CANBERRA has just experienced what was probably one of the most deliberate and expensive public vandalism acts in our short history.
“Animal activists” broke into the Parks and Conservation depot in Farrer and smashed up 10 cars, defaced the main building with a hammer, and left a note protesting the kangaroo cull along with a picturesque anarchy symbol. It was a very intentional act of protest in order to make a political and moral point.The name for this is “positive civil disobedience”. “Positive” in the sense that it was an act of civil disobedience that broke the law with a positive action.
The alternative, “negative civil disobedience”, is when the law is broken by refraining from taking a legally required action.
My father is an example: during the Vietnam War he was arrested for deliberately disrupting a march when he sat in the middle of the street and again when he “negatively” broke the law by refusing to register for the National Service Draft (despite being exempt anyway).
As a Christian, I stand in a tradition of strong civil disobedience. Since Roman times, when Christians began to refuse to worship the Emperor/State as God, disobedience to the point of martyrdom has been evident. However, this appears in stark contrast to the Biblical mandate (Romans 13 in particular) to submit to the authorities – even if the authorities are killing innocent kangaroos.
Only if a requirement is made of us that is against God’s Natural Law may we refuse to obey, which is in the negative civil disobedience sense.
Now I’m sure these animal activists would argue culling kangaroos is unjust and against Natural Law, but if everyone decided to pro-actively break laws they disagreed with (especially if with violence as the activists have done), the consequences would be far worse than the kangaroo cull.
So I would ask the activists who caused this damage to think deeply about their civil interaction. Even if you disagree with our ACT or Federal governments, they are legitimate and therefore opposition to their laws must also be legitimate.
We must accept that authorities are the best vehicle in which to bring common good, however imperfect they may be. This is hard sometimes when people feel that bad decisions are made, but we must accept that legitimate governments, legal avenues and respect for authority are our best chance for peace and justice. This side of heaven, that is.
Nick Jensen is a director of the ACT Australian Christian Lobby