Have you heard? There’s an emerging fad that says if you’re in a room with someone you disagree with, you get to storm out. I’m learning this new method from the example set by this year’s class of college graduates. If children are the future, then we’ll all be cohabitating in playpens soon.
Gone are the days of disagreeing with someone’s politics or worldview while being mature enough to hold one’s tongue. Knowing the correct time and place to vent outrage is a lost art. Manners are out; boorish behavior is in. “Silent” protests are only worth doing after announcing it on Twitter all week, or live streaming it on social media. Booing a presenter is acceptable. Hurling insults is even better. Some have called the behaviors of these students “bold” and “courageous.” Others have said they’re simply “standing up.”
I call it rude.
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and Vice President Mike Pence are just two of the people students have protested at recent college graduations. As graduation season continues, more stories like this will make headlines.
Use any synonym you want, but protests by any other name would still be temper tantrums.
Many are under the assumption that the American right to free speech, assembly, and expression also equals entitlement to disrespectful, out-of-control behavior. It does not. Free speech does not protect people from the consequences of their actions. There’s a thing called self-control, and mindful adults exercise that restraint every day.
To clarify, I’m a Jesus-follower first and a wife, mom, reporter, teacher, speaker, friend, Conservative and everything else second. Jesus is gently teaching me to love people as He does, but sometimes the behavior of His beloved people gets under my skin. Serving Jesus does not mean I’m immune to their conduct or the cultural winds that swirl around me. It also doesn’t mean I stand idly by while the world plummets into an abyss of absurdity.
The line we walk between being Christ-followers and American citizens is razor thin. Americans are granted free speech and expression; Christians are granted freedom from knee-jerk human responses. As the apostle Paul wrote, “’I have the right to do anything,’ you say—but not everything is beneficial. ‘I have the right to do anything’—but not everything is constructive” (I Corinthians 10:23).
Rising above the political fray is something Daniel was familiar with. This Old Testament mainstay knew a thing or two about oppression. He’d been ripped from his homeland and dragged to permanent residence in Babylon. Foreign leaders did their best to suppress Daniel’s faith, but it only made him stronger. He continued to do what was Godly, and the King respected Daniel and rewarded him for it. When many palace officials grew envious and tried to trap him with an unjust law forbidding the worship of God, Daniel behaved as he always had:
“Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before.” (Daniel 6:10)
Daniel had every right to protest the hypocrisy of the men he served with. Scripture tells us the King greatly admired him, so Daniel could have turned the tables on his accusers. Instead, he continued serving God as he always had, with great devotion, consistency, and humility. He simply went to his room as usual where poured out his feelings to God, and sought wisdom and guidance. Then, after a heroic rescue from his punishment in the Lions’ Den, Daniel went back to work for the Babylonians once again, with continued respect and care for each one as individual souls.
Perhaps all of us, especially those who thirst for social justice, need a good “Go to your room!” moment. Jesus loves people no matter what mess they’re in. However, if Jesus doesn’t provide a way out of the mess, it makes His death and resurrection meaningless.
Injustices which violate God’s law and basic human decency are deserving of protest. Differing opinions which make us mildly uncomfortable are not. The only way we can discern between speaking up or shutting up is to make like Daniel and to go to our room.