Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Are You Infected With This Disease?

Dear Friends,

I have Schadenfreude.  Don't be concerned about me. It's not a deadly disease, but it’s something that I’ve struggled with all my life. Right now, I’m happy to report that my Schadenfreude is in remission and I’m symptom free. But I need to be careful and so do you because it’s highly contagious and we can all too easily become infected if we are around others who are manifesting the symptoms of Schadenfreude.

In my high school there were four social groups: Surfers, Greasers, Socs (pronounced SO-chez), and Nerds. I had a pocket protector with mechanical pencils and small screwdrivers and that’s all we’ll say about that. Mick was the Hollywood High alpha greaser (greasers did not refer to race or ethnicity – it referred to any tough dude who slicked their hair back, wore leather jackets in the heat of summer and nearly all in my school were white guys). These were the celebrity bad guys. You didn’t mess with them. They didn’t walk; they strutted with long steps and a peculiar up and down movement. It was during an assembly in the auditorium and I was up in the balcony projection booth because nerds weren’t on the football team, we were on the stage crew. In the middle of the program, Mick got out of his balcony seat and did his tough guy strut down those steep, unlit, concrete steps. Yep. That’s what happened! He shrieked like a little girl as he took that first misstep and went head over heels all the way to the bottom. It was the most wonderful and hysterically funny thing I’d ever seen and, along with everyone else, I couldn’t stop laughing. 

Schadenfreude [SHAW-den-froay-dah] is a German word and there is no real equivalent in English. Schadenfreude means “a pleasure that is derived from the misfortunes of others.” Schadenfreude is that inner delight that we have – that feeling of joy – when we see someone else fail.

I know a woman who speaks nothing but negativity and criticism about Christianity. She earns her living by giving motivational talks using new age teachings. Without going into details, she lives her life in a way that invites ridicule. She did something publically that was very hurtful and slanderous to a Christian organization and she was going to suffer the consequences. I was delighted to think that she would pay the price for her anti-Christian rants. That’s Schadenfreude.

A progressive pastor in a very liberal denomination, once told me that he hates all Republicans because, “Jesus hates them.” This pastor is serious – Jesus hates conservatives. According to him, if I don’t hate Trump and his supporters I can’t call myself a Christian. According to my Bible, if you do hate anyone, that’s a serious sin. Someday this pastor will be standing before Jesus in judgement and I’m sure this will come up in conversation. That’s not Schadenfreude. There is no joy in imagining what Jesus might say to him. I’m even concerned for his soul. One of the most frightening statements that Jesus ever made is in Matthew 7:21-23.

When the tough guy fell down in the balcony, I had no concern that he could be seriously hurt or could hit his head or break his neck and die. I hated the guy so much that my heart was filled with joy as he tumbled down the dark, concrete steps. He wasn’t seriously hurt, but if he had been, I’m sure that my thoughts would have been that the jerk had it “coming to him.” I was too immature as a Christian to realize that being joyful over someone’s illness, suffering or death is absolutely wrong no matter who they are, what you think about them and even what they may have done to you. Schadenfreude is a serious sin. When Jesus said, “love your neighbor,” He wasn’t kidding about that.

When I began to see the cruel responses to the announcement that Trump and his wife had Covid-19, my first thought was “Schadenfreude.” Some responses were filled with grace and compassion. Joe Biden said he and his wife were praying for their quick and full recovery. A fervent Trump critic and MSNBC host Rachel Maddow immediately responded: “God bless the president and first lady. If you pray, please pray for their speedily and complete recovery.” Biden’s and Maddow’s responses were America at it’s best. 

But when it appeared that Trump’s symptoms may be serious, “Saturday Night Live”, host Chris Rock and Jim Carrey started the show with mockery about the president’s illness and hospitalization. A survey showed that nearly half of Democrat voters were happy that Trump had Covid-19. Democratic politicians were far more sarcastic than kind with their comments and a Hollywood celebrity film-maker tweeted “my thoughts and prayers are for Covid-19,” meaning that his prayer was that the virus would kill Trump. On social media, there was an explosion of hatred from liberals who wished Trump would die. Anyone who desires, wishes, or prays for the death of a person needs to stop and seriously examine their own soul. That’s pure evil.

Having the common decency to “love your neighbor” shows that you have the Christian values that are indicative of a spiritually healthy person. How we responded to Trump’s illness had nothing to do with how we feel about him as our president. Our response was the revelation of our own heart. Our response was not about him but was a reflection of who we are as a person – as a Christian. Our response was an indication of the level of humanity in which we choose to live. Some of us Christians responded with concern and prayer. Sadly, some of us Christians responded with mockery and Schadenfreude. Some liberal Christians even responded with hatred, a celebration of Trump’s suffering, and death wishes. That’s a glimpse into the sad state of some of our Nation’s churches. Nearly all progressive clergy actively or implicitly promote a hatred of Trump and his supporters who comprise one half of our Nation. Denominations and churches that preach hate are the ones who are shedding members and are teetering on the edge of a spiritual abyss. 

It was Jesus Himself who told us that God had devised a test so that the world would know who the followers of Jesus are. He said that we will be known as Christians by the Christ-like love we have for others. John 13:34-35

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