Over five years ago, between Thanksgiving and Christmas of 2009, my family and I were victims of a stalker. I’ll spare you the details except to say that it culminated late one night when I heard someone on our front porch. (Fortunately, my family was out of town at a family Christmas party in Florida.) I caught a glimpse of the man through our bay window and called 9-1-1. After the man disappeared down the driveway, I saw that he had left several sexually explicit notes and drawings on our garage door and front porch. He had also scattered several unopened condoms on our porch.
After about 10 minutes, sheriff’s deputies arrived. After gathering evidence and taking my statement—they already a “file” on this man, since we had called them after an earlier incident—they tried unsuccessfully to track him with a K-9 unit.
When they left, I was scared—I’ll be honest. But the next morning, despite my fear, I was on a mission: I canvassed the neighborhood. I knocked on doors of neighbors, most of whom I’d never met, informing them about what happened, asking if they saw anything suspicious and would they keep on the lookout for this man?
At one house, a man answered the door who looked like the man I’d glimpsed through the window. I did a double-take. Naturally, he denied knowing anything. But when I left, I called the sheriff’s office. I later identified him in a photo lineup. After a couple of days, they interviewed him, he confessed, and he was arrested. Within a couple of months, the case was adjudicated. He got probation with mandatory therapy. We got a permanent protective order against him.
As I learned from talking to neighbors, my experience with the man was only the latest and most extreme episode in a 20-year history of threatening, and escalating, acts against his neighbors.
Through this experience, I learned something about myself: This is what being a man feels like—this righteous anger, this desire to protect my family, this small measure of courage I summoned. And it felt good.
Any sympathy I felt at that point toward Stanley Hauerwas’s brand of Christian pacifism evaporated: I would resort to violence—without apology—if it meant protecting people I love. I don’t believe, contrary to years of indoctrination at liberal mainline seminary, that the example or teachings of Jesus preclude justifiable violence. I believe they require it—for individuals, municipalities, and nations.
I thought of this experience a couple of weeks ago, when those three Americans intervened, unarmed, to protect a train-load of passengers bound for Paris from a Moroccan terrorist. It was an inspiring act of heroism that I hope I would emulate if I were in similar circumstances. Regardless, if Hauerwas is right—and there are many Methodist clergy who believe that he is—these three men were wrong to use force to stop this man on the principle that any resort to violence contradicts Jesus’ teaching to “turn the other cheek.” They should instead have let the man shoot up the train and accept their own deaths as a witness to the non-coercive love of God.
I know… this seems incomprehensible to me, too.
Regardless, I appreciate this blog post from Owen Strachan about the men’s courage and its application to contemporary manhood.
Teach a boy that he is an idiot, that he can only ever ascend to Fantasy Football champion, that he cannot ever measure up to his sisters, that he is at base an animal, and watch in wonder as he fulfills all your worst predictions.
But teach him that he has immense dignity and worth, that he was made — whatever his chest size, whatever his height — to spend himself for the good of others, and you will form the kind of young men who do not cower when a terrorist stands up, sweating and fevered, to fulfill Allah’s will by mowing down innocents. This kind of young man wakes up from his nap, sees bloodshed on the horizon, and moves with a swiftness he has trained for to sacrifice himself for others. He may die, he knows. But he will die with honor.
With some irony, I post this recent song by singer-songwriter Neko Case. No, she’s not a man, regardless how she was raised. But the song rightly recognizes that there is a difference between women and men. It resonates with me.