Jason C. Stanley

ponderings of a dad walking humbly & seeking justice

Tag: murder

The Yoda Verses: Anger Leads to Hate

The Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why do you look so resentful?” (Genesis 4:6, CEB)

The Jedi Master Yoda warns both Aiken and Luke Skywalker about anger. Yoda tells Luke in The Empire Strikes Back, “Fear is the path to the Dark Side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”

Someone should have warned Cain.

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The Ten: Don’t Hurt People

Do not kill. (Exodus 20:13, Common English Bible)

There is a story in Genesis of two brothers, the world’s first two brothers: Cain and Abel. They both brought sacrifices to God. Able brought the first and best of his sheep, while Cain brought scraps from his harvest. Their tithing was their worship. God looked favorably on Abel’s offering, and not so favorably on Cain’s offering.

In a fit of jealousy and anger, Cain kills his brother Abel.

The world’s first murder.

Perhaps this story from the Hebrew tradition is what came to mind for the Hebrews when Moses announced this commandment. Life is a precious gift given by God. The responsibility for giving and taking life belonged to God. But the commandment to not kill may have a broader stroke.

Terence Fretheim writes about this commandment:

….any act of violence against an individual out of hatred, anger, malice, deceit, or for personal gain, in whatever circumstances and by whatever method, that might result in death.

“Any act of violence” with the intention of death.

Recently our community had bomb threats at a number of area schools, elementary through high school. A fire drill blared, and the students, in orderly lines, went outside. Some of the students were funneled into school buses. The next day there were children who did not want to go to school. They were filled with anxiety and fear. And I can’t blame them. If I was in the first grade and had that experience, I most likely would fight my parents to not go to school.

The person or persons who called in these bomb threats are attempting to act in God’s stead. This act of violence goes against God’s loving creation. The effects of this act will last longer than that moment, which can be wildly dangerous. God beckons us to place value on the lives of others.

Jesus, in his Sermon on the Mount, goes a bit farther. Jesus, always one to turn the world upside down, tells the crowd that the commandment goes beyond physical violence. Verbal abuse and other expressions of anger, hatred, malice, and so on. Jesus extends the commandment to include anything that we might do to hurt others. Name-calling, gossiping, back-stabbing, (all the stuff you see happening on House of Cards), is damaging to the person you do that to. It kills a part of them. And frankly, it kills a part of us as well.

When we hurt others – in physical, emotional, or verbal ways – we are hurting God’s plans for a safe and loving world. When we call in bomb threats that leave first graders huddled on a cold school bus, we are disrupting God’s plan for a safe and loving world. When we choose vile and selfish ways to keep people out (even in the name of God), we rattle God’s plan for a safe and loving world.

In the beginning, God created and it was good. When we hurt others, we disturb the goodness of God’s creation. And that is not good.

Scandal 2.5: All Roads Lead to Fitz

Ponderings - Scandal Season 2 recapsThe Justice League (or Injustice League) has convened around the shadowy round table to discuss David Rosen. He is becoming the thorn in their side. Everyone is getting frustrated with Hollis Doyle. Finally, Olivia steps up to the plate and says that she will take care of the David Rosen problem.

A few days later, David is called in by his boss. Fully expecting to be told he is fired, he is shocked that he is being offered his job back. But only if he drops the whole conspiracy theory, which he is not so sure about, but will finally take the job.

The Governor of Maryland, who lost to Fitz in the presidential election, has called Olivia to fix a problem. A man is dead in the Governor’s kitchen. And he happens to have his pants around his ankles. The story is that the Governor walked in, saw the man on top of his wife, his wife cried “rape,” and the Governor shot the man.

The man is the contractor that has been building the Governor’s private residence. But it is not as simple as we are made to believe. As Harrison says, “There are many ways to tell a story.” The real story is that the Governor’s wife and the contractor had been having an affair. She didn’t know what to do when her husband came into the house, so she cried, “rape.” She is arrested. Olivia coaches the Governor on how to respond to the media. As he makes his statement, she discovers, on the Governor’s desk, photos of his wife and the contractor.

He knew the whole time. He tells Olivia that his whole life changed after the election. His original plan was to kill the contractor, kill his wife, and then kill himself. But when his wife reacted the way she did, he decided to go with it, because he would give a second chance.

A lot of what happens in this episode is a result of election night. A better title the episode would have been 4,359. That number is repeated often. The wife says it at least half a dozen times as she explains to Olivia that after the election their lives changed. The Governor was short 4,359 votes.

“One county in Ohio changed our lives,” the Governor’s wife says.

ABC

Source: ABC

That could be true for all the characters gathered around the shadowy round table. As Verna points out to Olivia, Cyrus gets to run the country, Mellie gets to be Mellie, and Verna got a seat on the Supreme Court. The question is, what did Olivia get?

We are led to believe that Olivia was supposed to get Fitz. Olivia continues to turn down invitations by Addison to go on a date. Cryus inquires about it, and before Olivia can answer, he says, “All roads lead to Fitz.” It is clear that Olivia still has feelings for Fitz. But there is nothing she can do about that. She tells Addison not to stop calling, but right now she is not ready.

Randomly, a girl who Huck meets at an AA meeting, gives him her phone number (classic write it on the hand stuff). The two go out on a date. I hate to do this, but what?!? Anybody else think there’s something fishy about this girl?

The cliffhanger, as always, comes at the end of the episode. As Huck is preparing for his date, Abby gets on his computer to type in the girl’s phone number. She notices a sticky note that has the name of the grill and time that David was supposed to meet a guy connected to Cytron. She follows a few leads, and finds out that the guy was a plant.

She hurries to David’s apartment to tell him and everything else she learned. Cytron developed software that was used on the surface for slot machines, but under the table for voting machines. Like maybe voting machines in one county in Ohio, where 4,359 votes changed an election?

