Narcissus' Echo

Thoughts, tears, rants, ruminations, hopes, fears, love(s), and prayers of just another being passing through this wracked sphere...

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A round peg in a world of square holes...

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

when the shoe's on the other foot...

Anthony recently posted about having a temper, and the difference between his online persona (I believed the phrase a commenter used was, "ever measured") and his conduct in real life.

I am a little more consistent in this respect: I tend to be flamboyant in my writing, and likewise, given to extremes in real life; something that may sound romantic, even Byronic, but sometimes leading to consequences that are neither productive nor justifiable.

Yesterday, my temper surprised me. I went for the 12:05 PM weekday mass at the Mission Church on campus, a pleasure and a form of solace I regularly indulge in. In the middle of the Eucharist, a young man in his twenties sauntered in from one of the Church's side doors, snickering while traversing the apse. While the officiating priest, Father Crowley (who was one of my professors for Christian Theology during my undergraduate days), momentarily raised his eyebrows at him (but carried on performing the Holy Communion), many of the parishioners' expressed looks of disbelief at this rather odd--and rude--gentleman. Clearly, he was disrupting the mass at its most holy of moments.

Things took a turn when the young interloper, now slouched disrespectfully on one of the pews, started yelling, "Blasphemy! Blasphemy! Ha! Ha! Ha!" That was it then: there was no ignoring him. All eyes were on him. He totally ruined the sacredness of the Lord's Supper. At this point, something in me snapped. Before I knew it, I was getting up and walking towards him, eyeing the closest chair to bring to his head. There is no excuse for deliberately mocking the beliefs of others--especially mine.

Thankfully, one of the regular lectors, Professor Hansen (who also taught me a course in Christian Theology), reached the heckler before I did and hauled him out of the church, thus sparing the heckler from a concussion, me from a possible jail term, and the university from a lawsuit.

Outside, the heckler tried to argue that he had a right to be in the church as it was open to the public, but that argument was moot because the Mission Church--in fact, the entire University--is private property. As the heckler is neither student, alumni, staff nor faculty, he had no right to be there, only a privilege. A privilege that was immediately revoked: he was informed that he is henceforth banished from the grounds of Santa Clara University, and if he is discovered on the property at any point in future, he would be arrested and charged with trespassing.

Owww... I love private universities.

When the period of gloating was over, and upon self-reflection, certain disturbing questions surfaced:

* Am I so insecure in my faith that the taunts of one lone heckler can rattle or threaten it?

* Why am I so quick to violence in defense of my beliefs?

* Why didn't I even consider the possibility that the heckler is a misguided Christian fundamentalist, or an over-zealous non-denominational Protestant, or even a mentally disturbed young man, but instead leapt straight to assault him?

* Doesn't my intended course of action make a mockery of my beliefs at every mass--where I echo the prayer for "peace on earth"?

And here am I about to swing a chair at another human being in church, during mass, in the middle of the Holy Sacrament, no less. Looking back, perhaps I was the greater transgressor, not Mr. Heckler. He mocked; I intended to physically harm.

In some sense, after this experience, I began to at least understand (I won't go so far as to use the word, "empathize") the rage Muslims around the world felt when it was reported that copies of the Koran were desecrated at Camp X-ray, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

When the shoe's on the other foot, perhaps we aren't that different after all. However, it is a treacherous and slippery slope when violence is sanctioned in the defense of religious beliefs. Chair-swinger, suicide bomber, how far apart and different are the two?

And where were the traits of competence, conscience, and compassion that allegedly had been instilled in me during my undergraduate career? Are they only reserved for harmless, inoffensive, little old ladies who are lost and need a ride? Do they all fly out the window the moment my interests are threatened? (The traits, not the little old ladies. I maybe be Asian but I don't drive like those clowns in Fast and Furious, ok?). In Luke 6: 29, Jesus says to turn the other cheek; perhaps this is the true acid test of compassion. This is not to say that one should go through life being a doormat, or to embrace supine cowardice, but rather, when presented with the opportunity, to reject upping the ante in a conflict. The heckler used words to annoy and profane, Professor Hansen employed words to make him leave--and words to banish him. Smashing the heckler over the head with a chair would only escalate--and complicate--the situation, to put it mildly.

* No, I don't watch wrestling.


Blogger zeenie said...

tis easier to preach the peach than to eat the peach. totally agree with the points you raised. Was it not Gandhi that said "an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind"? Human nature i suppose, but still no reason for all this hatred.
I tend to remind myself "arguing about whose religion is better is like arguing who has a better imaginary friend".

7:14 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

At some point you have to stand up for who you are. Sometimes that will put you into close, uncomfortable contact with other people.

I don't think you were necessarily acting for your religion. You were acting because you found yourself threatened. It is only a brief slide from upsetting parishioners to assaulting them later in the parking lot or worse. Sometimes a bully like that has to be checked--your professor was able to check him without physically accosting him, but you never know. Had the intruder ignored your professor, then perhaps a chair would have done the trick.

I think its fine to reflect--but act first, reflect later.

6:52 PM  

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