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STEALING RELIGION

Written by Vicki Hinze

On December 26, 2010

This one of those “can you believe it” days.

In the news this morning, there’s a report on a thief that has me shaking my head and wondering, “What is s/he thinking?”

Stealing isn’t a novelty; unfortunately, it happens with monotonous regularity.  So what made this theft, or this thief, noteworthy?

The objects stolen.  A nativity scene from a family’s front yard.  Statues of Mary and Joseph and more.  Not only did the thief steal these things, s/he also trashed other items in the family’s display–including bells and trees.

People have fought wars over religion throughout recorded history.  They’ve corrupted religion, and hidden behind it when it suited them.  They’ve committed all manner of crimes to all manner of people and dragged religion into it to justify their actions, regardless of how inappropriate or insincere they were in citing them.  We’ve seen these type actions often–Saddam Hussein is a prime example, and there are many, many others.

It makes one wonder how a thief can twist and rationalize his/her actions to make stealing, much less stealing these types of things, acceptable.

The majority of us find stealing morally repugnant.  We find stealing religious symbols representative of significant events to the owners even worse.  Our disdain is palpable, our empathy with the targeted family engaged.

And then we learn that this family suffered this flagrant violation not once but twice.  In a single week.

Twice they’ve been violated, had their boundaries trespassed upon and their property stolen.  Twice the thief or thieves had no regard for the family.  And twice the family was left with the rubble in their yard and with the task of cleaning up the mess the thief/thieves had left behind.

As I think of this family this morning, I wonder if they’ll build their display again–a third time.  I hope that they do–and that they consider using electric fencing materials.  A little shock could make a would-be thief stop and think.  A shame that’s legally considered entrapment when it could spare a soul.

And I find my thoughts veering to the thief and, for the life of me, I can’t imagine how s/he has justified to him- or herself these actions.  Stealing a religious display.  It’s as warped as stealing religion itself.  Will s/he recall the theft with each glance at the stolen nativity scene?  What sickening baggage will s/he attach to the theft?  Will s/he even grasp the magnanimity of what s/he’s done to him/herself?

You know, the sad truth is s/he probably will not.  Anyone twisted enough to highjack religious displays is likely too twisted to know the truth when it’s staring them in the face.

Which is not to say that there won’t come a time when the scales are lifted from the eyes and the thief sees his/her true self with all the veneer stripped away.  The truth shall set you free, right?

But first it’ll be a long look into a harsh mirror in which nothing is hidden and all that is true is exposed.  Then the thief will learn the penalty of his/her actions, and then s/he will suffer the utmost consequences.  Because in the very symbols stolen are promises that remain intact:  you reap what you sow.  And from that, the thief cannot hide.

I wonder.  When the thief sows, feels the full weight of the consequences of his/her actions, how will s/he feel about stealing then?  Because the truth is, the thief(s) might have stolen and damaged and destroyed that family’s property.  But s/he did far more lasting damage to him/herself.  The kind self-inflicted that requires far more than mere repayment to be satisfied.  It requires forgiveness, and that requires divine grace.

Do you think, stealing a nativity, that this thief will have the courage to ask for divine grace?

Only s/he can answer that.  But one thing is certain, while the family returns to its life of joy and peace, the thief or thieves will experience the absence of joy and/or peace and will experience the question being called over and again–in a year, five years, twenty or thirty years–until s/he does answer.

Knowing that, one has to ask:  In stealing, who–the family or the thief–has and will suffer the greatest loss?

Blessings,

Vicki

P.S.  After completing this post, I googled the article title “Christmas Vandals hit again.”
There were over 41,000 related stories…

C2007

 

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