Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

July 1, 2013

ED VASICEK: The graciousness vacuum

Are we overcorrecting for past mistakes?

Kokomo Tribune

---- — The ancient rabbis would rank the severity of certain sins. Many of us would agree that murder is worse than swearing, or that blowing up a building is worse than throwing a temper tantrum. Secular society’s ranking has changed quite a bit in my lifetime, as we seek to overcorrect and overreact to past abuses. The use of derogatory racial terms is a case in point.

A recent AP article explains that Paula Deen admitted to using the N-word in the past. Her admission locked her into a chain of events that reduced her to the social equivalent of a mass murderer. She is beyond redemption.

Patrick and Gina Neely (who are African-Americans and fellow Food Network celebrities), have taken a measured approach when they said, “We were shocked and saddened to learn of the comments from Paula Deen. Racism of any kind from anyone is simply unacceptable and cannot be tolerated ... . In our own relationship, Paula has shown us kindness and generosity. We trust that Paula’s apologies are sincere and hope there is a positive lesson to be learned from this situation.”

As for Deen, she is quoted as saying, “I want to apologize to everybody for the wrong that I’ve done. I want to learn and grow from this. Inappropriate, hurtful language is totally, totally unacceptable.”

I do not consider myself a Deen fan. If Deen had not turned from her wrong, I would be the first to say, “Nix her.” But, as I see it, Deen has taken responsibility, turned from her wrong, and even grieved over it; I think she needs to be shown grace — at least a chance to re-establish credibility. Food Network has dropped her like a hot potato.

Parents need to work at being gracious, too. Some parents try to shame their overweight children in an attempt to motivate them to lose weight. Another AP article reads, “Parents need to be careful about how they approach the topic of weight control with their overweight teenagers, a new study suggests.

“The wrong words or tone could send these kids down a road of wacky diets, binge eating and ultimately worse dietary habits, according to a study appearing [June 24] in the journal JAMA Pediatrics.

“The best approach to help children control their weight for a lifetime is to talk about healthful eating behaviors, such as which foods are beneficial for good health and disease prevention ... . A bad approach, on the other hand, would be to tease them, or to suggest to children that what they are eating is only going to make them fatter.”

Since the average dieter puts back on his weight with interest, the best approach is to change eating habits. Even if the results are not as dramatic, they are more likely to be permanent. Once again, a gracious approach is the better approach.

The federal government has particularly taken a vindictive tone. Uncle Sam’s attempts to nail whistleblower Edward Snowden appears to be a case of vindictiveness. His revelation about the degree of government surveillance (to the point of invasion of privacy) can be viewed as a security issue, but it can more easily be viewed as a Bill of Rights issue.

According to UPI, “Apple Computer co-founder Steve Wozniak says he admires Edward Snowden, the man who blew the whistle on U.S. monitoring of citizens ... . Wozniak admitted he’s bothered that technologies he helped develop have made such activities possible.

“‘... We created the computers to free the people up, give them instant communication anywhere in the world; any thought you had, you could share freely ... . We didn’t realize that in the digital world there were a lot of ways to use the digital technology to control us, to snoop on us ... .”

Snowden, as of this date, was visiting Russia while our government was demanding the Russians hold him. Will our government be gracious to Snowden (whom many view as a patriot), or will it make an example of him to intimidate other possible whistleblowers? We’ll find out!

Ed Vasicek is pastor of Highland Park Church and a weekly contributor to the Kokomo Tribune. Contact him at edvasicek@att.net.