One of the byproducts of our hyper-connected, Twitter, Youtube and Facebook society is the truly astonishing speed at which apparent serious offense can be inflicted upon others. While this group of people and/or incidents have very little in common in their core issues, they all share the similar trait of the blinding speed at which the situation became public and was rapidly followed by the widespread righteous indignation expressed by others. We certainly make no attempt to endorse any of the views expressed by either side but instead point to the process happening (or lack of it) within our society. So, in no particular order:
- Donald Sterling, owner of the LA Clippers of the NBA, recorded making racist remarks (apparently in private) and after the publication of the recording is now about to find himself relieved of his basketball team and $2.5M.
- Amy Kushnir, a Dallas TV host, receiving death and rape threats for daring to suggest that televising Michael Sam’s kiss of his gay partner on ESPN, after being drafted into the NFL, was inappropriate and excessive. Of course remember that this is a man who apparently wants to be known for his football skills and not his sexual orientation.
- Mothers with real world experience questioning the wisdom of mass vaccination of children being called out as “anti-vaccine zealots”, marginalized and publicly ridiculed. In an especially cruel twist, some have been accused of endangering other children when they are simply trying to protect their own.
It is breathtaking how quickly a short statement or comment becomes public and even more incredible how quickly the court of public opinion is mobilized and passes judgment based on such a small amount of information. So how about we go back a few millennia and ponder some what-ifs in relation to some familiar events in history.
What if someone secretly recorded or tweeted “Bring me a sword…divide the living child in two, and give half to one, and half to the other”? Can’t you just see the headlines or Twitterverse exploding with “Solomon condones infanticide!” or “King of Israel a violent man #babykiller #murderer”. Would the noise have been so loud that it drowned out the wisdom that soon followed? Would a child have been deprived of being returned to its rightful mother?
How about a hidden microphone picking up this part of a conversation? “Woman, where are your accusers? Has no one condemned you?” She said “No one, Lord” Jesus said “Neither do I condemn you”. Imagine the outrage. “Apparent Messiah supports adultery!” “You call yourself a Nazarene? #compromise #moral failure”. The firm and loving correction “go and sin no more” would have been inaudible. Interestingly that is exactly what often occurs when this exchange is misquoted in defense of immorality.
What if the local paparazzi took a revealing shot of a prostitute wiping Jesus’ feet with her hair? Or perhaps Jesus fraternizing at a community well with a known loose woman who had 5 husbands and was currently living with a man who was not her husband? Front page news in the Jerusalem Enquirer! Feature spread in the News of the Roman World!
Thankfully, ancient writers took the time to provide context to all of these incidents. We have the opportunity to fully assess the situation and the words spoken to arrive at a well-informed conclusion. Perhaps in our fast paced, hyper-connected, modern world we should make the effort to do the same? The next time you feel the urge to jump to a conclusion based on a sound bite or tweet, dig a little deeper. Or maybe take the time to actually interact with the person. Invest in authentic relationship with them through real transactions (e.g. time, money, travel) rather than just being their “friend” on Facebook or follower on Twitter. You might be surprised to find some wisdom in disguise.
Divine wisdom divides between that which is soulish and that which is spiritual. It often appears foolish to those who are living in their emotions. Perhaps what many may consider offensive contains more wisdom than is visible on the surface?
John and Katherine Matthews