Many, many years ago, when I was a young boy in Kentucky, I had my first real encounter with someone who had lost touch with reality. This event happened at a video store in Florence, KY and it was so long ago that the video store was still an actual video (VHS) store. Our family was on the way into the store to rent some harmless Disney production in the Old Yeller genre when a woman asking for money to use the payphone approached my father. She had, she claimed, broken down in the parking lot and needed to call for help—note please that these were also the pre-cell phone days! Dad gave her some money, mentioned something to us boys about always helping a lady in need, and we went on our way. However, when we later returned to the car Dad noticed that the woman he had just given money to had gone into the video store and rented a tape. We then proceeded to watch from the car as she approached another man and his family and asked him for money. My father was livid and he shouted to the other man to hold onto to his cash. My father confronted the woman, asking why she had lied to him about “needing help” with her broken down car and before he could get two sentences out she went into a full blown tirade.
“How dare you accuse me of lying! I am a member of the -------- Pentecostal Church and I know you when I see you Satan! Get thee behind me!”
She went on like this for some time, invoking the name of a well-respected local church and its pastor and accusing my father of being the Devil, arisen from hell to confront her here on the sidewalk in front of the video store. Finally, when it became apparent even to me as a grade school child that this woman had only the loosest of grips on reality my father walked to the payphone and called the police. The woman then ran to her (miraculously?) operating car and sped off.
The fact that I still remember that incident all these years later is testimony to the profound effect it had on me. Dad assured us that he would still continue to help strangers and contended that there were worse things than being conned out of a few bucks. But the other thing that stuck with me was the fact that my dad made it a point to contact the local minister whose name the disturbed woman invoked and let him know that someone out there was misusing the his name and besmirching the reputation of his church.
In light of recent events, I ask you, what kinds of responsibility do we bear for the behavior of those who do evil or harm in our name? What responsibilities do we have for the actions our governments do in our name? Most importantly for us here at LiberalEvangelical.org, I ask, must we or can we answer for those who do harm in the name of Christ and the Church?
Answers? I have none, so I’m legitimately asking for your help in thinking this one out, because recent events in American politics are thrusting this same question to the forefront.