By Joe Boyd
Not long ago in Cincinnati, where I live, a very unfortunate accident occurred at the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden. As you probably remember, a young boy somehow made his way into the gorilla habitat. Ultimately it resulted in the hard decision to kill Harambe, a powerful and beautiful western lowland gorilla, for the sake of the child’s life.
Soon after that, the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history happened in Orlando, Florida. A gunman entered a gay nightclub and killed 49 people, injuring 53 others. (And some of the injured are still clinging to life as this issue goes to press.)
As if these sad events weren’t bad enough, they happened in the midst of a national election campaign featuring the two least popular presidential candidates in history.
Everything is politicized these days—even more than normal. Like a pesky mosquito drawn to a bug zapper, I can’t seem to stop myself from turning on cable news in the evening. And I can confidently say I never feel better after watching it.
One thing I see clearly. We are divided. Deeply. Perhaps perilously.
Take the event at the Cincinnati Zoo, for instance. Within a matter of a few hours, sharp battle lines had been drawn. My Facebook and Twitter feeds told the story.
First, there was outrage directed at the boy’s mother. One of the first posts I saw online was a now-defriended “friend” of mine saying the mother should have been shot instead of the gorilla because of her lack of attention. Many others were only slightly less tempered with their judgment of the mom . . . a woman who came close to burying her son and must feel responsibility for the death of a beautiful and beloved animal. We, corporately speaking, piled on her as if no other parent has ever temporarily lost track of a toddler.
After that came environmental and animal rights groups expressing hatred at the zoo. Their outrage was countered by hatred from the right. And so, what seems to always happen, happened again. We turned on each other, demonized the other side, and built a case for our own superiority.
Then came Orlando . . . and I had to get off social media for a few days. Within seconds the senseless deaths of 49 children of God were reduced to the following general sentiments:
• This is the result of closed-minded Christians creating an environment of hate.
• This is because Obama is actually a pro-terrorist sympathizer.
• This happened because the NRA actually wants people to die.
• Obviously, all Muslims are evil. “Religion of peace?” Come on.
And on and on and on. With a few rare exceptions, the instinct was to blame the other side. It’s the first reaction of most of us, regardless of what side of any particular issue we find ourselves on.
It reminds me of our earliest story. God made Adam and Eve. They chose sin and hid in the garden. In Genesis 3, God came looking for them. “Where are you?”
“I’m hiding,” Adam replied, like a kid who wants to be found playing hide-and-go-seek.
“Why are you hiding?” God asked.
Here it is. The timeless truth. Adam said, “I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”
“Who told you that you were naked?”
Here it is. The timeless tactic. Adam said, “That woman you put here with me.”
God turned to the woman. She followed suit. “That serpent deceived me.”
Blame. It’s her fault. It’s your fault. The devil made me do it.
We’re all naked and hiding. It’s terrifying to see our sin up close. We panic. We don’t know what to do, so we blame everyone but ourselves. And we feel better for a minute because we can convince ourselves of our own relative righteousness. But that’s all it is. Just like Adam and Eve, we must swallow our punishment: death, separation, and banishment.
The world is indeed fallen, but God still walks through the garden. Looking for us. Looking for all of us. God himself made clothes for Adam and Eve. And he covers us with his love, even when we are at our worst.
I don’t have answers to the world’s big, dynamic, politically charged issues. All I know is that when we rush to blame, we bypass the truth. And we all are complicit at some level. We all are the same. We all are broken.
Nobody has to be right. Sometimes we just need to step out of hiding and risk showing our nakedness. Then maybe things in a fallen world can start to be redeemed by God.
Joe Boyd is founder and president of Rebel Pilgrim Productions, Cincinnati, Ohio.