|The Wrath of Elihu by William Blake (Source)|
In December, my friend Nyle through sharing a post by Son of Baldwin on Facebook called my attention to an article of a recent horrific murder in Ohio. A 16 year old African American male teen, Dione Payne, was beaten up and violently raped by his killers because they, two white men in their older thirties, wanted to rob him of drugs and money. The hometown newspaper ran an article about the killing under the headline of “Dayton Teen Beaten to Death Had Trouble Past”, even though looking at the URL, it seems that the headline was at one time was supposed to be “Bond Set at $1 Million for Men Accused of Beating Teen.”
(Update: While editing this journal entry on December 20th for final submission, I discovered that the headline now reads “Bond set for Franklin men accused in teen's beating death” and there is no acknowledgment of the headline change or apology for the mistake. Also still no mention of the brutal rape he suffered before his death. A petition has also been started on change.org to pressure the prosecutor to add hate crime and rape to the charges)
|Dione Payne in 2012 (Source)|
Why did the headline change, if it did at all? Can a black teen with a trouble past not be a victim? Will the eventual court case put him on trial as much as the media has? Will the deceased be tried along with his killers as if his drug dealing compelled the men to savagely kill him as some sort of accomplice? Yes Dione was probably not an honor student and had a criminal record, but he did not deserve to die for dealing drugs, much less to be beaten and rape to the point of death. The point of the article was to tell about a heinous crime he was a victim of. With the headline and the focus of the article on the past, they make his heinous violent death into a passive one.
By looking for innocent victims, we want to ignore the complexities that come with faith and suffering. Neither faith nor suffering will ever be simple topics to deal. By maintaining an image of a perfect victim, we try to do this and not challenge ourselves on difficult topics. Let ask if we ourselves are really innocent before we try to convince others of their guilt. If we do, why do a majority of us Christians confess our sins each Sunday and ask for forgiveness? As Christians when we do this, we end up reducing our faith and the resurrection to a fairy tale and nothing to ever struggle with. Hence we will continue to believe in a shallow faith that requires no deeper inspection. This will just end up reducing the resurrection to a passive meaningless death. How will that reduction ever serve as a force to liberate the oppressed and the oppressors?
Let us not be foolish like Elihu in our presumptions of others and God!