Thursday, April 17, 2008

Open letter on the "whiting store" email chain

I've received this email several times over the past few months. Here it is in case you haven't seen it:




This sign was prominently displayed in the window of a business in Whiting, Indiana. You are probably outraged at the thought of such an inflammatory statement.
However, we are a society which holds Freedom of Speech as perhaps our greatest liberty.

And after all, it is just a sign.
You may ask what kind of business would dare post such a sign.

Answer: Owen's Funeral Home
(Who said morticians had no sense of humor?)
You gotta love it!!!

God Bless America

It's obviously not true and has been making the rounds on the internet in a few different forms for a long time now. Sometimes it's 1,000 Iraqis vs. 1 Jew, for example. But the point is the same.

I agree that the email includes a very inflammatory statement, but for me, that statement is the punch line. The bit about "sense of humor" and "you gotta love it". Yeah, killing thousands of people is downright hilarious.

Every time I've received this email it's been from a professed Christian. Maybe they're not all the same denomination, maybe they don't agree on worship style or even the deity of Jesus, but they use the label Christian all the same. So here's my request:

If you call yourself a Christian and have gotten a kick out of this email, and maybe even forwarded it to others, I'd like to ask you to consider something. If you call yourself a Christian, then I assume you like Jesus Christ. His recorded teachings, his behavior, his kindness... these are traits I'll assume you aspire to. Then please consider this:

Would Christ laugh at the thought of thousands of people dying?

Would Christ value any person's life over another person's, based on race, religion or even past deeds?

Would Christ assign a high value to nationalism?

I personally don't think he would. But you have to decide for yourself.

To me, the email has exactly the same attitude as the Al-Qaeda terrorists. It's just on the other side of the conflict. The only difference between the email writer and a terrorist is which country they were born into, and which cultural heritage they picked up.

The email disappoints me. It infuriates me. It embarasses me.

We should do better.


Bob Barbanes said...

Man, Michael, I agree 100%. I do not find that "joke" email funny either. But it's come down to that, hasn't it? Culturally we've been laead to believe that what it all boils down to is a modern day life-or-death struggle between Christians and Moslems...that if *we* don't "do something" pro-active (and pretty quick), *they* surely will. To wit: Moslems hate us infidels; they want to take over the planet and kill us all. And by God, we just can't let that happen! By circulating "jokes" like the above, it only reinforces our national paranoia.

Roland said...

"Would Christ laugh at the thought of thousands of people dying?"

No. I think joking about the death of others is not funny.

"Would Christ value any person's life over another person's, based on race, religion or even past deeds?"

Race and religion are not actions, but past deeds (murder, etc.)? A murderer's life is not as valuable. I'm new, so I don't know if JC would condone the killing of a murderer, but not killing him and giving his life the same value are two different things. At the very least, if I could only save one man from drowning, and one of the two was a murderer, guess who's hand I grab?

"Would Christ assign a high value to nationalism?"

No. But, in your specific example of Al Quaeda terrorists, the primary theme is "terrorists." We're not at war with South American Drug Lord Terrorists, so we could make the assumption and drop the label. Be that as it may, there don't seem to be any good and upstanding Al Quaeda; they are all terrorists or supporters of terrorists.

The Iraqi/Jew example is bigoted, pure and simple. While there may be a large percentage of Iraqi people that hate Jews, it's not fair to label all Iraqi people as hating Jews.

I agree that the letter is terrible, but you've lumped too many subjects together here.

1. Joking about death.

2. The value of a murderer's life.

3. Nationalism.

I think the first two can work together... Nationalism is another subject.

Redlefty said...

I see your point, Roland. I put nationalism in the mix for two reasons:

1) The email ends with "God Bless America", which I interpret as our country has a divine right to kill terrorists. Yes, that's reading a lot into it, but living in Texas I talk to plenty of people who feel this way. Still not a fair statement by me.

2) Our war is not just against terrorists, because nothing is that clean. By last official count, more than 90,000 civilians have been killed in Iraq. Countries go to war, not just armies, so while I understand the sentiment of restricting violence only to those who wish to harm us, it's not realistic.

Regarding JC, he seemed to save his anger for the religious people. The dishonest businessmen (Zaccheus) and murderers (next to him on the cross) were shown incredible grace. When a prostitute was about to be killed for her crimes, JC saved her and said he didn't condemn her.

If he valued one life over another based on past deeds, I can't remember reading about it. But it's a good thing for me to take another look at; thanks!

Don R said...

Your post is very well written and correct. When our struggles with Muslim extremists began several decades ago, I was of a very different opinion. But, I see the situation quite differently now.

MamaRose said...

Well, I have NOT been sent this AWFUL email, and I'm GLAD--because I SURELY would NOT have liked it and would have NOT 'sent it on' to others.

Freedom of Speech in America is ONE THING--being hateful & condemning others, blanketly, is a WHOLE OTHER/WRONG THINGS!!!!!!!!!!

THANKS for letting us know about this & for 'STANDING SO STRONGLY FOR JESUS'!!!!!!!!!!!!! WE LOVE YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!! Mom

debby said...

Wow. First time I've been here. You've blown me away. I was raised in a bigoted house. I have spent my life trying to raise my children to see it another way. However, we moved back to where I came from, and the unrelenting bigotry makes me nuts. I feel like a freak when I think things like this.

Redlefty said...

Welcome, Debby! I admire your desire to break the powerful inertia of bigotry, and I wish you great strength in the challenge of living in the midst of it once again.

John T. said...

Good Post Redlefty

That really got me thinking both about the reason for the humour of it, and also why it shouldnt be funny. I wonder though would you be as thoughtful or compassionate if it read something like this.

"We would rather do business with 1000 Pedpohiles, than with one single American Kid."