For some reason it is very easy to call people names:
“I came here to have a civil discourse, and I was called a Nazi,” said Rick Hudson,…. “People are afraid to speak one way or another on this issue.”
And yet it is difficult to tell them “No.” You see, Mr. Hudson received his epithet during a public discussion in the College Park, MD City Council on whether to grant voting rights to non-citizens. Yes, you read that correctly, people are willing to call opponents “Nazi,” but they are not willing to tell people that have not yet completed the steps to citizenship, “No.” I find that fascinating. In order to be that defiant of social convention and common sense, in an effort to change the law when it is so easy to simply defy the law, must mean there is some sort of personal reward in it for the epithet thrower/foreign voter supporter.
I have started this paragraph at least a dozen times, trying to formulate some sort of ideological framework under which the epithet thrower could act that would provide them with a psychological reward, but I cannot come up with anything consistent. I am left with the conclusion that such people are acting out of their pain, whatever that pain is. Further their acting out consists of inflicting pain on those they perceive to be without it and siding with those they perceive to be aggrieved, that is to say also in pain. Simply put these are people in search of affirmation of some sort.
And yet, the anti-social nature of their behavior makes it almost impossible to give them the affirmation they need. Berkeley, CA, long a bastion of progressive thought, has for years tried to affirm the anti-social, yet things have reached point that their anti-social behavior has become dangerous. Berkeley is finally trying to reign in the anti-social behavior to some extent, but even these current efforts seem a bit tame in comparison to the behavior.
What we are learning here is that it is really hard to tell people what they do not want to hear – especially people we know are hurting in some fashion. It is even harder to tell them that their pain is their fault. It is hard for two reasons. For one we risk being rejected ourselves, as Mr. Hudson can testify. And secondly no one really wants to inflict further pain on someone that is so obviously already in pain. Everyone knows that at times “the truth hurts.”
And so we need to remember that it is in fact, in the right circumstances, a godly act to inflict pain. We cannot forget, God turned people into pillars of salt. God destroyed the world by flood. Jesus did not shy away from telling a woman exactly where she stood, confirming her status as a slut, though not in so many words. In all of these stories and more we learn that in order to accomplish good the infliction of pain is necessary, and therefore is of itself good, even godly. To be sure, the argument I have just given has been used to justify many a heinous act, but such is testament to its misuse, not its invalidity.
When I survey the church generally today I see an institution that is afraid to risk rejection and therefore, in the name of not inflicting pain, has avoided speaking the whole truth. I believe that precisely because of where the nation is today. It is a politician’s job to enact the will of the people – you cannot expect them to tell people things they do not want to hear. The job of telling people the hard stuff is left to a higher calling. Because telling people hard stuff is godly, it should be the job of God’s institutions.