Occupy Handbook 3

Philip Dray writes in Chapter 3, “Take a Stand: Sit In”:

As the railroad strike of 1877 had led eventually to expanded workers’ rights, so the Greensboro sit-in of February 1, 1960, helped pave the way for passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Both movements remind us that not all successful protests are explicit in their message and purpose; they rely instead on the participants’ intuitive sense of justice. [28]

The last comment, perhaps predictably, puts me in mind of natural law thinking. And there is a valid point to be made here: one need not have a worked out program of policy to have one in general outline, since the universal human sense of natural law gives us a fallible but real sense of justice.

On a different note: the stories about the railroad strike of 1877 provoked me to think again about the biblical teaching regarding civil disobedience. Much thought has been expended in Reformed circles about this topic in the broadest sense (inclusive of revolution): one of the classic texts is, of course, Vindiciae Contra Tyrannos (“A Defence of Liberty Against Tyrants”). Arguably, the principles used to decide when revolution is necessary can also be used to determine when lesser forms of disobedience might be justified.

A more recent attempt to discuss the question of when civil disobedience is justified, especially considering the example of Operation Rescue, is John Frame’s piece, “When in the Course of Human Events Does Civil Disobedience Become Necessary?

In the hey day of Christian Reconstructionism, too, several Recon theologians published remarkably detailed attempts to elaborate on possible approaches to this question. For example, Theology of Christian Resistance and Tactics of Christian Resistance.

Much food for thought.