Alternative Messages

July 25, 2016

Times like these need prophets. Old Testament scholar Walter Brueggemann notes, prophets are artists and poets who break the silence, say the unsayable, think the unthinkable, and imagine the unimaginable. As our dominant political parties meet to coronate their unpopular and problematic presidential nominees, some are bringing much-needed prophetic imagination.

The "Nuns on the Bus," who I saw in Jefferson City the week before the Republican convention, are going to both conventions and giving free lemonade to delegates and engaging in dialogue about key issues. It's refreshing to see people try to serve both sides and honestly try to dialogue with both sides. I guess when politics gives you lemons, you make some prophetic lemonade!

At a few points during the Republican convention in Cleveland, various protesters held up a large banner to offer an alternative message to the angry voices behind the microphone. On Monday, someone held a "Refugees Welcome" sign during Rudy Giuliani's speech as he attacked refugees. On Thursday, someone held a "Build Bridges, Not Walls" banner during Donald Trump's speech as he attacked immigrants and urged the building of a wall. These and other protesters soon found themselves escorted out. It's unfortunate such messages were even needed, but it's good to see prophetic challenges to the hate and bigotry of political leaders.

(screen shot from video stream)

Outside the Republican convention, a group of activists attempted to draw attention to the dangerous policy allowing open-carry of guns in public. While guns were allowed in the open outside the convention site (and an NRA official spoke inside), the RNC banned many other items. Like tennis balls. Yes, tennis balls. So activists showed up to open-carry 500 tennis balls, which the police confiscated. As police took the tennis balls, the activists declared, "ban open-carry, not tennis balls." When tennis balls are banned but guns allowed, it's time for prophets to show up with hundreds of tennis balls! 

Already the prophetic critiques are emerging in Philadelphia for the Democratic convention. Some poor and homeless families are building a tent city, which they've dubbed "Clintonville" (like the Hoovervilles of the 1930s). They're also offering "reality tours" for the many out-of-town delegates to see life outside the wine-and-dine convention parties. Pointing out reality can be a prophetic act.

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