Tuesday, January 15, 2019

McJesus

I promise, this will be quick. It seems the TV "news" and internet gluttons-for-punishment have found their latest obsession in this piece of art by Jani Leinonen called "McJesus," which depicts Ronald McDonald as a crucifix. It's been displayed in other countries, but is now showing in Israel.

First: the actual context. Israel has a long history of using culture as a means of normalizing the oppression and mistreatment of Arabs in Palestine. We all know the Arab-Israel conflict is complicated and no one is helped by antagonism or violence, least of all from the side with all the power. I support Israel's existence, but I can't support the way it treats Palestinians. The very fact the artist himself doesn't want the piece displayed in this context should be reason enough to change something.

My bigger concern, though, is with those trolls and click-baiters looking to use this to inflame the old "Christians are persecuted in the US" trope. That's irresponsible for a number of reasons. One, pretty importantly, a large part of US "Christianity" these days is just a cover for specific social or political beliefs that stand up better under the banner of religion. That's nothing new to Christianity - our popular theology and practice has been shaped by politics for centuries; religion is not inherently the opiate of the masses, but it sure works well for that purpose.

The second issue, connected somewhat, is simply the scriptural tradition of such prophetic statements of religious hypocrisy, perhaps unfaithfulness would be a more welcome word (although I doubt it). This image is meant to express how society treats consumerism like religion, maybe not with words, but certainly with our actions. Western Christianity is far more concerned with immediate gratification, comfort, and power than with anything resembling "Biblical" Christianity.

That's also nothing particularly new, which is precisely the point.

The Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) is chock full of confrontations between court prophets and those who end up becoming the writers (or at least subjects) of scripture itself. The court prophets told the people (and especially the rulers) precisely what they wanted to hear: you're doing a good job, things are looking up, we're right to live the way we do. Prophets like Isaiah and Jeremiah are pointing out the sins of the people, the hypocrisy, and error. They're pointing out the areas in which God's people fall short; an important elements of any faithful religious belief.

Statues like this one make a very traditional prophetic statement, even if the artist isn't from among God's people (I'm not sure if he's a Christian or not, but that's never really been an issue when God calls a prophet anyway). God's people hear the words of correction with humility rather than defensiveness. Yes, this image should anger you, as a Christian; it should be offensive. That doesn't make it bad.

In scripture, those people who decried public prophetic statements of religious hypocrisy were called false prophets. Something to remember as we engage with the realities of our own personal and collective imperfections.

Tuesday, January 08, 2019

God Can't by Thomas Jay Oord

I have known Tom Oord a long time. I was an eighteen year old freshman when I sat in his gen-ed philosophy class at Eastern Nazarene College in January of 2000. I was a history major at the time, with no intentions of studying theology; it was a class I had to take, I was a year ahead in the sequence, and I wasn't really ready to wrestle with those ideas. Still, my enduring memory of that course was (and I hope we know each other well enough now for me to use this phrase) being subjected to Oord's version of the (terrible) early Christian rock he loves so much.

I don't remember if he played all the instruments, but I know he wrote it and I'm pretty sure he sang it (and I hope desperately it survives somewhere and makes its way to Youtube). It was called, or at least about, the "Teleological Suspension of the Ethical." I suppose the fact that I remember the title eighteen years later is proof it was an effective pedagogical choice, although I do admit I had to look up Teleological Suspension of the Ethical for a refresher on its meaning.

I'm glad I did, because what I meant as an endearing and marginally embarrassing story actually provides good introduction to Oord's new book: God Can't. The Teleological Suspension of the Ethical is a philosophical argument from Soren Kierkegaard wherein a person is asked by God to set aside ethical norms for a higher purpose. The classic example is Abraham's sacrifice of Isaac; God asks Abraham to murder as a sign of obedience to God. Of course, we presume after the fact that God didn't intend for Abraham to go through with the killing, but that's not really pertinent to Abraham's decision: a teleological suspension of the ethical.

Having now followed Oord through a pretty lengthy and highly-praised career, it's pretty clear to see how the issue of God's consistency has become central to Oord's philosophical projects. God Can't is really a continuation of the things he was exploring in that song all those years ago: How can we maintain God's integrity in light of our increasing understanding and experience of the universe God created?

Kierkegaard's answer was simply that God's purpose (telos) trumps everything else - God does what God needs to do to accomplish God's mission. There's nothing wrong with that answer, but it's never going to satisfy such a committed Wesleyan as Oord (or myself). Love is the ultimate divine character trait for people in our tradition - and, if you take the logic far enough - love becomes more than a character trait, but the very definition of the divine. God is love. We take that very seriously and quite literally.