The camera zooms on David’s bobble heads, which double up as speakers. On the other end? Who else, but Olivia Pope. “This one I handle on my own.”

Watch out, Abby, Olivia is on the move.

One of the main points of this episode, is to reveal to us the audience (and possibly to Olivia) the interconnectedness of humanity. The decisions, choices, and actions we make can indirectly affect someone else. Olivia, being a part of the shadowy round table indirectly was involved in killing the contractor. The 4,359 votes that the Governor lost by were the votes that Olivia and the shadowy round table crew made sure Fitz got.

Fitz, who is not in this episode at all, seems to be innocent in all of this. Most likely Fitz is not in this episode because Tony Goldwyn had another obligation to fulfill. But, Fitz’ absence plays into this idea of his being innocent. He knows nothing, which is symbolized by his lack of presence in the episode.

All roads may lead to Fitz, but Fitz is in the dark.

Scandal 1.6: The Trail

Season 1We often find ourselves on a trail, tracking down much-needed information to complete a task, to solve a problem, or hosting an event. As a parent, a youth minister, or a teacher, you are following of trail of Facebook and twitter postings, side comments, and behavior to discern what is going on with a teacher. As a detective, you follow a trail of evidence to discern who the suspect is and why. However we are doing it,  we are, in a way, connecting the dots in order to formalize a picture of what is going to happened or what has happened.

Olivia and the gladiators find themselves in this place in the sixth episode. Which in many ways is an amazing feat in story telling. The episode seamlessly flows from present day to two years ago, connecting the dots. This back and forth continues until the picture comes into focus. The trail this storytelling style fulfills is not just answering the Amanda Tanner questions, but it is a trail of understanding these characters more and more.

Two characters are convinced that there is more to this Amanda Tanner thing than suicide. Gideon, the reporter who has eyes for Quinn and David the district attorney. Both are spending time looking into this Amanda Tanner thing, trying hard to discover what really happened.

Billy Chambers, Cyrus, and Olivia

Billy Chambers, Cyrus, and Olivia

As the dots are getting connected for the two men, the viewer is taken on a trip down memory lane. The flash backs take us back two years ago with Fitz’ presidential campaign is suffering. Cyrus brings in the best to fix it: Olivia Pope. This is the first meeting between Olivia and Fitz. Olivia tells them that the reason the campaign is struggling so is because the American people do not believe that Fitz and Mellie’s marriage is strong. Olivia preps them in showing more affection towards one another.

The Governor loses New Hampshire primary to Sally Langston, the same Sally who will become his Vice-President. He loses the primary because a story is leaked that Mellie had an affair with a man who was advising Mellie on literacy. Olivia pulls together her people – for the first time possibly – to fix this problem.

Abby is at home baking, looking like a Stepford Wife, freshly divorced. Huck is a street person, complete with long hair and long bread. Harrison wears an ankle bracket, freshly out of jail. Together the team figures out that the advisor has been paid to do a number of adult films. He quickly decides to make a statement setting the record straight. What is fascinating about this is that it gives us a glimpse to the beginning of the gladiators.

Olivia: “I’ve got a guy.”
Fitz: “You’ve got a guy? Another guy? Hells angel? Mobster? A kind-hearted felon who owes you a favor?”
Olivia: “Technically he’s on probation.”

During these flash back scenes, the sexual tension between Olivia and Fitz is so obvious. Despite the fact that Fitz wanted her gone from the start. It seems that Olivia grew on him. It is also obvious that the relationship between Fitz and Mellie is slipping. But Olivia’s advice works. Fitz and Mellie start being more affectionate in public. Mellie takes it a step farther though. While having pie in Georgie, she unexpectantly announces that she has had a miscarriage. As she hugs Fitz, she whispers, “I think that’ll take care of it.”

She lied! She made it up! The trail to Mellie’s true side has ended. She was running for First Lady. She seems to be more of a political animal than Fitz. This starts to put together just how much Mellie knows about Olivia and Fitz. Statements like “I trust you will sleep better tonight,” that Mellie makes to Fitz are beginning to make more sense. She is concerned for her husband because of the political gain, less because they are married.

The most eye-opening trail that is who got Amanda Tanner pregnant. We learn that Amanda was a volunteer working for Sally Langston’s campaign. When Fitz and Olivia gave in to the sexual tension for the first time, there was a recording device in the Governor’s hotel room recording it. That flash drive, the same one that would end up in Cyrus’ hands, was passed through the hands of Amanda and Billy Chambers, Sally’s chief of staff.

Yep, the very tape that was suppose to be Fitz and Amanda was actually Fitz and Olivia. This show just keeps throwing out twists and turns, keeping the audience guessing and engaged.

Throughout this entire episode, Gideon, the reporter, is following the Amanda Tanner trail too. And it all leads him to Billy Chambers. Billy, he learns, was Amanda’s boyfriend in the White House and the most likely baby-daddy. Gideon calls Billy out on it. At first Billy thinks that Gideon has very little to make a case. But then Billy starts to get uncomfortable with what Gideon is presenting, grabs a pair of scissors and stabs Gideon in the neck.

Yeah, that just happened. The right-winged, evangelical chief of staff to the Vice President just killed someone.

It seems that Billy forgot the story of Cain and Abel in Genesis. Cain kills his brother Abel. The Lord comes to Cain and says, “The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground” (Genesis 4:10, CEB). Even though Cain thought his murderous act would be a secret, God followed the trail of Abel’s blood that called out to him. The Psalm writer talks about secrets come to light in God’s presence. The trail of our actions will be revealed. We cannot hide from them.

The episode ends with this horrific act by Billy. But we do have this universal truth: it takes us a lot longer to connect the dots than it does God.  And for that, we should be thankful.

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