When Tommie worked the late shift at Starbucks a few years ago we thought Pepper Spray was a good idea. You never know who might lurk in the parking lot after close. We would talk about actions to take in the event a stranger decided to become an unwanted passenger. We did not think it a good idea for her to use her pepper spray on customers who had worn out their welcome. Occasionally they may need to call the police who would come and invite the customers to leave. We were certain they would not be inclined to use pepper spray on someone sitting in one of the comfortable chairs if the customer refused to leave. Sounds reasonable, eh?.
Cultural illustrations may be evocative for pastor/preachers. But, they may also become a quagmire when opinions about high profile events have already been formed. Any nuanced reference runs the risk of leading the hearer to resist any or all implications. Sometimes it is difficult to hear beyond our pre-formed opinions.
For instance, the recent pepper spray incident prompted a terse reaction from my friend The Ex-Reverend. A self-identified Christian took issue with the assertion that those who claim to follow Jesus should have something to say about the use of pepper spray on non-violent protestors. Defending the action because the protesters had been asked to leave is to invite the vitriol of those who find inconsistencies among Jesus people. And it should.
One of these days we will stop long enough to think beyond our knee-jerk reactions. The initial statement made by The Ex-Reverend was not a defense of the legality of protest and the use of trespassing laws to prod a group to move along. Instead, the matter turned on the need for an outcry that said, “That is an un-necessary use of force.” And it was. That it was caught on video is even more compelling. Christian responses should move beyond the default of saying nothing by referencing the event as hearsay and instead respond to what is witnessed – even if later via video.
The matter turns on the use of power. During the Season of Advent when the ultimate expression of the loving-kindness of God took form unquestionably power-less, Christians should be willing to say no to power that steps beyond protecting the other to inflicting harm on the other. We should do so without resorting to power of our own. Maybe from a tent. After all, the Scriptures reference Jesus’ coming as Jesus pitching his tent with us.
UPDATE: Just this morning David Hayward, a.k.a. nakedpastor, released a great graffiti art piece that would go well with this post.