At this point in his thinking and writing, Oord's found an effective writing pattern, wherein he presents a new idea in a very technical, academic way in one volume, then follows with a book on the same idea written for a wider audience. This is how he connects his passion for academic philosophy with his call and mission to serve the world pastorally. God Can't is the popular exploration of his recent The Uncontrolling Love of God.

In many ways the idea is not new - Oord himself has been working out how to explain God as love for most of his adult life - but his challenging explanation has not been presented so succinctly or directly as it is in God Can't. He's essentially challenging the long-held Christian belief that God is omnipotent, specifically, that God is all-loving and true love is uncontrolling, therefore, because God has given agency to creation, God can't force people (or things) to do what they don't want to do.

There are some semantic arguments to be had there: one could argue that love itself is coercive; receiving real and genuine love from another changes us. We can certainly resist and refuse love, but it is a force that works towards its own multiplication. I imagine other thinkers and philosophers might explain the same thing in very different ways. I appreciate Oord's direct use of "can't," though, because it frees us from some of those Christian presumptions which come more form Greek philosophy than they do from Hebrew tradition or even scripture itself.

Oord's made these challenges before. He's written about God's relationship to time that challenges not only whether God can know the future (omniscience), but whether the future is even something knowable. The ability to make such uncomfortable observations and ask what many presume to be dangerous questions comes from a deep Wesleyan commitment to refuse fear. Perfect love casts out fear. If God is love, our questions and re-conceptualizations pose no danger, neither to God, nor to our own salvation.

Oord writes with a loving heart and the best of intentions. The very fact he chooses to make his ideas more accessible to the average person proves his pastoral heart. Each of the five chapters addresses a simple notion that colloquial Christianity takes for granted and probably gets wrong: God Can't Prevent Evil; God Feels Our Pain; God Always Works for Healing; God Works to Bring Good from Bad (but doesn't cause evil); and God Needs Our Cooperation.

Whole books are necessary to unpack the arguments and challenges inherent in those simple statements and God Can't is the first one you should read. Beyond providing comfort to those who have, do, and will suffer evil, it sparks deep theological engagement in ways that are open and accessible to nearly anyone. The language is easy to understand, the chapters are short, and Oord reiterates his points multiple times, from different angles, and using real life stories.

The weakest portion is in chapter three, on healing, where Oord overly simplifies arguments on the afterlife to smooth over one of the most pressing questions of life: namely it's length. He downplays the importance of physical bodies in Christian views of resurrection, which avoids the full exploration of the relationship between the present and eternity. That question is beyond the scope of the book and probably doesn't have as simple or easy an answer as Oord provides in the rest of God Can't, so perhaps this isn't the time or place, but the treatment of the issue here was certainly less than satisfactory to me.*

Overall, God Can't is an excellent resource for any person (Christian or otherwise) struggling with suffering and faith. It re-frames the conversation about suffering and faith. While it does leave us with more questions than answers, it's a much healthier place for exploration of God and scripture than those presentations of faith that purport to answer everything. It's especially poignant and timely in this age where so many are abandoning Christian faith because of it's failure to address the realities of the world. God Can't does so with love, genuine concern for people, and without fear.

*I also have an issue with him using "evil one" as an analog for Satan. I'm not sure that reflects the most responsible scriptural view of Satan, especially in a book that essentially ascribes responsibility for sin to creation itself and free will, but that is certainly an argument and discussion for another time.




Personal Coda: I'm more grateful than ever for Tom Oord. The ideas he was wrestling with when I met him are not things that generally resonated with me. He was much more entrenched in Process Philosophy and Theology, which never really satisfied the evangelical part of me that was still pretty comfortable with traditional approaches. My time in seminary led me to ideas more informed by Open and Relational views of God that prioritize scripture over theological or philosophical interpretations. As I engaged that world more deeply, lo and behold I discovered Tom Oord had migrated there as well. I'm sure he'd connect his early and more recent influences more closely than would I, but I appreciate the place and prominence of scripture, practicality, and pastoral considerations in the work he's doing now. It's comforting to see the Holy Spirit drawing all of us towards the truth in fits and starts. I'm really honored to have been asked to read and review this book. I hope you'll all give it a chance.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Kingdom Ethics and Government Laws

Last week, my friend Jeremy Scott (no relation), asked, on Twitter, about Kingdom ethics that speak to a maximum wage." As is my wont, I answered quickly and without enough thought. I said, essentially, that forcing people to do anything is not really a Kingdom value; we should love people and allow their actions to be transformed through that love. I know, it's a bit optimistic, but I' ma believer in Jesus Christ, what can I say - I think things will work out in the end.

