Is protesting biblically authorized for a Christian?


A protest is expression of disapproval against an idea, person, or action. Protests have been common in the world for a very long time. Some of the actions at the Tower of Babel could be considered a protest (Gen. 11:1-9), but that one didn’t end well for the protestors.

There are peaceful protests and violent protests. In the United States, peaceful protests (with proper licensing when necessary) are legal and so can be considered biblical. Violent protests may include rioting, looting, personal injury and even death. Violent protests are illegal. In some parts of the world (Brazil, China, India, Pakistan, and Russia, etc.) any type of protests are illegal, so in these locations it wouldn’t be biblical (Rom. 13:1-8).

Violent protests seldom have anything to do with genuine justice, but rather many have ill intent (cf. Acts 19:23-42; 21:26-36). A protest organized by the scribes and Pharisees ended with the crucifixion of Christ (Matt. 27:15-26). Peaceful protests are biblical (cf. Jer. 29:7), and some have been greatly successful, such as many of those against abortion.

IMO, before Christians considers participating in a protest, they should think through and apply the historical Christian ideals for a “Just War”. These rules may be restated as:

(1) A protest must be for a just cause.

(2) A protest should be lawfully declared (i.e. licensing as required) by a lawful authority.

(3) The methodologies used during the protest must be good and ethical.

(4) Other legal ways of resolving the problem should be attempted first.

(5) There should be a reasonable opportunity of success.

(6) The protest should be directed at establishing a just solution to a just cause.

(7) The protest should glorify God.

The planning of a protest and a protest itself should be bathed in prayer (1 Thess. 5:16-18). Wisdom should always be sought and used in planning and conducting a protest (Jas. 3:13-18). During a legal just protest, Christians should watch their tongues (Jas. 3:1-12) because using wrong words could change a peaceful protest into a violent one (cf. Prov. 15:1).

Biblical principles found in Scripture for living a holy life should be applied to protests, and communicating those principles to those participating beforehand is crucial for communicating the point of the protest in a peaceful, God-glorifying manner.

Answer by Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr.

Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr., D.D., M.Div. is the Theological Editor at Third Millennium Ministries (Thirdmill).