Over the last couple of weeks, our society has been challenged by one prank phone call. Now I will declare my hand early here – I do not like practical jokes. I am uncomfortable with the idea of exploit someone for the benefits of others.I avoided them in school, although I was often the butt of such jokes, I didn’t return the favour. It always felt like bullying to me, and still does.
The much publicised phone call to the London hospital where Catherine was recuperating, and the subsequent tragic death of one of the key players, has created a media storm and backlash which has exceeded all imagination. We all have an opinion on this, but I caution some reflection before we launch to hotly onto our soapboxes.
What was the sin the radio station committed? Did it break the law? Did it follow procedure? It is of little consequence if they did or didn’t, for following the law and due process often only sanctions immoral, or at best, amoral actions. Being inside the law or diligently in the process doesn’t mean it is right, true or moral.
The radio station sinned (we will use that word for that is what it is) by seeing those involved simply as a means to an end. They were objects to be manipulated for humour, advertising and ratings. The station never at any point saw the objects as people with feelings, emotions, frailities and flaws. They were there to be used.
Their cynical use of the young announcers on a merry-go-round of tv interviews demonstrates a ‘spin it faster than a Simpson washing machine’ crisis management media policy and a disregard for the welfare of even their own people. Everybody involved in this deserves better, but better is not possible if you see every one as a means to an end – as an object for your to use as you please.
It saddened me to listen to a local FM station the day after the tv interviews was aired, to here the breakfast crew calling for people to ring in and ‘dob-in’ the mother who has been breast feeding their child the longest. It was the same network responsible for the prank phone call.
Paul in his letter to the Phillipians counters this idea of treating all things and peoples a objects by asking those he writes to to:
4Therefore, my brothers and sisters, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, my beloved. 2I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. 3Yes, and I ask you also, my loyal companion, help these women, for they have struggled beside me in the work of the gospel, together with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life. 4Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. 5Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. 6Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 8Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 9Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.
- ‘5Let your gentleness be known to everyone.’
o How are we to treat others – gently! The two women he refers to appears to have been estranged for some reason. They are good women but something comes between them. Paul says encourage them, be gentle and celebrate them and all that they have done. Don’t take sides and don’t use this situation for your benefit.
- ‘The Lord is near.’
o Why? Because we will be called to account. The judgement of God is not reserved for judgement day. Judgement does happen now. Our actions, attitudes and desires have consequences/judgements which become present in real time, as the radio station has discovered. We are judged by the consequences of what we do and how we think. If we objectify others we do them violence, and those who live by the sword are judged in the same way.
- ‘8Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.’
o How do we get it right more times than not? By how we think, by what we concentrate on, what drives our thinking and our desires. Paul antidote is simple. Put the good stuff in and the good stuff will come out. Clean up how you think about others, about yourself and about your world by majoring on the ‘whatever is’ in Paul’s letter – honourable, just, pure, pleasing, commendable, excellence and praiseworthy.
- ‘7And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.’
o Peace of heart and mind is a rare commodity – sought by many, found by few, for few can think in the way Paul asks on their own. On our own we lose heart and start to find the negative, to manipulate people to feel better, to shift the blame to others and more. We are left with no space for peace for peace needs space to abound. We fill the space with anger, frustration, malice and greed and then wonder why we are full of unrest and anxiety.
o Peace comes from thinking about the ‘whatever’s’ Paul introduces us to because these are the mind of Christ. If we can hold those at the forefront of our heart and mind, we begin to think and become like Jesus who was always other-centric – always thought of others. We are often self-centric, that is why tragedies such as the radio stunt gone wrong occurs.
o Peace comes when we are other-centric and find ways to include all within our compassion and care, even those who have made terrible mistakes, including those involved in this prank. Do we add to the violence by objectifying them as ‘bad’, ‘irresponsible’, giving voice to our anger, or do we open up ways of redemption for them? Can we be gentle with them and remember they are human beings who, like us are flawed and ‘sinful’, and deserve the opportunity to redeem themselves? If we are other-centric, that is what we will do.
As we move through this Advent period and waiting for the coming judgement of the world in the shape of the Messiah, let us think on whatever is and search our own hearts for space to embrace the mind of Christ and the peace it brings.