What I failed to take into account is this idea I struggled with earlier this year - and one that could use a bit more working through - that a big issue with being a Christian in a democracy is the assumption of responsibility. We feel, somewhere deep down, that we can't really pass judgement on the value or morality of a law, policy, or government action without also proposing an alternative. Because it's nominally a government of, by, and for the people, democracy requires something of us beyond support or opposition.

This is really where our citizenship in a nation comes into conflict with our citizenship in the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom doesn't have a government, other than the benevolent grace of God; and it doesn't have a law, other than the law of love, exemplified in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

In many ways, nations give us an out. We're less inclined to sacrifice or suffer with or change our lifestyles very much to help others, address needs, or express radical, Christ-like love, because we've got this government over our heads with nominal responsibility to take care of people. Maybe we get off the hook by saying, "if everyone just acted like me, things would be ok," and hopefully we're making choices and living lives that bear this out, but that's far from certain.

Getting back to the question at hand: I think Kingdom ethics speak just as strongly to the dangers of wealth as they do to the dangers of poverty. They might be different physical situations (deprivation vs indulgence), but both are harmful and both lead to pain. So, in one sense, it's very easy to say Christians could support a maximum wage, in which the earnings of folks are simply limited.

I'm not so sure, though, you could make that claim and also be in line with the US Constitution. In other words, for the government to institute a maximum wage, they might have to appeal to a morality the first amendment specifically prohibits them from enacting. This gets into all sorts of grey areas and arguments about the relationship of the US to Christianity and the Kingdom to the nations of the Earth, but those are really discussions beyond the immediate.

I believe Christians need to be able to make ethical and moral judgments about the laws, policies, and actions of the government without feeling obligated to propose a government solution. It is not the duty of Kingdom citizens to ensure the survival or orderly operation of the nation in which they happen to live. We certainly have responsibility to our neighbors, but that relationship does not need (and probably should not be) mediated by the government.

Do I think people would be better off with less? As a general rule, I do. Is a maximum wage one way to help the richest among us live with less? Sure. Does that make it good policy? That's not really a question Kingdom ethics can or should answer. I mean, you can have a similar Kingdom conversation about whether a maximum wage really helps anyone else beyond the few very rich folks it effects. Does increasing the coffers of the government do anything to further the Kingdom? Probably not. Would additional funds for health care or education be beneficial to people? Absolutely. Will the consequences of this potential action be as we envision? Almost certainly not.

Of course, that's the rub with everything.

I believe Kingdom ethics dictate a communal responsibility to provide people with a love, a family in which they are nurtured and valued.
I think this manifests itself in things like meeting basic human needs: nutritious food, shelter, medical care, education, and work. Of course, Kingdom ethics say you shouldn't need money or taxes to do any of those things.

In the end, maybe that's the solution: to just continue to preach the Kingdom - sharing, sacrifice, hospitality, love - and let the distinction between those ideals and the realities of the world be a judgment in and of themselves. Compare the Kingdom that's lived out among God's people to life in the nations of the world. I'm not sure either party will come out looking so rosy on that one.

Tuesday, December 04, 2018

Pastoring, Parenting, and Purpose

I spent a day last week with sixty or so of my colleagues, listening and discussing practical theology in a session led by one of our General Superintendents (the six ministers selected to pastor my denomination: the Church of the Nazarene), David Busic. He's a thoughtful, vulnerable, and transparent leader, which meant the session was both informative and provocative. I say that only to indicate I'm not sure what I'm about to write has anything to do with what he said, but it did stem from whatever was happening that day.

I wrote a note that said, "If we're out to help people live into the Kingdom we'll act and approach life and ministry in radically different ways than if we're out to prevent mistakes (sinful acts)."

I've done a ton of thinking about the moralism of my holiness experience in recent years. I'm convinced, despite the good intentions of our parents, that my generation received a pretty crappy, harmful version of the gospel that's largely contributed to the extreme die-off in participation in the Church from people 35 or so and younger. In fact, part of the reason I haven't written and posted here as regularly is that I'm trying to spend my writing time writing something more substantial to address both those problems and their victims.

