Outrage

There was a big hue and cry when a well known All Black was caught behaving badly. Everybody wanted to express their outrage. Some said that bad behaviour was not our issue, although that view was not as common as it would have been had he not been travelling in a uniform representing NZ.

Not many today take the Bible seriously - but this story could have come straight out of that book - with names and a few details changed. For those not familiar with the incident (in the Bible - not re the All Black), a woman was taken before Jesus and accused of adultery, and about to be stoned. I wonder what was going through his mind - he didn't even look at them - just wrote on the ground. But eventually he said: "If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her." And beginning with the older ones, they traipsed off, presumably with their heads held low.

Does that mean he "let her off" as our own judges are often criticised for doing? His final words in this story were: “Then neither do I condemn you. Go now and leave your life of sin.” These days many don't regard sin as a negative. That doesn't stop it being sin, but usually, it's often not regarded as a bad thing.

It's interesting to compare both the crowd's reaction and Jesus' reaction. The crowd was outraged and demanded "justice" be done. Clearly, she had done wrong, and they demanded she pay the price. Legally they were correct (in their culture). But Jesus compared her external actions with their internal lives. And they didn't like what they saw.

The Bible is very brief - so I might be misreading things here (it wouldn't be the first time) - but Jesus was a lot more angry at their response than at the woman's actions. I suspect the latter saddened him rather than angered him. He knows what we are like. But following a law instead of following what God says greatly magnifies the problem. We see that today with ISIS and other non-Christian groups. As a Christian, I'd like to say Christian groups are different, but sadly too often we make do with religion in much the same way - anything but talk with God.

What Jesus said to the woman was neither accepting of her sin nor condemning her for it. He told her what to do (or not do) but he knew she was a human, and therefore would fail again at some point. But he gave her hope - unlike the outraged crowd's intentions.

More recently we had the situation across the ditch where a rugby star was condemned for misquoting the Bible. Today's society is not prepared to listen to God. Yet the real tragedy was not once did I hear an analysis of what God's word means, and why the start was out of step with the one he professes to love. The Bible says exactly what was quoted, but focussing on homosexuals to the exclusion of all else shoes just how pathetic the uproar was. It brought to mind the Salem witch I trials

Paul included those words in a letter to one of the churches. There was no attempt to apply them to others. Paul was pointing out the impossibility of claiming conversion to Jesus while continuing our old lifestyles. The crucifixion involved three people. One of the other two asked Jesus to remember him, to which Jesus replied they'd be together in Paradise that very day. This man had done nothing "religious" or good - he just asked Jesus to remember him.

The growing outrage over numerous issues makes it hard to distinguish between what is worthy of outrage - and what is just an issue that caused concern to some people. I was trying to understand this when I read an interesting article from the NY Times: The dying art of disagreement.

I came across an article in The Guardian: On Offence review – a 'coolly thoughtful analysis' of the politics of indignation. Stephen Fry made some valid points in this video from The Rubin Report.

Compare today's over-reactions with a classic debate (1965 Oxford University) between Americans James Baldwin and William F. Buckley. Of course, it's easy from a distance both in time and space to appreciate this. It's also easy to say real change has been far too slow (which it has) so violence is justified. Gandhi, Mandela and Te Whiti would disagree - although when these have gone, their movements have lost much of their original effectiveness, and even made things worse for some.

 

Last Modified

Last modified: 28 November 2020.