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Then This Happened….

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Nate has battered the Gulf Coast, and were it not for an earlier siege of far more powerful storms, would be big news. But after the last month or so it feels like a ho-hum mid-western thunderstorm.  That’s the problem with feelings, this storm is not as dramatic as what has come before it, but there is still flooding; still people displaced and devastated.  Please do what you can.

Nate has me thinking about my friends and relations in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.  But so does something else.  A story emerged over this weekend about a coffee shop owner in Seattle that kicked Christians out of his shop because he found their distribution of anti-abortion materials offense, even though they did not do so in his shop, where they had apparently come simply to take a break.  WARNING: Do not follow that link and view the video therein unless you are prepared for a not only profanity filled, but vulgar, vile and obscene tirade.

Any time I see something like this, I wonder if it is not a set up somehow – like the coffee shop owner is a known jerk and these people went in there knowing it would provoke him.  There is no evidence of such to date that I can find, but video like this makes me suspicious and I will comment that if there is a set-up of any sort involved it is a less than Christian thing to do.  But that minor sin does not negate the gut punch of ugliness that is the coffee shop owner’s behavior.

I’ve seen something like this before – an unwanted customer comes into an establishment and the proprietor demands they leave in a profanity-laced tirade.  I must confess, however, that while I have witnessed such profanity; I have never witnessed such vulgarity and vileness in such a setting before.  When did I see such?  In my youth, in the 1960’s, in Mississippi when a black man wandered into a laundromat with a “Whites Only” sign on the door.  In the 60’s had what I witnessed been filmed it would have been national news, as similar such incidents were.  But this story out of Seattle has not made it beyond the usual severely conservative outlets.  There is no difference between what I witnessed then and the video from Seattle now except for how people, and particularly the press, “feel” about the two sides of the dispute.  That’s the problem with feelings.

It is tempting in a situation like this to get up-in-arms about rights and laws, but I think in many ways such misses the point.  This behavior, whether towards a black man in the 1960’s or Christian in the 2010’s, is just ugly and uncivil and unbecoming of anyone.  Even if you do, unjust though it may be, want to ask someone to leave your establishment, there is a better way to do it.   If one sets aside questions of rights and laws and simply takes either exchange at face value, one witnesses a deep ugliness in the soul of mankind – an evil that no law can remove.

I know that in my youth despite my pretty doggone racist grandparents supporting the laundromat owner and telling me quite pointedly that the n*&^%$ had no right to be in that laundromat, it was the owner that I feared after the tirade, not the black man.  If you can bring yourself to view the video and you find yourself sympathizing with the actions of the coffee shop owner in any way then I suggest you examine your own soul, carefully.

This is a problem that can only be solved by God’s grace.  On it I rely and for it I pray – especially for the coffee shop owner.  While I have no sympathy for his actions, he is clearly a tortured soul if he cannot bear even the mere presence of those with whom he disagrees.  We indeed live in troubled times and we indeed need God’s grace more than ever.


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