I don't use the words "trauma" and "victim" lightly, especially because I know how much it hurts those responsible. Our pastors and parents really did have the best of intentions, but, as my note indicates, they were perhaps more concerned with keeping us from making mistakes than actually teaching us how to live into the Kingdom of God.

A big part of holiness theology is the absence of intentional sin. It's often explained in the negative, though, with language about avoiding sin or being free from sin - which is elucidated in ways that neither the speaker of the hearer can fully comprehend. I prefer the more positive explanation of holiness: that we are partnering with God's Holy Spirit to grow into an ever-increasing Christ-likeness. We avoid and find freedom from sin only in that we're closer to the people God created us to be today than we were yesterday. This avoids the dangerous territory of "perfection" language that's been so troublesome in the past.

That notion of perfection has led us to pursue a mistake-free life. As a result, us grown-up evangelical kids were handed a faith that was primarily fear-based. Activity X, Y, and Z bring you perilously close to sin, so we'll avoid them altogether as way of safeguarding your purity.
Practically, that's not a terrible approach. I believe there are lots of problems I avoided because I just never had the opportunity to be exposed to them. The issue, though, is that, try as one might, you can't avoid everything and the avoidance itself creates problems later in life, especially when it comes to things that have a proper context for engagement.

This shows up most clearly when it comes to sex. Linda Kay Klein's book, Pure, does a bang up job of illustrating the real problems caused by the evangelical purity culture that largely demonized sex. You can replace "sex" with anything considered sinful (although, frankly, it was mostly sex) and you'll get a good picture of the kind of faith we were given.

Beyond any of the practical realities, though, this desire to avoid mistakes really stems from a terrible theology of salvation. We can say something different with our words all we want, but both us and our parents had (and may still have) the notion that if you let one cuss word slip out and get hit by a car before you apologize to Jesus, you're destined for an eternity in torturous hell.

This is the root of that obsession with purity (and not just the sexual kind). Our parents were so afraid we'd lose our salvation if we made mistakes they didn't help us navigate and make decisions about how we'd engage the world. We just got taught, with a heavy dose of fear, to avoid anything that might remotely be sinful.

Shoot, the word "shit" isn't sinful. It's crude, for sure, and it might make someone uncomfortable or offended in certain situations, which certainly wouldn't be considered virtuous. I don't fault any parent for trying to keep those words out of their child's regular vocabulary.
For many of us, though, that meant also avoided slightly less crude words like "crap" or, in some cases even "poop." You'd never really know what substitute words were acceptable in a given household; you might get scolded for saying "shoot" instead of "shit" because "we all know which word you were thinking," despite the fact that we'd been so scared out of saying something like "shit" we'd never, in a million years, even think it.

You get the overkill. If you're reading this blog, you've probably lived it.

All that to say, perhaps our job as pastors and parents isn't to keep our kids from mistakes, but to help them learn what it means to live into the Kingdom of God. Boundaries with no context teach nothing. If your kid doesn't know why they were sent to their room, all you've done is damage your kid.

I cringe even writing these things, because I was so formed in the "avoid mistake" culture that it feels almost sinful just to argue for a different approach. That's the residual effect that doesn't do any of us any good.

You know what, I'd rather my daughter not have sex before she's married. I think that's a healthier, more productive, less risky path in life, but I'm also not so naive to think that path will leave her with less sexual dysfunction than the alternative. It's really not about action at all, but the intentionality and control we have over the actions we take. Do you know why you use the words you use? Do you know how they affect you and the people around you? Do you have control over the words that come out of your mouth? How do you feel about the answers to those questions? What kind of person do you want to be with regards to language or sexuality or politics or violence?

I didn't really confront those questions until well into college, when I was secure enough in my independence to even realize I had choices.
When I did, I had very few tools by which to even approach issues I could've been dealing with earlier.

I get that our parents didn't want to reveal our independence to us at an age when we might abuse it; it's a natural protective instinct. We want to spare our kids the mistakes of our own lives. What we often fail to realize, though, is that there is no age when we won't abuse our freedom.
The process of navigating ethical and moral waters is necessary for maturity. Some of us simply matured much later because of the sheltered environment we inhabited. Others never matured, because they lack the tools to even make choices, resorting either to indulgence or repression.

The truly tragic result of this misbegotten perspective is that faith became a hindrance to understanding freedom and ethics, rather than a foundation. God, Christianity, and the Bible serve as a barrier to engaging the practical issues of life rather than a guide. So many people feel they lack purpose and direction in life, that they're missing the moral tether faith is supposed to provide - and I suspect more of those people grew up in Church than not.

