they were still a protest movement, because they still just wanted to reform the stuff from the old church. By completely throwing out apostolic succession, church hierarchy, liturgy, saints, and feast days, later Protestants became something totally apart from the old church; and I would say they were not a protest movement. They actually started something radically new, based on more fundamental principles than mere reform of the old system, because they didn’t want to be part of what they considered to be a corrupt older system. You can call that good or bad, but it is too radical to be a “protest.”

Likewise, the American colonists at the Boston Tea Party were protestors but the signers of the Declaration of Independence were not. Abolitionists were protestors, and after Lincoln was elected, they acquired power; then the Southerners became protestors, until they seceded. Hippies were protestors but expatriates were not. Curiously enough, under this definition, domestic terrorists would be protestors who happen to be criminals as well; someone who becomes an agent for a foreign government would not be a protestor. The key is whether you love the society and its ideals, and you want to gain the respect of others in the larger group, especially those in power.

In the present day, gay rights activists are protestors, especially when they call for gay marriage. The pro-life movement is not a protest movement, because they are making a more radical claim than simply a call for reform. Also, although abortion is legally a “right,” most women don’t want to have one, so abortion itself is not an ideal good for most people.

Most homeschoolers are not “education protestors,” because they are doing the same thing parents did before public education became widely available, and they would keep doing it if the public education system disappeared tomorrow. Some homeschoolers are education protestors, because they struggled for months or years to get the school system to do what they wanted; then they wrote letters to the school board and the local newspaper and the TV news investigative reporters; then they sued the school system to get special treatment; then they blew up at the principal and threatened to pull their kid out of school; then they called the state school superintendent to find out what free curriculum the state would give them if they homeschooled; then they pulled their kid out of school for a year, bringing him back in time to try out for the varsity football team. They love a subsidized daycare system that costs them only $300 a year for 180 days of relief, and guarantees plenty of socialization and sports for their kid. If the current system disappeared, they would build another one just like it, with all the same hierarchy, liturgy, sacred texts, and so on.

Although biblical creationism is not necessarily a protest movement, creation science is. Creation scientists want desperately to be part of the scientific establishment; they want everything they believe to be justified and approved by a scientific explanation. They tell stories about faithful born-again Christians who read a scientific textbook describing evolution by natural selection and suddenly lost their faith because it seemed like Science didn’t support God; then they stumbled upon a contradictory creation science account and suddenly they are filled with the Holy Spirit. Excuse me, but that is not a story that glorifies the God of the Bible; that is a story that glorifies Science. It just happens that the creation scientists have taken the old wooden idol and stuck a cross in its hand, then gave it a saint’s name and said “Lo! Here is your familiar old god, but now he serves our God, so it’s OK for you to keep his old feast day and keep praying to him!”

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