Retribution and Unforgiveness

Mike Hayes, over on Googling God, has posted the video below. Having been out of the country and only fleetingly aware of the controversy surrounding Chick-Fil-A, it took a few moments to get the full gist of the situation. If you're so inclined, watch the video:



It's hard to expunge two voices from my head: the woman's incessant "Hateful Bigot" chant and the man's voice taunting the priest to "Go Rape and Altar Boy." It is fascinating to watch as the crowd gathers around Father O'Reilly - almost as white blood cells would gather around an invading pathogen - in order to expel him from their midst.

To be sure, one can question Father O'Reilly's prudence. I don't know that it was the wisest, or most pastorally effective, approach to wade into the midst of the protestors. My question to him would have been, "What is your end goal in all of this? Is this course really the best path to follow?"

As I watched, I recall something Miraslov Volf writes in Exclusion and Embrace. He asks what happens when the oppressed becomes the oppressor, what happens when the group that had been marginalized suddenly wields power. Will they not become the mirror-image of their oppressors, taking up the guns laid down by their former persecutors?

The video highlights the danger of mob mentality, how being in a group can lead otherwise very good people to say, and perhaps do, unspeakable things. I sincerely doubt that very many people, at least over coffee or a beer, would dream of saying to someone "hateful bigot" or "go rape an altar boy." Yet when concealed within the fold of a group, our baser instincts kick in an we can find ourselves giving ourselves over to dark impulses. Such a phenomenon should be familiar to any who have watched a schoolyard fight, where generally "good kids" can be transformed into a cheering, malicious gang as they surround on two combatants. Or one may simply recall the gang-mentality evidence in the adolescents who taunted the school bus monitor, so infamously posted to YouTube.

Unfortunately, this situation has furthered neither side in coming to an understanding of the position of the other. All that has happened is that two sides are now further galvanized and mutual stereotypes are confirmed. Neither side has taken a step forward and the chasm between the two has only been widened further.

Many will watch this and say, "See! Look at how intolerant they are!" or "If it were a bunch of Christians surround a gay protestor, it'd be called a hate crime!" Regardless of how one feels about the issue, the Christian response resist reducing either side into some faceless they. We must remember that each person here is a son or daughter, a mother or father, an aunt or uncle, a friend or family member. We must not lose sight of our mutual humanity, that we are on both sides trying to work out how to live together, and that this process is going to take patience and time. 
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