The defining revelation of my life is: if God is love and a perfect love drives out all fear (both direct Biblical statements), then things which make us afraid are not from God. We cannot be afraid, even of sin, even for the salvation of our children, because that fear itself prevents the grace and love and power of God's good news from transforming both our lives and theirs. We must instill in our children not a fear of sin or an avoidance of mistakes, but a profound trust in the grace of God to redeem the sin in our lives and make us - more and more each day - into the people God created us to be.

The freedom to sin empowers us to reject it; the fear of sin empowers it to control our lives. I think, by and large, we received the latter when we needed the former and it's incredibly difficult to pass on something different to the next generation. They don't need help knowing who not to be, but it's really hard knowing who we should be and even harder to become that person. That should be the focus of our life and ministry.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

The Myth of Second Chances

The last 24 hours have seen a rare national glimpse into an oft-hidden world I inhabit: NCAA Division III basketball. I am the national columnist for D3hoops.com - THE source for news and information about Division III basketball for over 20 years. Division III is non-scholarship athletics, so the athletes are paying tuition just like every other student. We like to call them the real "student-athletes." Schools range from very small (400 or so in enrollment) to gigantic (40,000+) and talent varies as well. It's the largest division in the NCAA, with 450+ members, but even so, unless you've got a connection, most people don't pay attention or even know some of these schools exist.

Of course, that changes when something bad happen. Tuesday night Fitchubrg State hosted Nichols college in an otherwise ordinary early season non-conference matchup. Nichols is pretty good; Fitchburg isn't so much. The game was pretty uneventful, except that Fitchburg was making a late run, led by the truly excellent play of transfer Kewan Platt. Platt will now forever be google connected to the elbow he delivered, seemingly unprovoked, to the face of Nichols freshman Nate Tenaglia. If you follow sports even remotely, you've probably seen the video somewhere.

It was pretty vicious and ugly. Platt checked to see if the ref closest to him was looking before he delivered it, but failed to notice another ref nearby (or the webstream cameras that caught the whole thing). Tenaglia was in pain, obviously, but did and does (so far) seem physically unaffected. He passed a concussion test and hit both his free throws, following the foul. The Nichols team should get immense credit for responding so coolly and appropriately in this matter. Platt got ejected from the game and has since been removed from the team and banned from campus until official processes can be executed.

It got out on Twitter first, with all the various ugliness that comes with just about anything on Twitter. From there, the general consensus was that Platt should never be allowed to play basketball again and should probably be arrested. It likely was assault, although courts have to make that distinction, which they might do - another D3 player was arrested and received a one year suspended jail sentence for punching and stomping on another player and helping to incite a riot at a game last year. Hockey has had some similar issues with violence on the ice, as well as other sports from time to time.

I am a bit baffled by the severity of the reactions, though, even after you discount the Twitter factor. There's been time for discussion, both in person and in more civil, relational online forums, to talk about Platt's elbow, and people still seem pretty set on this moment ruining the kid's life.

First, I should say, I'm all for consequences, although I've written before on this blog about how easily we confuse consequences with punishment in this society. I don't think shame should be a consequence, though, especially an outward, national shame. Being ashamed of one's actions - maybe disappointing family, friends, and coaches, yes - but having national public shame heaped upon you doesn't feel like an appropriate consequence for an action that was extremely localized.

Fitchburg State will do what they do and the school's athletic conference will probably have a say. I hope those are fair and gracious processes not unduly influenced by the attention this has received. Schools are about shaping people and it's really hard to do that if they people aren't there. Every coach talks about shaping women and men of integrity and responsibility, but at the Division III level there's almost nothing else to do. Yeah, win basketball games, but those don't get you much on their own.

I don't know the context, obviously. Platt could have a long history of violence and this is a final straw. Schools can't have violent, angry people roaming around campus; that's not good for the formation of people either. Of course, I don't know if this is indicative of something deeper or just a one-off terrible decision. It's not really my place to even find out.

I do think we should recognize though, even if this isn't a pattern, that kind of violence is indicative of some kind of impulse control problem. That usually stems from some kind of mental trauma or illness, in which case shame is about the worst thing to help someone improve. Platt needs more people on his side than ever - not excusing actions, but offering help and support. I can't see how any of the internet traffic really helps that.

Yes, my site reported on it. We got video (hopefully with more context than the six second that went around Twitter) and we did background work to understand as much as possible. It's news; it happened. We can't shy away from admitting difficult truth, just because it hurts somebody. That's the balance. Recognizing there are consequences to our actions, but also refusing to dehumanize a person or define them by their actions.

