Last year, we had Batman versus Superman. This year, we’re anticipating McGregor versus Mayweather. But to keep our appetite strong, we have been offered McCartney versus Westboro. Indeed, Sir Paul McCartney has incurred the collective wrath of the Westboro Baptist Church — the church famed for angry protest signs…sometimes at funeral services for soldiers. The former Beatle tweeted thanks to the protestors for a warm welcome and posted a doctored image of them outside his recent Kentucky concert. The protest signs were altered to feature some of the Fab Four’s more famous tracks like “We Can Work It Out” and “Let It Be.”
While I acknowledge the church — and I use that term more in a technical sense — has the right to protest within the confines of the law, I find their efforts to have been nothing but counterproductive. Some of my closest friends said they were pushed farther from the idea of Christianity, and organized religion in general, by the actions of the Westboro few. That was close to a decade ago, so it seems the problem isn’t going away.
Perhaps it is the response that needs to change.
McCartney’s response was of thanks, though perhaps not sincere. The sayings on the Westboro signs are fairly well known and not worth repeating. But the man who was the walrus replaced them with more unifying and nonaggressive sayings. It’s a scaled down, digital version of the daisy in the rifle barrel. Not surprising in some ways but still as important.
Sir Paul maintained his position without calling for more division. I’d like to point out that Sir Paul saw fit to leave the signs reading, “Believe on the Lord Jesus” and “Man’s Job: Obey God” unaltered. To a degree, it’s a strange reminder that there is common ground to be had in the discussion. That’s a difficult line to walk outside of the digital realm.
Disagreement doesn’t have to devolve into division and division often devolves into aggression.
Sadly, that’s not limited to the McCartney-Westboro bout. This year has perhaps been a prime example of our tendency to ignore the concept of a discussion — of point and counter point.
We believe many issues are stark, simple, black and white ideas but forget we exist in living color. Tagboard phrases do the talking for us and keep others at bay while we stay silently seated in our own camp. But we feel vulnerable outside our own camps. It’s easy to lash out and cause more division when we feel vulnerable. It’s hard to maintain a civil dialog. But recognizing our weakness in this may provide strength. Remembering the opposition’s worth as a human being exceeds any opinion we may have of them may help us to remain kind in our criticism.
You may say a kind critique is impossible but I think it’s a worthy goal.