Reverse protesting

One of the things I utilize this site for is working out ideas and thoughts I don’t always get to communicate in my role as a student pastor.  There is one concept I’ve had rolling around my skull over the past couple of years…but never had the guts to actually practice.

Reverse protesting.

We all get sick over the protesting that Westboro Baptist Church does around the country ad nauseam.  From concerts to funerals, their message of God’s love hate is a pus-oozing zit on the body of Christ.

There’s hardly anyone who changes their mind after seeing these protesters and hearing their message of God’s wrath.  Ironically, they claim that they are sharing God’s love since He calls us all to repent in order to find God.  While this is true, the medium is the message.  None of their signs refer to the deep love God has for us and it never comes up in their strategy of reaching people.

Despite that their verbiage is based on the Old Testament prophets, the same prophets had as much hope included in their messages as they did warnings.  They balanced it somehow.

What if, instead of protesting in this vein, people protested in a reverse kind of way?  Reverse protesting, as I think of it, is bringing a message of hope for change to a targeted audience.  Instead of picketing with a message of anger or protest, reverse protesting is about communicating hope.

Variations of this reverse protesting idea have cropped up in a couple of different ways already, just not in the form I am promoting.  There’s the funny version of it:


or even protesting the angry type of protesters.

Shane Claiborne writes about a protest that the KKK had in eastern Tennessee only to be outmatched by protesting clowns.  It is a hilarious, poignant example of doing something that turns something meant to be negative into something positive.

Reverse protesting is less about combating hate than it is about sowing hope.  Instead of making signs spewing negativity, what if people crafted signage that produced smiles and thoughtful reactions?

Here are some examples that I think would rock the house:

  • Picketing the local strip club with signs that say “You are made in God’s image,” “You have more worth than what you dance for,” “You are valuable to Jesus,” and “David danced before the LORD”
  • “Make sandwiches not war” in front of the Pentagon
  • “Jesus loves everybody but calls us to pick up our cross” – near gay bars
  • “The person next to me has hopes, dreams, & fears” – next to a homeless person
  • Outside of bars: “Ps 42:2 – My soul thirsts for God, for the living God” and “Ps 107:9 – For God satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry”

There would be a lot of margin for people misunderstanding this (especially the “David dancing” sign) but in all things creative or thought-provoking, you can’t always get everyone on board with what you’re doing.

Jesus tells us in Matthew 5:13-16 that we should be making headlines for different reasons than the Westboro-style of communicating.

“You are the salt of the earth.  But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again?  It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.  You are the light of the world.  A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.  Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

Reverse protesting.  What do you think?!?!?  Raising surprised eyebrows and producing joyful smiles sounds like a lot better of an agenda than fostering resentment towards anything that smacks of Jesus.

I’d like to end with a prayer from St. Francis.  Pray it in your life; it’s a good ’un.  It may serve to focus you on how Jesus wants us, His walking Bibles and billboards, to present the Good News.

“Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.  Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy. 

“O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console, to be understood as to understand, to be loved as to love.  For it is in giving that we receive, it is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.”


About Brian Swanson

Christ follower. Screw up. Stained with grace. Ruined by Jesus.
This entry was posted in Church, politics, Shane Claiborne and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Reverse protesting

  1. Kristen! says:

    I super love this Brian! There have been several times recently that WB has come to protest in St. Louis and the community has rallied to make a counter-protest. When they came to protest a military funeral, people came to line the streets in front of the protest so no one could see them – it was amazing! I’m all about bringing more love to this world – let’s positively protest sometime!

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