Sunday, December 18, 2011
The Majority Protest Just Like Charles Ives, But Jesus Does It Better
By Brian Nixon
Special to ASSIST News Service
ALBUQUERQUE, NEW MEXICO (ANS) -- Time Magazine recently designated the Person of the Year (December 2011) as “The Protestor.” Time states that the “person” is someone who has had great impact—for good or for ill—on the year.
Protest is nothing new. It goes back to the earliest moments of human history. Even the Bible is full of protest; be it Moses protesting the treatment of the Hebrews or early Christians protesting the treatment of the new faith movement. Paul gave voice to protest when he claimed, “Jesus is Lord.” For in saying this he was clearly stating that Cesar or the Roman government was not!
The bottom line is that protest goes hand-in-hand with being a human.
Yet underneath the idea of a “protest” lies something deeper, more philosophical and moral. At its heart, protest carries the notion that something is unjust; that the world is out of alignment, that truth is not being heard.
Yet more closely associated to the Occupy protests that are found in cities throughout the world is that of the American composer and writer, Charles Ives (1874-1954).
Ives’ life—and influence—can be divided into three major eras: composer, successful businessman, and essayist.
As composer he created a body of work that was years ahead of its time, using polytonality and polyrhythm as the basis of communicating reality as he saw it. His musical efforts culminated with the Pulitzer Prize in 1947 (interestingly, Ives is reported to have given away is prize money, stating, “prizes are the badges of mediocrity.”)
As a successful businessman, Ives and his business partner, Julian Myrick, helped create concepts such as estate planning and mutual insurance policies.
After a series of health setbacks (heart attack, diabetes, and cataracts), Ives turned his attention to the last of his creative endeavors: writing and publishing.
It is within his writings that we find a similarity with the modern Occupy protesters that Time has honored within its pages.
So begins Ives’ essay calling for a fair and equitable democracy.
Noted theologian, James McClendon, points out that Ives’ “convictions led to definite political theory about income redistribution and property limitation…”
If you didn’t know that Ives wrote this essay prior to the 1929 market crash (before the last major economic disaster) you’d think that he was sitting on a corner by Wall Street waxing eloquent on the abuses of power in today’s world.
Protest is protest in any generation.
What’s interesting to note is that Ives was a wealthy businessman, and as a businessman he was protesting that which helped create his wealth—the high dollar world of Wall Street (what he calls, The Minority, in his essay).
Yet Ives had more in mind than creating wealth for himself.
In a memo he wrote to a man named, Darby A. Day, Ives intimated that he wished to “revise the business inline with its human function as opposed to its role as a guardian of the assets of the investors” (James McClendon, Biography as Theology, 149).
Putting the larger arguments brought up by Ives or the modern Occupy movement aside, I ask a simple question: should the ‘Protestor’ be named “The Person of the Year?”
Taking a literalist point of view, the answer is, no; “The Protestor” is not one person (as the Time designation seems to suggest), but a collective group of people, “The Protestors.”
On the other hand, the honor is fitting and noble, deserving a loud, yes. And Christians need not be ashamed or shocked by the protests. For Jesus, himself, teaches us to “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness (or justice)…” And by seeking God’s justice, we at times will confront this worlds system and government, causing a head-on collision.
So expect confrontation or persecution for doing what is right. Jesus said it would occur. In the purest form, Jesus is the Great Protestor, the One who protested the ways of evil, eventually leading to the cross.
But Jesus’ protest was not for the sake of protesting. There was an end to His protest, an intended goal: the cross led to the grave, which led to the resurrection, which will one day lead to a New Heaven and New Earth.
So though we protest the injustice we see in the world, our aim should be towards the promise of God’s established kingdom. It’s His battle; it’s His kingdom. Thereby we should protest—wage a peaceful battle—according to His rules, according to His purposes, and according to His plan.
Jesus continues to lead the Protest movement.
And like the Wall Street protestors who have a leader shout out words to be repeated by the larger group, we, Jesus’ followers, do well to mimic His voice, motto, and life. This alone will be protest enough.
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This story is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of the ASSIST News Service or ASSIST Ministries.