Protest and Anarchy

By Carl Ellis    |    February 7, 2022


Everyone knows that food left out in the right conditions will draw roaches—pests that carry disease, destruction, and death. Over the past few weeks (i.e., the summer of 2020), we’ve watched once-peaceful, constitutionally protected marches draw parasitic ideologies that commandeered the demonstrations for their warped intentions and destructive aims. 

Moving beyond whether we agree with the reasons for a person’s peaceful protest, the destructive elements who’ve attached themselves to these current demonstrations should cause all living in a democracy to ask: in what other ways can we express our convictions when the infestation begins? In what ways can one safeguard against an ideological infestation altogether?

If you’ve ever dealt with roaches in your home, you know they have numerous ways of infiltrating and then adapting to just about everything you throw at them. Homeowners and apartment dwellers alike know this to be true . . . roaches are to be admired for their smarts and constant adaptability, if for nothing else. They adapt to all your tactics to gain or maintain their advantage. 

Protest is one of the oldest and favored tools of social change. However, during this pause in the protests, we must reconsider the cost and effectiveness of the protests. Some will now hail protest as a continued success—or at least as progress—considering the charges filed for all four police involved in the George Floyd incident. However, it would be highly unwise and dangerous to move on to the next cultural moment without first assessing the high cost of infiltrating destructive forces who care nothing for the cause or its outcome.

This flawed social order would be far more tolerable than the anarchist alternative.”

—Carl Ellis

Suppose organizers of every stripe don’t stop to count this cost and consider how to mitigate the abuse of innocents caught up in unintended destruction. In that case, they will yet again leave opportunistic food lying around for another ideological infestation. And indeed, the people peddling these parasitic anarchist ideologies seem to have altogether disappeared, their exploitative destruction done, our institutions devastated, and their point made. They have left the rest of us to pick up shards of broken glass, trust, bodies, and lives.

The time for analysis is overdue. Anarchists have appeared at peaceful protests over the last few years, but we underestimated the scope of destruction they wished to inflict. This time, dark forces rode in unawares, mingling with each peaceful tribe that assembled on the streets. Some nefarious insurgents tactically organized and prepared in tribes of their own, yet no one saw these anarchists coming. 

Now that we know we have a profoundly destructive and (it seems) tactically organized ideology of chaos unleashed in our midst, what can we do on the ground about this “roach”?

We have had a laser-like focus on racism in the last few years, rightfully so since it is cancer in our society. It’s a manifestation of human depravity, the fatal disease of all mankind. We have even begun to ask hard questions about classism, a more modern and inclusive manifestation of the same deadly disease. 

Now, we have seen a devastating evil appear that makes racism, as evil as it is, look harmless by comparison. That evil is anarchy. Don’t misunderstand; I reject the evils of racism, classism, and any form of dehumanization in any of its iterations—they are all antithetical to the gospel of Jesus Christ. But after seeing the surprisingly powerful and manipulative destruction that anarchy has left behind, I believe that before anybody organizes another massive march for social change—whether it’s the March for Life or a demonstration for religious freedom or liberty—we must examine how anarchy is lying in wait to feed on our constitutional rights and our naiveté about our vulnerability.

Anarchy is the “absence or denial of any authority or established order.” More formally, according to Merriam-Webster, it is “a state of lawlessness or political disorder due to the absence of governmental authority.”

I’m sure some anarchists have a utopian dream of a society of individuals who enjoy complete freedom without government. But they, along with many others who care about justice and equality, are being used as cannon fodder by those who are bent on the destruction of all social order—a nihilistic situation where brute force wielded by flawed humanity rules, unrestrained and unchecked. The most brutal social situation is one where “might makes right.” That’s the inevitable outcome of anarchy. On the contrary, we should always strive toward a society where “right makes might.” We may disagree on what that “right” is. We may debate or even fight about it. Even if we agree about rightness and wrongness, we will probably fall short of its full implementation. Even so, this flawed social order would be far more tolerable than the anarchist alternative.

Editor’s Note: This article first appeared on June 4, 2020, on Dr. Ellis’s personal blog.

Carl Ellis

Dr. Carl Ellis is visiting professor of urban ministry at Grimké Seminary, faculty at the Edmiston Center, and the author of several books, including Free at Last? The Gospel in the African-American Experience and Going Global Beyond the Boundaries: The Role of the Black Church in the Great Commission of Jesus Christ.

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