Civil disobedience as performative truth-telling A Glaswegian story of Christians in Extinction Rebellion at COP26

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Laura Gilmour


Using Matthew 5:38–42 as a basis, this paper explores civil disobedience through non-violent direct action as performative truth-telling. With particular reference to environmental protest groups during COP26 in Glasgow, this paper suggests that civil disobedience is an example of a transforming initiative, similar to that which Jesus offers in this passage from the Sermon on the Mount. Civil disobedience viewed as such becomes a creative pathway to expose situational injustice and simultaneously offers the oppressor a way of reconciliation and opportunity to transform the situation of oppression. In the context of climate crisis, the transforming initiative of civil disobedience offers the State an opportunity for truthful recognition of the severity of the crisis and implores reconciliation through meaningful action and reform. Finally, the paper explores the ways in which Christians can partner with secular protest operations, highlighting that nonviolence, prophetic witness and prayerfulness are central elements for engaging in civil disobedience as truth-telling. The integration of faith values with protest moves the action beyond civil disobedience towards sacred peacemaking.

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