Where Are You Going? Where Have You Been?
Everyone who saw it was saying to one another, “Such a thing has never been seen or done, not since the day the Israelites came up out of Egypt. Just imagine! We must do something! So speak up!”
Judges 19:30 (NIV)
Here’s an effective tool for any teacher struggling with bad classroom etiquette: Punish everyone for the behavior of one.
Tell your class that no one can go to recess until everyone is perfectly still and quiet. No matter how long it takes, don’t let them go. If one pip keeps squeaking, keep them there. Torture them. Don’t budge. Every time you are about to let them go and that one brat chimes back in, make the all sit down. It will drive everyone crazy.
My Middle School teachers used to do that, and it drove everyone crazy. Because no one wants to be punished (or responsible even) for someone else’s behavior. And that is certainly understandable – it is not “fair” to have the actions of one reflect onto the image of many. We live in an age of individual responsibility. We’re a generation of societal libertarians.
Our forefathers were racist? Don’t blame us.
Our country has committed atrocities? Why should we pay for it?
Hold me accountable for what I do.
This is not the case with ancient Israel. The book of Judges rounds out on the verge of a civil war, which like all great wars, begins with a single death. A Levite man travels through the territories of Dan with his concubine. One night, when staying with a hospitable man, some evil homosexuals (read: gang rapists), demand the visitor to have sex with. Instead, they hand over the female concubine and the host’s virgin daughter. They rape them all night. The concubine woman is ravaged to death. Out of his horror, the Levite man cuts up the corpse into twelve pieces and mails them to the heads of the tribes of Israel.
This action gets quite the visceral reaction from the tribesman. They arm up, determined to bring the entire tribe of Dan to justice. In the end, they kill about 26,000 men as retribution. The civil war ends, and as Judges closes out, we are told there is no king of Israel.
We could talk about the whole gay thing (this story sounds mighty familiar).
We could talk about the whole men > women thing.
We should talk about the whole cutting up a dead woman into twelve pieces thing.
But the lingering question to me is this: Why do 26,000 men need to die for the sins of a few?
This idea is so ancient (and thus, so Bible-esque), but I cannot say that I disagree with. Set aside the violence for a moment, and you will see a long forgotten value – collective responsibility. I think we ought to be held responsible for the actions of those who we call neighbors or associates. That is called accountability.
My parents always felt that I was “too hard” on deceptive Christian pundits. I said that Joel Osteen was irresponsible; Pat Robertson was a liar; Bob Lenz was manipulative; Rick Santorum was homophobic. They wondered why I so often called into view the hypocrisy of these religious leaders while giving “free passes” to the liberal/secular world leaders who, in their view, were just as bad. My response? Because they represent us, and we ought to call them out for their damaging rhetoric. There is no doubt that ISIS is an evil organization or that North Korea ought to be punished. But there are tons – literally millions – of people who are deceived on a nightly basis by the people who get on television and proclaim the “facts” on faith healing, prosperity gospels, and gay terrorists. We as a Christian culture ought to stop them.
But I am not considered a part of the Christian community anymore. Now, my thoughts are not insider criticism, but rather, an attack. I don’t mean it as such. I just want to take some collective responsibility. I do care about the Christian community – because I admire it. I am the first to defend it to the outsiders, who see nothing but the loudest haters. Because it is good. And I say that as the most jaded guy in the room. It is good.
I am really trying my hardest to remember the good.