Full disclaimer: I’ve never watched Sharknado or either of its sequels. But the reality of the world today means there’s another kind of shark storm in the world: the fear of entering the ocean because of shark sightings and attacks up the east coast. It appears to have had an impact on the sheer number of people who are at the beach and the number of people in the water.
And yet, are there actually an increased number of “shark attacks”? Is our chance of being bothered, bitten, or eaten actually greater than say… a year ago? [You can read more here. I’m no shark expert, and I do think you should be cautious.] That said, I think that we tend to respond to people in ways pretty similar to the way that many people are treating their knowledge of shark attacks.
We hear a specific situation, say, “shark attacks surfer off of South Africa,” or “man bitten by shark off of California pier,” and we assume all kinds of things. We assume that the headline is factually correct (like my use of Sharknado…) or that it actually applies to us in our situation. We apply the fear of the situation, the danger assumed in the situation, and apply it to every situation.
And we do it to people.
One person “X” who has “A” and “B” characteristics, suddenly represents all “As” and all “Bs”. Pick a characteristic. All men, all African Americans, all gays, all Red Sox fans, all Buddhists, all Republicans, all… whatever. We let the media – and our gross generalizations, and even prejudices, drive us to fear.
And yet, there’s Jesus showing up, poking us in the chest, telling us to love our neighbor as ourselves. Aw, c’mon, Jesus, take it easy!
Jesus didn’t want fear. He knew it wasn’t good for us. And he wasn’t much for generalizations either. He met each person where they were, and dealt with them in their situation.
I wonder what it would look like if we lived a bit more like that?
It’d change our world, right?
Then again, when Jesus walked on water, it didn’t say anything about dealing with sharks.