The Common Good

Mocking Our Neighbor

Last week Eugene Cho posted his thoughts on how it hurt him and his children when people, especially celebrities, do the slanty-eye thing mocking Asians. His post was simple -- basically "hey people, that's offensive, stop doing it." One would kinda hope that we are way past the making-fun-of-other-people-because-of-their-race thing, but no such luck as the subsequent conversation displayed.

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Reading the comments there was a bit disturbing. I somewhat expected the comments that told Eugene he was overreacting, but I was unprepared for the number of people defending mocking others. Some of them weren't even saying that the gesture isn't offensive, but that they know it's offensive and mocking and that's okay. Or as one guy commented, "I'm not racist, but I do enjoy my ethnic jokes."

What sort of messed-up world do we live in where our entertainment serves as justification for hurting others? Okay, I'm not naive, and I realize that there is nothing new about it, but I just can't wrap my mind around Christians defending the practice of making fun of people, much less how God created people to be. I don't care if it happens all the time, just think about that concept. Instead of loving our neighbor (and enemy), we are destroying them for a moment's entertainment. We think it's funny to tear down the image of God in others, and then claim it is our right to continue to do so. Does anyone else see the utter absurdity there?

Growing up missing a limb had me at the butt of many jokes. Kids in elementary school found it amusing to tell "stump" jokes to my face. They were almost as popular as the Helen Keller jokes mocking deaf people. And I'm sure we are all familiar with current phrases and jokes that mock women and gays. It is a strange thing to have someone make fun of you, and then insist that their right to be entertained by hurting you is more important than your feelings and identity. And that their right is more important than the command to love our neighbor. I just don't get it. As a child I was too unsure of myself to stand up to those kids and tell them that their jokes weren't funny. Sad thing is -- none of the other kids, teachers, or parents sent that message either. So the jokes continued.

I think it's sad that when guys like Eugene say "please stop making fun of my family," people (Christians!) get mad at him. There seems to be a huge failure of love happening here. So what do you think needs to be done to change things? Are churches working to change this or are they part of the problem? How can the body of Christ learn to love so much that we can't fathom mocking the other, much less defending our right to do so?

Julie Clawson is the author of the forthcoming book Everyday Justice (IVP 2009). She blogs at julieclawson.com and emergingwomen.us.

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