Going along with the crowd is something we all do from time to time. It yields positive results as well as negative. But it’s something that is usually not seen as a good thing.
I found myself in such a situation 15 years ago, but my 12-year-old son intervened. His intervention planted a seed that didn’t fully germinate and bloom until 10 years later when I mustered the same courage he had shown during a misogynist conversation that was going wrong.
In the eighth chapter of the Gospel to John, Jesus found an interesting way of dealing with “the crowd.” He did it by appealing to the individual. My son and I both tried to do the same thing.
One day, Jesus appeared at the temple courts. The Pharisees devised a plan to trap him in order to have a reason to accuse him of wrongdoing. They brought before the court a woman accused of adultery.
“And (they) said to Jesus, ‘Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?”
“But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.
At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. John 8:4-9
Notice that Jesus didn’t address the question of whether the law was right or wrong. He didn’t address the Pharisees. He addressed the crowd, appealing to each person and their personal experiences. The Bible says that those who heard him began to go away one at a time. In other words, those who got the message left.
How did they get the message?
I believe the Holy Spirit showed each person what they were guilty of in their own sins which put them in the exact place as the woman caught in adultery. The difference between them and her? They had not been caught — yet!
Maybe some of these men had been involved in a public stoning. I’m sure they picked up and threw their stones with righteous indignation without any regard for their own sins. Instead they focused on the transgressions of the convicted and found solace in the fact they were doing God’s work, according to the law.
If someone had reservations about whether they should participate, the apprehension probably was easily forgotten when others started willingly and emphatically hurling stones.
Some of the ugliest moments of human history have happened because of people following the crowd. These benign moments happen and perpetuate the “isms” we battle every day: sexism and racism.
That episode nearly 15 years ago occurred when my son and I where in a room with five or six men. He was the only child present. He sat in a corner with a book or a video game while we sat around joking and laughing. The subject at some point turned to women, particularly certain physical attributes of women. At some point, I spoke up about the superiority of a certain aspect of my wife’s physical attributes. Everyone was chiming in, and I just couldn’t help myself. I had to put in my two cents.
From across the room, I heard this voice: “Daddy, please don’t talk about my mother that way. I don’t like it.”
I was shocked for two reasons
Because he had convicted me and he was bold enough to say so in that setting.
He took a huge risk, but he stood up for what he believed and was willing to accept the consequences for doing so.
How was I going to respond? Was I going to let my ego get in the way and use my authority to crush his spirit? Or was I going to heed that little voice in my head that knew the words I had just said about my wife, his mother, to a room full of men were inappropriate and wrong.
I chose the latter and told him he was right. I apologized to him and others in the room.
Did that all of a sudden change me into a champion for woman’s rights? No, but I had never thought of myself as a bad guy. I’m one of the good ones, or so I thought. I have three daughters and my wife, and I will celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary next month. I’ve never cheated on my wife and I would consider myself to be a #girldad.
After that episode, I still found myself thinking and saying certain things around certain people that would be considered sexist. And, I also found myself not saying certain things around certain people that could get me brought up on sexism charges. But because I didn’t consider myself a sexist, that means that I wasn’t one, right?
BECAUSE I DIDN’T CONSIDER MYSELF A SEXIST, DOES THAT MEAN THAT I’M NOT ONE?
Four years ago when I found out that my daughter was raped, I had to completely change my thought process. It didn’t happen immediately. It happened weeks later when I found myself again around a group of men.
The topic was the #metoo movement and specifically what was and was not rape. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. What was most appalling to me was that I had participated in that type of conversation before, looking at it only from the male vantage point.
The conversation became uncomfortable and I’m not sure if it changed anybody’s perspective. Hopefully it did and if it didn’t maybe it planted a seed in their psyche.
Like my son, I decided to speak up. I told the story of my daughter’s rape. She had not allowed her rape to define her, to become a stigma or stumbling block toward her wholeness and efforts to help others suffering in silence. Since she wasn’t ashamed then I shouldn’t be, either.
How do I confront sexism, and it’s twin, racism?
In the instance of the adulterous woman in Scripture, all of the men left, the oldest first until there were only two people left, Jesus and her. Maybe one of the reasons they left in age older is because the older men had a longer list of transgressions than the younger ones. If they didn’t change immediately as a result of their encounter with Jesus, hopefully a seed was planted.
After they all left …
“Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” “No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,”Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.” John 8:10-11
The crowd did not condemn her and neither did Jesus. He offered her a new start. He told her to leave her old life of sin behind. She stood there as a sinner condemned to death but left having been forgiven and able to start a new life.
All of this happened because Jesus didn’t appeal to the letter of the Jewish law and wasn’t going to allow the crowd to rule.
I am responsible for my own actions and I must do everything I can to change and I have a responsibility to stand up to the crowd when it comes to things like sexism and racism when I encounter it.
One of the things I try to do now when I am around men, particularly black men who might engage in sexist or misogynistic talk or behavior, is draw a parallel that might appeal to them. I ask, what if we change women in the conversation to black people, change the b-word to the n-word and change black men to white men.
Can we now see how our words and behaviors are exactly as those we have convicted and stoned because of racism? Are we as sexist men any different than racist men? After all isn’t sexism older and much more prevalent than racism?
It’s hard to admit, but I still have misogynistic and sexist thoughts that sometime manifest themselves into action. I live in and was raised in a sexist society. But that’s not an excuse. I am responsible for my own actions and I must do everything I can to change. I have a responsibility to stand up to the crowd when it comes to things like sexism and racism when I encounter it.
That’s what my son did for me 15 years ago and that’s what God’s son did for the woman adulterer more than 2,000 years ago.