Toronto violence, Scripture, and William Ward

There was violence this past weekend in the streets of Toronto, a city well-known to me and one that I love. In fact, the staging ground for the beginning of the protest marches against the G20 that led to the violence was the Allan Gardens, literally right next door to Toronto Baptist Seminary. Thankfully, I have been told that no damage was done to the seminary. But a lot of damage was done to downtown Toronto stores and businesses by anarchists intent on disrupting the G20. When that could not happen, they evidently became intent on doing as much damage as possible. There have been questions raised about police over-reaction to the rioting. Personally, I am very thankful that we had so many officers of the law on the scene who did a very credible job of containing the violence. We live in a democratic society—for which I thank God—and there are proper channels to voice disapproval of economic policies. And it strikes me as the height of hypocrisy to smash the windows of small stores and cause heartache and problems for small storeowners—all in the name of striking at big C capitalism and “corporate bosses.”

Biblically, Romans 13—though I know it is not the only text of the Bible that deals with our relationship to the state—has to be the Christian’s guideline here. Developing an attitude of submission to duly-constituted authorities is central to the development of Christian character. Of course, when the state seeks to shackle men and women in body and soul, Christians must obey God rather than man. But that is miles away from being the case here. The charges of statism against our government or any of those in the West is merely empty rhetoric. These protestors need to go to Saudi Arabia or Iran or North Korea and see what true statism looks like.

If you want to see what true radicalism looks like ponder the life of William Ward (1769-1823), who, as a printer during his younger years, had been involved in radical politics. It was the era of the French Revolution, and for some in the British Isles that historic event sparked thoughts of similar events in England. But then God got a hold of his life and he went out to India to serve as a missionary. His hardcore commitment to radical politics he put forever behind him when he went out to India, for he was invovled in a much radical exercise: ushering in the Kingdom of the Lord Christ. Of course, his Christian witness had political ramifications. One thinks of Ward's role in the ending of sati and his prayers for and rejoicing in the end of slavery. But there was so much more: there was the freeing of the human spirit and the reconciliation of sinners to a holy God.