There are multiple groups active during the protests that are taking place in cities across America. Primarily, there are those peaceful protestors that are seeking to have their voices heard, justice enacted, and society improved. I applaud the peaceful protestors. As a family, we have participated in MLK Day marches and pro-life marches both locally and nationally. Speaking freely and assembling peacefully for justice are core principles to our country’s founding.
A second group, however, are those who rage by spray painting monuments, destroying property, and vandalizing whatever they can. I’ve been a part of this group too.
In my middle school years, angry at the injustices of the world and fueled by music from Rage Against the Machine, I vandalized property, spray-painted the sides of houses, and sought to destroy the power structures around me. I thought capitalism was evil, the police were fascists, and I hated that my parents were successful.
I also hated evangelical Christians and their bigotry. I was pro-choice and pro-LGBTQ. In fact, I got in trouble at a middle school talent show in the mid-90s for singing the Red Hot Chili Pepper’s song “Pea,” which included the lyrics, “F--- you ---hole. You homophobic, redneck d---.”
My anger at the world progressed into a darker place when I embraced goth and began attending Marilyn Manson and GWAR shows. I shaved my head, pierced my ears, and sported black fingernail polish.
I understand much of the anger of the “ragers” at these protests. They hate the world. They hate injustice. I’ve often said, these kids are closer to the Gospel of Jesus Christ than the high school star quarterback. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is a rejection of this world. In 1 John 2:15, the Bible says, “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them.”
The Bible is also profoundly concerned with injustice. Isaiah 1:17 says, “Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression...”
What turned me to Christ was coming to realize that my anger was misplaced. It wasn’t just the world’s injustices I had to deal with, it was my own problems. I stopped blaming vague structures and came to terms that a lot of my life’s problems were coming from my own decisions. My heart was in constant rebellion against God. I knew what was right, but I choose the wrong path regularly.
In Romans 7:15, Paul writes about this difficulty with our hearts. “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do, I do not do, but what I hate I do.” I sought life in drugs, girls, and raging against the machine. It wasn’t working. No matter what I did, my heart was never full. It wasn’t until I understood that true life is found in Jesus. He said in John 10:10, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”
Jesus is right. Life to the full is found in a personal relationship with him. God is making the world new. He hates injustice and is bringing about redemption to our broken wounds.
To those raging against the machine, put down the spray paint can and try church. In the words of another great musician, Bono, you may find what you’re looking for.
Jeff Hunt is the Director of the Centennial Institute at Colorado Christian University. You can follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/jeffhunt.