Prayer: O God, I hope I have not gotten in the way, of what you
would say to us today. Amen.
“Then the soldiers led him into the courtyard….and they
called together the whole cohort….and they struck his head
with a reed, spat upon him, and knelt down in homage to
him. And after mocking him….the led him out to crucify
Do you remember in 2003, we were disturbed by the pictures that
came out of the Abu Ghraib prison, where American soldiers
stripped the Iraqis naked, mocked them, humiliated them and
then photographed their handiwork. Were these soldiers bad
people or did their circumstances bring out their bad behavior?
Are there times when we as ordinary people lose our humanity,
and find ourselves supporting policies and practices that in other
times we would resist?
Both of our political parties are gifted in the art of humiliation.
Democrats made fun of Bush, Republicans make fun of
Obama…..and each party tries to humiliate the other, like two
fighters at a weigh in.
In 2011, 16 men and women were convicted of a string of
attacks on fellow Amish. Samuel Mullet Sr. has had his 15 year
prison term reduced to 10 years, 9 months for breaking into fellow
Amish homes in the middle of and holding the men down, while
this faction of the faith cut off the beards of the competing group.
Yes, we read about, or even think about the humiliations we heap
on other nations, or our national leaders…..or even one Religion
toward another, or people in the same religion……all to exercise
our might and push down others.
Do you remember in the wonderful Christmas Classic, “A
Christmas Story” when Flick is double dog dared to stick his
tongue to the Flagpole where it ends up freezing? Flick was the
victim of bullying by the crowd
Academy Award Winning Actress, Julieanne Moore , recalled,
“When I was seven, these kids in the alley behind our house in
Omaha called me Freckleface Strawberry. I hated my freckles,
and I hated that name. I thought it was humiliating in the way
that only a seven-year-old could hate it. “
Just a couple of weeks ago I was on call, and called to the
Emergency Room, when Carla Jamerson, age 14, was brought to
the hospital. Carla had committed suicide by hanging herself in
the bathroom, from the shower head.
Her mother, Natika Bird, said in a newspaper interview, “she
cannot recall a time when (her daughter) was not picked on by
her classmates, from kindergarten to middle school” At one point
schoolmates created a Facebook page to spread rumors of
Carla’s pregnancy and sexual promiscuity.” Her mother said,
“They massacred her.”
And almost one year to the day, Carla followed Hailee
Lamberth, a 13 year old Henderson girl, wrote this note: “Please
tell my school that I killed myself, so that the next time…
(someone)….wants to call somebody (expletives), maybe they
won”t.” Hailee Lamberth had been bullied by a boy and two girls,
on the day she took her life.
It’s called “cognitive – dissonance.” In 1950, the
psychologist, Leon Festinger began to study this phenomena in a
book (1956) “When Prophecy Fails.” The way cognitivedissonance
works is that, “when people are confronted with
information that contradicts either their beliefs or actions, they feel
discomfort. To feel better they either have to modify their beliefs
and actions, or find some way to discount the disconfirming
information. And the more someone invest in a particular action
or idea, the greater the lengths they will go in crafting justifications
to ease their discomfort.”
In short, we lie to ourselves, in order to convince ourselves
we are really good people.
In a 2007 book entitled “Mistakes were Made (but not by
me)”, the authors Elliot Aronson and Carol Tavris lift up examples,
like people who are cleared of a crime by DNA evidence are still
somehow guilty; or how people like an idea put forth by their own
political party but dislike the same idea if told by the opposition
They write, “Once people have a prejudice, just as once they have a political ideology, they do not easily drop it, even if the evidence indisputably contradicts a core justification for it. Rather, they come up with another justification to preserve their belief or course of action.” (pg. 61) This dissonance is so great in the political theater that I can’t
watch it anymore without getting angry. As Tavris/Aronson wrote,
“it seems unlikely that Newt Gingrich said to himself, “My what a
hypocrite I am. There I was, all riled up about Bill Clinton’s sexual
affair, while I was having an extramarital affair of my own right
here in town.”
I close with this. Have you had the chance to see
“Unbroken”,. It is a film that came out about Christmas 2014. It
is the true account of Louie Zamperini, directed by Angelina Jolie.
Yes….it left a lot of critics with material, but I was moved by
it. It is true story of an Olympic Runner who experiences the trials
of his Bomber crashing into the Pacific during World War II and
the humiliation and brutality of his capture and life in a Japanese
Prison of War Camp.
The rest of the story is that after his Ordeal, Zamperini
became a dedicated Christian and motivational speaker. During
the 1998 Nagano Olympics, Zamperini carried the Olympic Torch
through the streets of Nagano. During his stay there he met with
his Prison Camp guards, and forgave them.
But, maybe because of his ability to lie to himself, the Camp
Commander, Mutsushiro Watanabe, refused to meet with
Zamperini. Maybe because as so many, he was a victim to the
truth that escaped him.
“Then the soldiers led him into the courtyard….and
they called together the whole cohort….and they
struck his head with a reed, spat upon him, and knelt
down in homage to him. And after mocking him….the
led him out to crucify him.”
Ordinary people can do extra ordinarily awful things. Given
the right amount of ideology, authority and desensitization,…..
ALL OF US CAN BECOME MONSTERS.