Small Acts of Resistance

IMG_2726.jpgBy Vickie Machado

Resistance seems to be at the forefront of political action these days. Marches and protests manifest feelings that have been rising for some time now. As a former organizer, I appreciate this energy, passion and drive. However, often times I have been asked (usually by those opposed to such forms of nonviolent resistance): “Why? What good does this do? What is the outcome?”

Again, thinking like an organizer, I want to say: I understand your perspective. Some of these larger protests lack an “ask” or a particular direction. Normally representatives would be called, letters written, and petitions delivered. From a media standpoint, not every protest will make the news—especially peaceful gatherings and vigils— again displaying a sense of failure. They are a whisper in wind. Without a tangible outcome, where does this leave us?

The idea of “outcomes” and our language of “productivity” is short-sighted when it comes to nonviolence.  In a sense, we need to be short-sighted in order to sustain the larger movement. Movements that organize around a legislative item, law, or particular issue can produce a “win”—some tangible change that shows progress. Unfortunately “wins” and “productivity” are our only signs of success. In this sense, there are winners and losers. Extending this logic further, this goes to say that resistance can succeed and it can fail. However, I wholeheartedly don’t believe it can.

Nonviolent resistance, even the most subdued, does not fail. Working for peace and justice only festers, sustaining itself for future generations. It is here where I find nonviolent resistance to blossom. While larger marches may not be directed towards a specific “ask,” individually, they offer an outlet for people to express their inner feelings of dissatisfaction.  Collectively, they unite us in the spirit of justice and cultivate the energy of a movement.

I see it most notably in the nonviolence and subversive resistance displayed by small, every day actions. It’s healing the sick (Mark 3:1-6; Luke 13:10-17) and harvesting grain on the Sabbath (Matthew 12:1; Mark 2:23; Luke 6:1). It’s caring for your unlikely neighbors (Luke 10:25-37). And sometimes, it’s just being present (Luke 10:38-42).

The acts of Christ are not particularly productive by today’s standards. He challenges authorities, pushes the limits and unfortunately does not change the laws. However, working for justice—for people, the earth and animals—is a long road. It takes all of the effort we can offer. Of course, we need protesters and marchers—those to oppose demoralizing and unfair laws. But never discredit the small acts of nonviolent resistance—those everyday practices that challenge the status quo, bringing the world together rather than apart.


Vickie Machado was a contributor to Watershed Discipleship: Reinhabiting Bioregional Faith and Practice. She is also a leader for the upcoming 2017 EcoStewards summer trip, Water is Life: Journeying toward Justice on the James River. For more info about the trip or to download an application check out:

One thought on “Small Acts of Resistance

  1. Paula

    I read recently that a refugee in Australia, yes, Australia, was buoyed by seeing Americans protesting in airports. His takeaway? Maybe people don’t hate us so much. On a very practical level, our protests signal to the rest of the world that not all Americans agree with what this administration is doing, and that is extremely important. Photos and news stories make their way around the world. The BBC reports that Americans are showing up in droves at town hall meetings — these things matter.

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