Here we are at another Wednesday. Time to turn to the People of the Second Chance's poster series, Never Beyond. If you are new to this campaign, you can read more about it and find links to all of my Never Beyond posts here.
The new poster has presented an interesting challenge for me. This week’s miscreant is Mel Gibson: actor, director, alcoholic, racist-ranter, Catholic divorcee, and girlfriend-beater. There might be roles that I left off that list, but I think we have sufficient discussion material here.
I feel like I need to walk a fine line here because it would be easy for me to minimize some of Mel’s transgressions. Why would I do that? Well, first, I am an alcoholic (18 years sober, praise God!). I am very familiar with the stupid things that alcoholics do and say, both drunk and sober. Not to say that I don’t think that alcoholics should be held accountable for their actions because I do (think Christian repentance, AA’s amends process, etc). It is just that the behavior of this type of person is very familiar to me and so does not have the power to shock or hurt me as it might other people.
Secondly, I have been violent before (see my first Never Beyond post) and so I should not be casting stones at Mr. Gibson on that score (which would just be more violence anyway – I know, Carolyn… move along). Thirdly, although I have not divorced a spouse of many years so that I can find a newer, younger playmate, I have been the other woman before. Ouch. The closest I have come to a racist rant was when as a child I used to call Brazil nuts “nigger toes”, which was what I had been taught. Oops. Still, it would be very easy for me to just say, “Look, Mel and I are fairly good people. We've contributed some good things to society. Cut us some slack, alright?”
I’m thinking, though, that I might need to go a little deeper than that.
I think I need to acknowledge:
…the largely unseen (read: hidden but real) damage that alcoholism causes in a family
….the very real hurt and trust issues caused for a faithful spouse by an affair and/or divorce
…the terror domestic violence victims feel when they cannot protect themselves
…the fact that when a seemingly “good person” goes on a racist rant, it can hurt (and bring up painful, shameful memories) the same as it would if the slurs had been uttered from beneath a hood (see last week’s post)
Those are facts that should never be diminished, especially for the sake of those who have been harmed by them.
The questions I have seen this week as other bloggers and commenters have grappled with Mel’s chances of receiving grace have been more in depth than in previous weeks. Instead of only asking, “does this person deserve a second chance?”, people are tacking on some other questions as well. “Do Mel’s transgressions negate the value of any of his previous work (especially The Passion of the Christ)?” “Has Mel redeemed himself enough to continue working in his industry?” “Has Mel sufficiently made amends to the Jewish community (targets of some of his rants) to deserve the privilege of making a movie about a Jewish hero (an upcomingproject of his)?”
I don’t know that I have answers for all of these questions. As to our weekly question, “who would you give a second chance?”, I would say that as an alcoholic and perpetrator of violence, I am very grateful and humbled by the grace I have received from my God and the people who care about me. I don’t know how much the women whose husband/boyfriends I carried on with know about what happened, so I have never gone to them and asked for a second chance. It is possible that there is lingering damage there that will be felt throughout this lifetime, but I at least know that my Savior graciously covered those sins with His cleansing blood. I hope that even in those situations where trust and safety might still be issues, Mel might receive somewhat of a reprieve. I cannot want that for myself and not for him.
As for the value of an imperfect person’s work, I would say this: if we get rid of all the good works of imperfect people, we will not have any good works left. Imperfect people create amazing art, music, writing, technology, and social justice programs all of the time. We become outrageous hypocrites when we only appreciate the work of people whose imperfections are not known to us. I’m not in a position to instruct the movie industry to let Mel keep working, but my personal opinion is that if he has something good to say with his work, let him. There is plenty of crap coming out of that industry that desperately needs to be counterbalanced.
Finally, as to Mr. Gibson’s anti-Semitic utterances negating his “right” to make a movie about a Jewish hero, I don’t know that I am in a position to ask the Jewish community to give him a second chance. I know that even though The Passion of the Christ had a powerful positive effect on me, there are some who even saw that movie as anti-Semitic. I have never been a part of that race or that community, so I cannot speak coherently to all of their concerns. I know they have suffered bigotry in ways that I cannot understand, so I don’t think I can tell them if they are being overly sensitive or not. My hope is that they will remember that the God of Abraham chased down the unfaithful Israelites many times to bring them back into communion with Him. They know about second chances. I will pray that God will show them when it is fitting to extend second chances to others.
So let’s have a check-in here for our Never Beyond campaign. How do you feel about giving Mel Gibson a second chance? How do you respond to people who seem to be grace abusers? Do you draw the line after a second, third, or fourth chance?
PS. I want to give a shout out to my Managing Editor Du Jour, Mr. Justin Salters! Glad to be POTSC with you!