Distance makes the heart grow harder

I was turning into the parking lot of the pharmacy this morning when I had one of those moments than change the course of your whole day for the worse. The parking lot entrance was two lanes wide, and I was in the left lane. Another car was ahead of me in the right lane and a third car was coming the other way, leaving the lot.

Just as the outgoing car passed, the one to my right cut in front of me and turned left. I honked not to teach her some lesson or humiliate her, but because she almost clipped the front of my car. And I made sure not to honk out of anger (pretty sure Paul said only to honk the truth in love, right?), but instead just offered what I call a “love tap.”

After she cleared oncoming traffic, she stopped, rolled down her window and shot me a disgusted look. “I was waiting for the other car to pass,” she said. “What the hell is your problem?”

“You turned left from the right lane and almost hit me,” I said. She looked embarrassed, but quickly covered the awkwardness with more anger.

“Get over yourself, why don’t you?” she grumbled, then flipped me off and drove away.

As I waited in line for my prescription, I thought about the exchange. Would she have acted this way if she had known me? Why was it all right even if she didn’t? My imagination wandered, considering the same kind of treatment offered on a larger scale by opposing political groups, religions, or anyone whose ideology trumps the basic humanity of the Other.

It’s easy enough to blame politics or religion for being soulless systems that dehumanize, but I’m beginning to think they’re just byproducts of a deeper social issue. As our society becomes for distributed and virtualized, and the more we think of other people in abstractions, the easier it is to divide ourselves, seeing those that differ from us as “less than.”

This, do some degree, speaks to one of the great potential value of the missional/emergent church movement. With its emphasis on building relationship, sharing story, serving one another and cultivating compassion, we have both the benefit and challenge of seeing one another as more than an assemblage of stereotypes or issues. In taking the time and effort to acknowledge one another’s humanity, we have an opportunity to glimpse the divine.

Then again, I guess some people are just assholes.

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About Christian Piatt

Christian Piatt is the creator and editor of BANNED QUESTIONS ABOUT THE BIBLE and BANNED QUESTIONS ABOUT JESUS. He co-created and co-edits the “WTF: Where’s the Faith?” young adult series with Chalice Press, and he has a memoir on faith, family and parenting being published in early 2012 called PREGMANCY: A Dad, a Little Dude and a Due Date.