Protest has evolved since my days as a professor at the University of Penn. Please do not misunderstand, I’m in no way saying there isn’t still a place for sit-ins at the White House and picket signs, as I did during Vietnam. But when the Iraq war broke out in 2003 and Shane Claiborne and friends traveled to the middle of the war zone with the Christian Peacemaker Teams I realized there had been a shift. I took my students, armed with picket signs, to the White House. Shane and a few friends packed their bags and headed for the war itself.
At the same time on the other side of the world my friend Jarrod McKenna (featured in Julian Masters short film “The Bonhoeffer 4”) engaged in his first nonviolent civil disobedience as a youth pastor at the age of twenty-one. It’s important to note how acts of civil disobedience are changing. Jarrod is at the forefront of what he calls “creative acts of civil disobedience”:
- Planting vine and fig trees… on military bases(!)
- Holding a worship service in front of hundreds of riot police
- Dressing as ‘Captain Planet’s Planeteers’ while shutting down the world’s largest coal port
- Training activists in nonviolence in oppressive situations in the Middle East and Eastern Europe
- Picking olives in Palestine
- Involvement in outreach and peace-building with groups listed as terrorist organizations in Indonesia
- Planting “guerrilla gardens”
- Facilitating three hundred environmentalists at an protest with a “clown army”
Yet, the demonstration in this film is one of the most pronounced and prophetic forms of civil disobedience I’ve ever seen.
This film is about one of his most provocative actions that was discussed in the Australian Senate; while 20, 000 U.S. and Australian troops trained for war in live fire exercises (guns were being fired and bombs dropped!) Jessica Morrison, Simon Moyle, Margaret Pestorius and Jarrod interrupted them by placing themselves in the middle of it!
Phyllis Tickle has said of this film: “The Bonhoeffer 4 is the effective and affecting visual record of how a few ordinary, vulnerable, but persuaded, Australians assumed together the dangers of standing up in a radical way against militarism in their own part of the first-world. To follow what the 4 do as they do it and to listen to their hearts as they explain their reasons for doing it, is to touch again the heritage both of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and of the Nazarene from Whom he himself received it.”
And we are now pleased for the first time in its entirety to premier “The Bonhoeffer 4: Living a Costly Grace in the Face of War”:
As I watched the film I wrote a few things down:
“We are seeking to be faithful to the call of Jesus to be peacemakers in our whole lives”
“Christianity should give more offense”.
“It’s all very nice to go to protest marches and write letters but in the face of a literal massacre by our government with our money, is that all we are going to do?”
“Christianity stands or falls with its revolutionary protest against violence.”
“This Christianity that we are soaked in, that seems so normal, that seems so safe, that’s so respectable, is in fact playing chaplain to the satanic system that is costing us the earth at the cost of the poor around the world.”
“All the good that you do will not come from you but from the fact that you have allowed yourself in the obedience of faith to be used by God’s love”.
“You just need to realize that war makes money, and money is what makes the world go round. The sooner you realize that, the sooner you will fit in with the rest of us.”
“Christianity without discipleship is always Christianity without Christ.”
What lines stuck with you? What do you think of these provocative actions? Regardless of if we agree, it’s unquestionably important to discuss. I’m consistently amazed by the creative imagination of the young people in Christendom today!
Tony Campolo is the Founder and President of EAPE and Professor Emeritus of Sociology at Eastern University. Most recently he co-authored Red Letter Revolution: What If Jesus Really Meant What He Said with Shane Claiborne. Look for Tony in your area and follow him on Facebook and Twitter.