Sunday, April 29, 2012
Last week, as the Supreme Court took up the case of Arizona's harsh immigration law, some Christian activists held a vigil outside the court to protest the controversial law. An interesting part of the event was what organizers called a "Jericho march," in which over 100 people marched around the Supreme Court building seven times. This seemed like an interesting choice of a biblical metaphor since the end of the original Jericho march resulted in the walls of the city collapsing (and the people of Jericho being killed). When organizers of last week's march tweeted they were about to start, I jokingly tweaked them in a tweet that their event "Seems like a violent threat!" They quickly responded that it was "just a peaceful and prayerful witness for equality!" I assured them I understood and was merely having fun with the Jericho metaphor, adding "Hope march goes well & hope #SupremeCourt building remains standing!" The use of a "Jericho march" is actually a fairly common protest tactic of conservative and liberal Christians--although most of them only recreate the seventh day and skip the first six! While marching around the targeted place is good street drama--and thus a good advocacy tactic--the full meaning of the metaphor should cause people to ponder. This is especially ironic when used as a non-violent civic protest tactic by faith communities that lean toward the peace end of the political spectrum. I can only imagine what havoc would have been raised had the Supreme Court building collapsed last Wednesday--and how quickly the "Jericho march" organizers would have claimed to have nothing to do with it! They did not, after all, want to tear down the Supreme Court building, but rather were praying the Court would rule in a particular way. This protest was not an assault to conquer the land, but a prayer that the robbed jurists would, while working within the system, simply strike down a law. The metaphor, therefore, seems to fall apart. It may be good political performance, but I am not sure it is helpful theologically to utilize this metaphor for non-violent advocacy.