In our conversation, I shared with him that I recently had watched a prison documentary, in which they were highlighting a young man who was serving a long sentence for a violent crime. There was a chaplain working with many of the inmates, and this young man seemed to be on a faith journey to better himself. He met with the chaplain many times and discussed scripture, his past, and how he wanted to see his life transform into effective citizenship. The story drastically changed, however, when security cameras captured a brutal attack. Apparently, the young man thought another inmate had spit at him. The young man waited for the right opportunity and tackled the offending inmate, slammed him to the ground and repeatedly punched him in the face. You can clearly see in the footage that the inmate was knocked out upon the initial slam to the ground, so every hit after that was excessive assault. When the young man ended his rage, he finished his act with a final kick to the inmate’s head. It was horrific and made me wonder what drove that young man to such an evil violation against another human being. This assault was nothing out of the ordinary—we see it on a regular basis in our country with our own brothers and sisters inflicting harm upon one another. We have school shootings, theater shootings, church, mosque, and temple shootings, drive-by shootings, and random assaults on homeless individuals or anyone whom appears an easy target. It’s disgusting. And if we’re not questioning what is wrong--why so many of our fellow Americans harbor such disdain for another human life—then we best check both our faith and our heart. We cannot allow ourselves to become immune to all the violence in our own backyard.
I talked about this with my confirmation student and he commented, “It’s this perception of personal pride.” Yes! There exists in all of us a toxic perception of personal pride and it’s causing great harm to society, let alone God’s intention and desire for humanity. I can’t help but think the problem lies in our egos. Something has shifted in our great world and we have this innate need to feel good about ourselves…and the only way we feel good is when we are looked upon as wonderful and mighty. I have no doubt that prison life reaps a survival mentality all of its own—the young prisoner wasn’t about to let everyone think he would tolerate the disrespect of being spat upon. So, in the long-run, he acted inhumanely in a desperate attempt to protect his own ego. An oxymoron! Sure, this brings us to a discussion on what’s human and what’s not, but any way you look at it, this affliction to humanity is counteractive to our existence.
As people of faith, we believe there is purpose for the existence of human life…we are here for a greater good. What good does God desire for us? Well, the chief purpose of humanity is to glorify God. Perhaps that sounds like God is the one with the ego, but in reality, the essence of God’s glory is the well-being of all humanity. Therefore, our narcissism is always counterproductive to the glory of God. At some point we need to accept that we are not the center of the universe. Our opinions and perspectives are merely one of many. There will come a day when we no longer live and breathe on this earth. But the glory of God will certainly continue. So perhaps, we need to worry less about our personal pride, and instead, focus on what ideals have a more lasting effect.