This is written for our local paper, The Border Watch.
Lately space concerns have seen these articles crowded out of the Friday edition, but they should appear some time or another.
Guess there are too many prize pumpkins, lost dogs, or the like to write about at the moment.
So, I’ve been watching My Kitchen Rules again this year. Unlike other television cooking competitions, MKR doesn’t seem to be content with encouraging its audience to imagine they may be better cooks than the competitors, but rather it invites us to assert that we’re better human beings.
Admittedly the producers of the program propel the whole process along with editing that makes it impossible to miss who are the villains of the piece. The only way they could make it more obvious would be to make them wear black capes and long moustaches that they could twirl.
Other programs of this type establish their contestant’s ‘narratives’, their life stories in order for us to identify with them. Everyone can find a contestant they identify with. What does it say about us when a program invites us to watch on the basis of wanting to see a detested archetype get their comeuppance? I’m sure lots of viewers are getting flashbacks to their days at high school.
We might be inclined to think that surely personalities so negative and so flawed would never exist in the real world. But then we change the channel to the United States presidential primary elections, take fright, and scurry back to MKR where the worst outcome seems to a meal of raw meatballs. If only real life was so benign.
But why would we rush to judgment on people that we don’t really know? As if the worst of people’s behaviour is the sum expression of all we ever were, are, or could be. Not knowing the history, the circumstances, or even the physical or psychological situations of others, but proceeding to make unilateral moral judgments about character is presumptuous and destructive.
It also tempts us into blindness about our own failings.
Jesus told a story about a man who had two sons. You may have heard it. One of the sons estranged himself from the family and went off and wasted all his money on wild living.
In time he came to the point of view that he was a sad, bad, and futureless figure. All that was left was to seek a menial position on the family property. After he arrived home he found his brother agreed with this self-evaluation. The brother thought he was a waste of time as well.
The only one who disagreed was their father. Having seen the estranged son in the distance he raced out to greet him and welcome him back into the fold. Rather than engaging in character assessment, all the father wanted to think about was that someone who was lost had been found. The father invited both of his sons to experience this joy.
The apostle Paul explains that those who are disciples of Jesus are no longer regarded on the basis of their failings, but on the basis of the acceptance that God has for his son.
Jesus invites us all to experience a relationship with God where condemnation no longer defines our thoughts about ourselves or others.