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Incivility, Violence and Play
by Troy Cady
Yesterday, I watched in disbelief as the president and a journalist had a rather immature exchange live on national television. If we were ever in doubt before, we can now be certain: a spirit of incivility grips our society with no let-up in sight. We should be able to look to our leaders to serve as models of our better nature but those kinds of leaders seem to be diminishing greatly.
Beyond this exchange, I also heard a talk that was given recently by a certain influential Christian leader in which he mentioned he is now developing a “theology of violence" (as in, violence as a "good"). This was mentioned by him as he spoke at a conference for the Christian Community Development Association, of all places—an organization that champions healing and reconciliation. And I ask: have we completely lost ourselves?
This morning I also awakened to news of another mass shooting in Thousand Oaks, California (a town where several friends of mine live).
So, I pray: deliver us from our incivility, and save us from our words and actions that promote violence as the answer…
In the midst of all this, it may sound unbelievable to you that I still believe in the power of play and playfulness to ease these tensions and de-escalate these hostilities. It’s somewhat ironic that yesterday morning before I encountered any of these ugly things, I heard a story on NPR about a group of counter-protestors at a White Supremacist rally shortly after the Charlottesville conflict (where several people were killed or injured). This time around the counter-protestors tried a more whimsical approach: they played La Bamba. Given what had happened not too long before in Charlottesville, it is telling that this incident resulted in zero injuries.
A transcript of NPR’s story describes well the role of play in this situation:
TREVOR NOAH: The absolute best counterprotest I have ever seen…A white supremacist gets up to give a speech, and he doesn't get punched. Someone just starts playing "La Bamba."
IRWIN: People were dancing on our side. Think about that. In Charlottesville, they murdered that woman with a car. They were violent. They came in with clubs and fire.
NOAH: Even one of the Nazis can't help but dance along. Look at him.
NOAH: He's like, yeah. We're the supreme race, but that is the supreme beat. Come on.
IRWIN: And he was dancing to a song that was multicultural by its very nature and sound and beat. And when you hit a song and something like that happens, you know on a cellular level this is something that's right for right now. This is it.
Have a listen to the whole story here to see how play is more powerful than we think it is. As an expression of culture, play can help us break down our needless divisions. A theology of play (as opposed to a theology of violence) is a theology of the kingdom of God, a kingdom of healing and reconciliation, peace and joy.