There seem to be a lot of mean people about at the moment.
It’s got me to thinking about why people are mean, what I’m talking about when I specifically choose the word ‘mean’ to describe a person or an action and why it’s more of a crime in my eyes to be mean than aggressive.
I encounter mean patients and co-workers from time to time in my job. Generally, I think I’m pretty good at acknowledging that it’s something that’s going on for the other person and letting it wash over me in a wave of ‘urgh’. Recently a patient did get to me enough to make me cry though. Why? What was going on for that person that they felt the need to poke at the person trying to help them to that extent? In this case, the individual involved didn’t even seem to realise the impact of their actions and when I told them how it was affecting me, well, unconcerned doesn’t even start to cover it.
My personal response to mean people is, naturally, coloured by my experiences. I was quite badly bullied when I was in school and experience a powerful response when I see persecution and bullying happening to others, probably because of this. The fact that I manage to, well, keep my shit together when someone bullies me as an adult is only thanks to many many years of defence building and the fact that I have a family and fiancé who are there to pick up the pieces when I collapse. I’ve limited myself for fear of becoming too visible though. You still won’t get me on Youtube for the fear of trolls and every time I publish something on here, my stomach is tied in knots in case I’ve said something that will attract too much attention.
A large part of why I’m thinking about this so much at the moment is the mean hearted behaviour that’s happening with Jessica Ahlquist. I’m shocked that a group of people who call themselves Christians, who purport to live by the guidelines set down by some hippy 2000 years ago can be so very unpleasant.
It’s not specific to Christianity, the idea of being generally kind and forgiving and just not a dick. It’s just that this is a group that publicly, time and again, identifies themselves as being moral and good and kind and all of the things that there seem to be a lack of in the current fuss. Bullies are not kind, they might well be Godlike but they are not kind.
There’s a definite disconnect going on at the heart of mainstream Christianity and it’s just one of the reasons that I look at organised religion with mistrust and generalised WTFness. So, in the old testament there’s wrath and judgement and some pretty unpleasant behaviour going on by good old beardy OT God. Have a quote…
“The use of force or coercion to affect others, particularly when the behavior is habitual and involves an imbalance of power. It can include verbal harassment, physical assault or coercion and may be directed repeatedly towards particular victims, perhaps on grounds of race, religion, gender, sexuality, or ability”
That’s the start of the wikipedia entry on bullying. I think it describes what’s going on with Jessica Ahlquist, pretty much everyone who’s not on God’s team in the old testament and, certainly in the case of many American Christian churches these days, Christianity.
I particularly like the lengths Lorraine Day goes to, here, to explain away a ‘Killer God’ (try reading that without singing Killer Queen in your head… I failed)
Let me counter that point with this delightful list of killer God moments from Steve Wells.
And yet, with all of this salt pillar/brimstone/eternal damnation/worldwide flood action going on in the sodding textbook, Christianity is apparently a peaceful and loving religion… how can the two possibly co-exist within the absolute and word-of-godlike word of god?
Now, I’m about as non-religious/spiritual/whatever a person as you can imagine but if you asked me to come up with the guiding tenets to my life it would be this;
1. Be kind
2. Be mindful of the golden rule
That’s it. Those two broad, sweeping and oh so simple guidelines are the very backbone of my moral beliefs and day to day behaviours. I am not a bully, I try not to be unkind (although sometimes I am) and if I have been unkind or caused any hurt or harm, I try to fix it. Why then are people who claim to follow the teachings of an all-loving and all-forgiving spiritual McGuffin being anything but?
Bah. This is one of those areas I’ve never been able to understand when it comes to organised religion and the people who follow it. I don’t think I’ll ever really understand what drives some of these people.
Also, just as a side note. Does it really matter all that much that she’s a 16 year old girl? Does that really make the behaviour that much more reprehensible? Would it be any better if she were a 45 year old man being treated this way? I’m not sure that’s the main focus for me.