Monday, 3 November 2014
Mockery and Manners
Someone I know on Facebook shared a link to an email exchange between a parent and a school chaplain. (I am assuming it’s genuine, although I can’t be sure.) The parent’s son has been invited to a Christian Easter play and the parent, a fervent atheist, objects to the attempted ‘indoctrination’ of his child.
Fair enough, if that’s the way you wish to view it, and that email exchange should have lasted perhaps three or four messages in total; the parent made it clear that he didn’t wish his son to attend, possibly the chaplain tried to assure him that it wasn’t ‘indoctrination’, the parent repeated his position, the chaplain acknowledged this and that was that. Instead, the parent launches a campaign of mockery and insults. Based on the comments, this was posted as an excellent example of anti-theistic wit, and one that seems to have been generally appreciated.
There are plenty of people who have read this and appear to have thought that the parent ‘won’ the exchange. I’ve seen one person comment “I doubt the "Christian Volunteer" will be relating this humiliating exchange to anyone.” A humiliating exchange? Possibly, but I don’t think that it’s the chaplain who should be embarrassed.
To me, this exchange provides an excellent example of a Christian responding to mockery, insult and ignorance with patience and courtesy. Even when it is obvious that the school chaplain was becoming increasingly angry, he was never less than polite. He is patient and polite throughout. To me, the parent in this comes across as a nasty, snide little man who enjoys causing offence for its own sake. He has every right to not allow his son to attend a play which is at odds with his own beliefs; he even has the right to be angry at the perceived attempt to ‘indoctrinate’ his child, since he sees it that way. However, he sacrificed any kind of moral high ground as soon as he resorted to mockery and insulting language, which he does instantly and with apparent glee.
One of the (well-known) problems with online debate is that the anonymity it provides means that people are willing to act and speak in ways that they would never dream of if the discussion was taking place face-to-face. The old adage is that the true test of a man is what he will do if he knows that he will never be found out. Sadly, in many cases they become vicious, insulting, abusive monsters, and I don’t restrict this to any one side of any one debate. Most notable at the moment is the ongoing ‘GamerGate’ controversy, in which neither side is entirely innocent of abuse. This being so, it is more important than ever to remain polite and patient in the teeth of mockery and insult, as this person did, and this always goes double for Christians. “Bless those who curse you, love those who hate you,” should be the mantra of every person involving themselves in discussions online. Only by doing this can the cycle of hurt and hatred, ignorance and misunderstanding be stemmed.