Three things in the Washington Post the past several weeks have grabbed my attention. One was about a couple either being tried for or having been convicted of murder for denying their child medical treatment for diabetes. So-called “evangelical Christians,” they prayed instead. The second was about a young man, now enrolled in a university, who was prevented by his parents from attending public school. He was kept in a home-schooling situation long after the subjects he needed to be learning were beyond the knowledge of his parents. This young man, through a rare and remarkable persistence overcame this deprivation, even though his direct appeals to local school officials were denied in favor of the rights of his parents. More recently there was a piece about parents of high school football players in anguish in anticipation of concussions and broken bones. In a revision of the game schedule for the coming season, their school would be pitted against schools with larger enrollments and larger football teams. There seemed almost to be a fatalistic acceptance of concussions and broken bones with concern expressed mainly that the injuries would be disproportionate. Just opting out did not seem to have been on the table, as if football was the only game in town; the only way to learn sportsmanship and teamwork and to develop athletic ability.
What is striking to me about these situations is how different they are from momentary bursts of anger that result in bodily harm or even death from hitting or shooting. No, these are the product of long thought, and of hearing and rejecting arguments and evidence to the contrary that would be persuasive to most people. And what is disturbing about the first two is that the damaging course of action was justified by claims that it was the Christian thing to do. Such a view is so opposed to the obvious answer to Jesus’s rhetorical question, “What parent, whose child asks for a fish, would give him a serpent?” Well, clearly, there are some. One wonders where and how people learn such distorted views of what it means to be a follower of Jesus. The third involved no misguided appeals to Christianity, but seems more akin to sacrificing to a false god – football.
But what is to be done? Are we reduced to just shaking our heads and writing off the perpetrators and their victims simply as losers in the struggle for survival? Should we be more outspoken about more of the things that are destroying the people of God? Are we comforted enough just knowing that we are not like that? I don’t have any answers, but I think we need to think and talk more about this.
Ron Hicks, Parish Verger, St. Alban’s Episcopal Church, Washington DC, 13-August-2013