Peace Parade or Protest March?

There was a church this Sunday, so I heard, that had on its billboard outside the title to this year’s Palm Sunday message: “Peace Parade or Protest March????  Now granted we go to a fairly “radical??? church if when you hear the word Christian you think, Pat Robertson, George Bush, Josh McDowell or Paul Crouch, or you think of groups like “Focus on the Family,??? Willow Creek, Saddleback or other fairly media popular “christians.??? Of course if you are reading this blog, you probably already know where I am coming from.  What’s funny, is that our church had a “peace parade??? today, not a protest march but it wouldn’t be hard to make the switch.  I wondered whether that other church in Pasadena was directing that message to us or not, and though I won’t ever know its fun to think it was.

Today is palm Sunday – the day that Jesus had his triumphal entry into Jerusalem – he entered on a donkey with crowds shouting “Hosanna, Hosanna in the Highest???  in other words hailing him as king.  The irony about the scriptures on this issue is that for a king to enter a city, on a donkey, followed by a rag tag group of fisherman, prostitutes and other select outcasts from the marginal regions surrounding Jerusalem is, of course, anything but a “triumphal??? entry.  Today we walked from the marginal area of Pasadena, the Northwest region, to the “symbolic??? center of power for the city at the Paseo Colorado Mall.  It represents much of what Pasadena stands for, wealth, prestige and power.  Malls, in our culture, represent a temple – a place where people “gather??? and “worship??? materialism, vanity, and practice greed.  We walked peacefully from one part of Pasadena to another, waving palm branches, talking, singing and laughing.  We of course were doing more than just symbolically walking from one place to another – we were also declaring that we as Jesus’ followers we stand for peace.  We were stating that we as Christians hope for, and encourage peace in the world.

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So the question arises, were we having a peaceful parade or a protest march?  Well I guess another funny thing is that I think we did both, and that there is nothing wrong with either one.  In fact I think that Christ calls us to hold both seemingly opposing acts together.  Jesus peacefully paraded into Jerusalem, but he protested the temple tax when he flipped the money changer’s tables over because they were making a “den of thieves??? out of the temple.

Another theme that arises out of peaceful parades and protest marches is the tension between inclusive and exclusive people and communities.  I am intrigued by people both inside my own community and people I know from various activities that discriminate between one or the other.  I’ve found many people who are said to be inclusive, including many churches that make this their banner, that in the end turn out to be quite exclusive about the way they treat others, what they will and will not do, and what kinds of things they like including bands, movies, food, etc.   These people don’t tend to appreciate the “protesters??? because the protesters, like Jesus make a strong stance against/for something, but in a similar way they do this for a variety of their own things.  Then there are those who are on the other side of the coin, those who tend to be philosophically exclusive but in their day to day they tend to be more inclusive and ecumenical in the way they treat life.

I think there is a need for both the peaceful parade and the protest march, exclusion and inclusion – Jesus embodied both paradoxes (and many others) – and the church is to do the same.  I am thankful for a church that, though not perfectly, is attempting to embody these Christ-like manners.

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