Thursday, February 01, 2007

Pictures of Anonymity: The Justifiably Fearful

Most of us have no idea what it is like to live in real fear for our lives. While random acts of violence are all around us and we face varying odds of being the victim of a life ending crime, we generally have confidence that we are basically safe.

There are some, however, who live and work in places around the world where being known as an American or a Christian can be dangerous. On some of the blogs I frequent, some missionaries are forced to comment anonymously for fear that some unknowing slip by someone in the wrong place at the wrong time might lead to their identification as a Christian missionary. If they are lucky enough to live, they almost certainly would be deported, other missionaries in the area might possibly be endangered, and the work of the gospel in a hostile field would be stifled.

Others I have encountered are in the process of rebuilding lives ruined by abusive relationships. Having managed to find the courage to begin again, they tentatively are taking steps to reenter life but still feel threatened by the abuser. In an effort to protect themselves and their children, they post anonymously for fear of being located by one who has proven a desire to do them harm.

More limited in my experience are those who claim to have a phobia about their privacy. I wonder how someone seemingly so worried about privacy conjures up the courage to have a computer connected to the internet. When I've asked, I haven't gotten a satisfactory response.

Recently, I have been in serious blog dialogue over difficult issues with those who are fearful that if it were widely known what they REALLY believe about something, they might lose their job. I took this anonymous person to task and someone called Michael came to "anonymous'" defense, saying:

The number one rule in most jobs is:"don't piss off the one who is in charge of your pay"unfortunately in much of baptist jobs and religous institutions being known as a trouble maker does NOT help you keep that job. Charles, I'm glad you can irritate your boss without worrying about your job. Your one of the few.

I responded rather harshly:

No one should irritate the boss for irritation's sake. But what should we be prepared to risk on behalf of a brother or sister at work who has been wronged? What could we HOPE that they might risk on our behalf if we had been wronged? Have even the Christians in America adopted the Darwinian "survival of the fittest and the fittest don't make waves" philosophy of the culture? Is there ANY injustice great enough to merit you or "anonymous" above risking your job to address? I weep that we send our young men and women to die so that we can remain free to cower in the face of injustice in the land of the free and the home of the used to be brave. I hope our kids follow their grandparents' and great-grandparents' example rather than ours.

I was upset that in a struggle for justice a coworker faces, "anonymous" saw the wrongdoing on the part of the one in authority, knew the one in authority was wrong, yet chose to say or do nothing for fear of losing his/her own job. You see, in the 1960's, I witnessed my father stand up to the local KKK in rural NC when he was tagged a "N-lover" for statements he made from the pulpit. I remember white robed men marching around our church and parsonage. I remember the warning cross they staked in our parsonage yard. I remember my own beloved German Shepherd dog disappearing at the hand of the Klan. Dad's stand in the face of injustice not only threatened our livelihood but our lives, as well. By God's grace, I have not been called upon in my life to stand with such courage in the face of such an imposing (yet ultimately impotent) force. I pray, however, that when called upon, I will stand for justice with the courage of my father.

The will to survive is wired deeply within all of us. We seem to be willing to risk almost anything to preserve our own life, our own livelihood, our own lineage, our own luxury, our own longings.

Those who take the risk of dashing into a burning house in an effort to save a life are lauded as a hero. Even a failed attempt is most often deemed heroic. Look at how we laud the heroes of 9/11 who gave their last best effort to preserve others in the face of an evil act.

The abuse of power in the workplace is an evil act, too. The abuse of a spouse or a child in a neighboring household is an evil act, too. Evil is all around us...and anonymity is impotent to do anything about it.

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