Cruelty Has Never Made Me Smile

I remember crying and running from the room as the small black and white television in my grandmother’s home beamed a fuzzy rendition of men beating each other to a pulp on “Live Wrestling.” The year was around 1963 and I was five years old. My Dad (a gentle man) and my grandfather (a brawler who was often thrown out of home for drinking) would scream and holler at the television in almost orgastic glee. I hated it.

I have vivid memories of bullies in junior high school. One, a guy named Leon, viciously slammed another boy’s head into the concrete over and over because of a four-square (a ball game) dispute. Over fifty years later, I still remember the dead look in his thuggish eyes. I was small for my age and a brainy nerd so I was a constant target for the bullies.

The daily death toll read by Walter Cronkite on the evening news during the Vietnam War sent me into a deep depression. I reviled boxing matches but secretly held Mohammed Ali blameless as he courageously and eloquently opposed his draft selection and took his punishment. True draft dodgers such as Trump, Ted Nugent, Mit Romney, Bill Clinton, and Rush Limbaugh were not so forthcoming about their medical and religious exceptions.

But don’t get me wrong, I am not a fan of cowardice. As my brother and I enjoyed significant growth spurts during our early high school years we also bulked up working summers with our grandfather as apprentice stonemasons. I came in just shy of six feet while my brother just kept growing and finally peaked at 6’ 3” tall. When we returned to high school we systematically helped our former bullies understand that the days of their cruelty toward us were over. We did so in dramatic fashion. We would also defend those small in stature from senseless beatings. Cruelty has never made us smile.

Imagine my chagrin for thirty years in the ministry as I watched the cruelty of Christians towards each other and particularly toward those who had the misfortune of being different. The hatred was vicious, self-righteous, and justified in the name of religion. And then as I read historical accounts of Christians slaughtering and torturing millions of people in the name of Jesus Christ. My heart would break.

Imagine my horror as I proudly took the New Year challenge to read the Bible through in a year and came upon Judges 19 and read about the unspeakable cruelty of the Levite (God’s priest) toward his concubine. And then the thousands of murders, mutilations, and rapes committed by God’s “chosen” people.

I should not have been surprised that the self-proclaimed followers of Jesus Christ would one day shame and shun me for my sins. And continue to do so after I publicly apologized and asked for forgiveness. To this day.

Ironically, these are the same people who belligerently support Trump whose blatant disregard for truth and love is unmatched. A person who exhibits vicious cruelty and bullying almost every day of his life and has vehemently refused to admit he is wrong or ask forgiveness for anything. His capacity for cruelty is unbounded and seems to grow as he enjoys the mindless support of his Evangelical base.

Imagine my dismay as I watch a constant barrage of videos of psychotic law enforcement officers—who have no fear of reprisal by our current government—murder, beat, maim, and imprison innocent people. It is hard to believe that we American citizens would do well to avoid any contact at all with our police force which is composed primarily of heartless and cruel people who cannot be trusted to serve and protect our families.

James Kavanaugh says it best for me,

“There are men too gentle to live among wolves
Who devour them with eager appetite and search
For other men to prey upon and suck their childhood dry.
There are men too gentle for an accountant’s world
Who dream instead of Easter eggs and fragrant grass
And search for beauty in the mystery of the sky.

There are men too gentle to live among wolves
Who toss them like a lost and wounded dove.
Such gentle men are lonely in a merchant’s world,
Unless they have a gentle one to love.”

I’m so grateful that I have a gentle one to love. And although cruelty has never made me smile, do not be fooled, I’m done with bullies. And by God, I will defend my wife and our home against them to the death.