~by Pastor Mike Middaugh
On Monday morning a video was released of Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice involved in an altercation with his then fiancée, Janay. The video showed Rice delivering a brutal punch that knocked her out cold. As I watched the video, I felt both disgust and outrage and a bit of anger. How could a man do that to someone he claims to love?
Since Monday I have been shocked at some of the responses to this story.
Several news outlets have almost seemed to defend Rice as they covered the story. Others have found ways to place blame on his fiancée. Others have mocked or made light of the situation. And even as I was with some fellow pastors yesterday I was surprised at the passivity with which some of them reacted — suggesting that this issue had already been resolved back in February, or that this new news was just dragging the family back through it, or perhaps that we don’t know the full story, that we are blowing this out of proportion.
I don’t see how there is any way to respond to this issue except one: we cannot ignore abuse. It is awful and it is ugly. It is demeaning, and strips the recipient of their dignity. It is very often kept private and locked away. Many times it is recurring, and sometimes it is generational.
The only way to stop abuse is to agree that it is wrong, and the only way to get it out of the shadows is to bring it into the light. We have to make a big deal out of it because it is a big deal.
I am glad the Ravens responded the way they did — they probably should have done it when the incident first took place months ago. This is especially important when it comes to those in the public light; athletes are idolized by our youth, and to do nothing says that nothing is wrong.
This is about more than Ray Rice — he and his now wife are undoubtedly suffering through all of this, and I do not feel it is our place to opine how she should or should not have reacted.
But as Christians we should be the strongest voice when it comes to violence and abuse. We believe that all people are created in the image of God, that we each embody a certain aspect of God’s glory. Abuse of all kinds is a desecration of that image that rests both within the abuser and the one abused.
Over the past few weeks, we have been discussing forgiveness.. We can and should be outraged by the event that took place. We should seek to bring it to the light. We should seek justice to prove the weight of these events. In this case Rice was responsible for his actions, no one else, just him, and so consequences come. But we should also seek forgiveness, at least within our hearts. Forgiveness means we desire good for him and his future. It means we avoid characterizing all athletes as “thugs.” It means we work toward a better future, a world in which things like this don’t happen.
It does not mean we are complacent. There are some things we can’t ignore.