Nonretaliation and enemy-love are not some insignificant whisper lingering on the edge of Jesus’ ethical landscape. They are fundamental identity markers for citizens of God’s kingdom.
— Preston Sprinkle, Fight
It can be argued that Christine Weick committed an act of violence when she spent Mother’s Day camped at a busy intersection in suburban Grand Rapids with her sign condemning gays…
Violence against a day meant to honor all the moms (straight or otherwise) who’ve chosen nurture over hatred…
Violence against those who already feel marginalized by the church…
Violence against her own faith which, however you feel about same-sex marriage, should never be reduced to this one issue.
But it can also be argued that Jessica Prince committed an act of violence when she threw her slushie at Weick. Granted, neither act caused physical harm. But we all know there’s more than one way to hurt someone.
To be honest, part of me wanted to cheer when I saw Prince empty the contents of her plastic cup over Weick on local TV. Like many on both sides of the gay marriage debate, I’m wearied by the antics of Westboro Baptist Church and their imitators. It’s not hard to think Christine Weick got a small taste of what she deserves.
Except that retributive violence — whether bullets, bombs, or projectile slushie — can never resolve conflict. Retributive violence can only escalate it.
When a news crew showed up to cover Weick’s solo protest, it was going to be a one-off story about the kind person that has nothing better to do on Mother’s Day than show the world how angry she is about the existence of gay people. Or maybe a story on some of the peaceful counter-protestors who showed up with handmade signs of their own.
That was it. Weick would get her two minutes of fame on the local news, and the story would be history.
Now it’s taken on a life of its own, as a mildly trending story about an anti-gay/pro-family protestor (depending on your political point of view) becoming the victim of a slushie assault. It’s fresh ammunition for those who didn’t exactly need our help nursing a persecution complex.
Jessica Prince’s action turned a minor story into something bigger. Because retributive violence can never resolve conflict. It can only escalate it.
Which, perhaps, is one reason why, if you’re a Christian, the option of dishing out violence in return for violence has been taken away from you. “Put your sword back in its place,” Jesus told Peter. Elsewhere, Jesus overturned the Old Testament formula of blessing those who bless you and cursing those who curse you:
Love your enemies,
do good to those who hate you,
bless those who curse you,
pray for those who mistreat you.
Love and retributive violence cannot occupy the same space. Or, as Jesus’ brother James wrote, “Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing… this should not be.”
Which makes the incongruity of Jessica Prince’s confrontation with Christine Weick even more distressing, at least from a Christian point of view. (The unedited version was posted to YouTube by WOOD-TV.)
After dumping the contents of her slushie cup on Weick, Prince told her:
God teaches you to love one another, no matter what you look like, no matter what you do, and no matter who you love.
Yet in practically the same breath, she went on:
You know what? You’re going to hell. God will make you burn for that… I hope someone who drives by who has bigger balls than me will beat your f****** a**.
OK, granted… no one appointed Jessica Prince a spokesperson for anything. She’s not a good representative for those of us who want churches — and society in general — to adopt a more loving posture toward our gay and lesbian neighbors.
But I think there’s a little bit of Jessica Prince in all of us — a part of us that wants God to make our enemies burn, a part of us that wants to watch someone beat the crap out of them. But as Preston Sprinkle writes in his excellent book Fight, Jesus “doesn’t let us hold on to little compartments of life where we can respond to evil however we darn well please.”
Subverting evil with love is the only option if you are a Christian. There is no other way, not even dousing someone with slushie.