In Acts 12, when Peter is sitting in prison for having preached the Gospel. God sends an angel to free him from his chain, blind the eyes of the guards and open the gates. Now that’s serious criminality. If you have a friend in jail, you have to respect the legal procedures and hope that s/he is freed in court – you’re not allowed to send a supernatural being to crush some chains and doors. That’s not legal. That’s not obedient. Still, God does that. According to divine law, evangelism is not a crime. For the same reason, Jesus was crucified as a criminal even though He is sinless according to the divine law.
Thus, Christians aren’t supposed to follow the law at all time. If the law says that we cannot preach the Gospel, or that Jews should be killed, or that whites and blacks have to be separated, we have to disobey in order to be obedient to our Lord. This is why I have been a strong supporter of civil disobedience.
Recently, I have been forced to think a bit extra about this though, because of this blog post at Jesus Radicals. In it, some anonymous people write about how they took 200 sexist calendars from a local kiosk and replaced them with signs like “Misogyny is out of stock” and “The female body is not a commodity”. They also give some tips of how to rob stores effectively.
Several news media have written about the event and many thought that the post simply meant that Jesus Radicals is behind the crime, while they argue that it was sent to them anonymously and they just posted it to encourage debate. Putting that aside, is the action moral? Obviously, stealing is wrong both according to human law and divine law – “You shall not steal” is a command that is repeated both by Jesus (Mark 10:19) and Paul (Eph 4:28). But what is stealing then?
My blog friend Kevin Daugherty points out that it is illegal in most countries for poor people to take food from other people’s land, but not according to the Bible. When Jesus went crazy on the capitalists in the temple courts, he forbade them to do business there for a week, prohibiting them from making profit. Is that stealing?
According to the blog post, the thieves destroyed the calendars after taking them. Thus, there is not much that makes this different from when peace activists destroy tanks and weapons at their production facilities. The only reason it is called “theft” is because the material is moved before it is destroyed. But if this action is wrong because it’s theft, then destroying weapons is wrong as well. But not as many are upset when activists destroy weapons (although it surely has its critics as well). Not only so, as Mark van Steenwyk, editor at Jesus Radicals, points out, many people would probably think it was a good action if the calenders had racist white supremacist content. Perhaps the big problem is that we don’t view sexism as much of a problem?
However, the action has received feminist critique as well. Besides thinking it is stealing, Sarah Moon argues that the reasoning behind this action is that hiding women’s bodies from the public eye will stop men from objectifying women. Instead of criticising the production company, or offering better calendars to the kiosk, or lobbying for them being banned, these activists just rob workers at a local business without hurting the production companies a bit. This is also why I, while sympathizing with the fight against sexism, am dissuportive of the action.