We are not what we do. What we think, what we believe, what shapes and forms our understanding, those things are evident only in our actions. But we, as people, are more than just what we do. To define a person by their actions is to dehumanize. Kewan Platt is the kind of person who can elbow a guy in the face and walk away; he'll have to live with that and deal with that and it'll be hard - but we can't say any of us is inherently different. We can't say, given the same set of circumstances - from childhood to relationships to genetics to whatever - that we wouldn't do the same thing. That's humanity.

Now, providing a reason is very different from providing an excuse; we often get those two things confused in society as well. It's always wrong to hit someone. I'm a firm believer in non-violence. I don't think anything justifies what Platt did, ever. There is no excuse for that kind of thing. There are always reasons, causes. We have to be careful not to equate causes with excuses.

Immediately after the video started circulating, a lot of the comments were, "what did the white kid do to deserve that." We justify violence as a response to violence. We do it all the time. I get that it makes sense to some people in some contexts and I've certainly written about violence in other posts; there's not time for that discussion here. What those comments do, though, is recognize that actions depend on context.

We see less fighting in basketball than we used to see. We're less tolerant, so that may have something to do with it. We've also got this global social media platform that amplifies the violence that exists. My freshman year of college, a friend and I drove ten minutes down the road to watch our basketball team play a local rival. During the game, an on-court altercation ensued that really exploded. Eventually people were coming out of the stands to fight players and each other; it was a pretty terrifying experience. We told the story. We moved on. I don't think the local paper even covered it. Times change.

If both players had gotten shots in, we'd be having a very different conversation. It wouldn't have gone viral at all. People get mad playing sports. Adrenaline is running and emotions are high. Earlier this year there were NBA suspensions from punches thrown. It's rare, but not uncommon, even in basketball. It was a defenseless, unprovoked elbow to the face; that's worse.

Is it this much worse, though?

We tend to justify those things we could see ourselves doing and vilify those which seem foreign to us. The gap between the two, though, isn't as wide as we make it. In fact, it's razor thin. A hard foul during a basketball play is a response many might deem appropriate for a perceived slight. If Platt had been tripped or terribly insulted, more people would've come to his defense. It's all about perspective... and context.

I've never been in a frat, but I did go to college in Boston. I've seen some violence from drunk frat boys on a Friday night, maybe even an out-of-the-blue sucker punch or two. You hit a guy in a bar, is it even a 50/50 chance you get arrested? That's assault, but it's not always handled that way.

This wasn't a racial incident, but when you're talking about violence, crime, and punishment in our society, race does matter. I don't want to see another young black kid get his life derailed because of a really terrible decision like this. It's just harder to "learn" from this experience and move on if you're black, especially if Platt ends up with a rap sheet because of it. Anger management is a skill you learn in your teens and 20s. Some kids learn it more easily or more thoroughly than others. The patience we have with people as they learn this skill doesn't have to be dependent on race, but sometimes it is. That's just the truth.

I don't think this kind of behavior should ever be excused or justified or forgotten or swept under the rug. I'm just not sure what the end game is here for all the shame? Do we feel good about someone being "worse" than us? That says more about our own guilt and inadequacy than it does about Kewan Platt. It does feel good. I'm sure if you went all the way back in my Twitter feed you'd see some shaming I'm not proud of, but I'd like to think I've learned over time. I'd like to think we all can. I want to believe we can be better, more caring, more compassionate and understanding people than we were yesterday. I'd like to think that of Kewan Platt, too.

Violence creates two victims. Always. It shapes the life of the victim in ways they don't deserve or ask for. It also shapes the life of the offender, regardless of the consequences. In both cases, the only healthy response to violence is knowing, believing that we are more than what we experience, more than what the violence tells us we are.

If we're willing to call Kewan Platt "trash" or "worthless" we might as well just wish him dead, because we're writing off his future. For so many people, the future is determined by the mistakes they make. It doesn't have to be that way for any of us. We don't hear it enough, but we can be something different than what we've been. We have to be, or there's no point to life.

Nate Tenaglia is really the only one with standing to address Kewan Platt. Yeah, his coach and school and family and friends have a responsibility to address what he did; those actions come with consequences. But they, like us, really have one choice: to do what's going to help him be more than he was Tuesday night. Shame doesn't do that, no matter how much it feels like the right way. We've all had enough experience with shame to know that life itself is just a succession of second chances.