I'm Glad They Were Poor Shots

for the week of August 13, 2001
by Rubel Shelly

According to the Associated Press, police officers in two patrol cars fired more than twenty rounds at each other on July 10, 2001. The officers mistook each other's vehicles for a stolen patrol car and opened fire.

An eighteen-year-old had apparently taken a Seattle police car for a joyride. The theft was reported on law-enforcement broadcasts, and a bicycle patrol officer in downtown Seattle spotted it. A police car immediately gave chase but lost sight of the stolen vehicle after pausing to check for oncoming traffic at an intersection. It was then that a second police car pulled up and thinking the stopped car was the stolen vehicle rammed it.

Two policemen in the car that had been hit thought they were under attack. So they pulled their weapons and began firing. A police spokesperson said the officers involved two in the rammed car and one in the other exchanged more than twenty rounds before they discovered their mistake! Nobody was hurt.

When I first read the story of policemen shooting at each other, my very first thought was this: How like God's people across the centuries training our weapons on one another, instead of the real enemy!

A poor man is begging outside your office. The arrest of an alcoholic mother whose children were neglected is reported in today's newspaper. Last week you heard about another pregnant teen at your child's school. Our tendency seems to be contempt for the (lazy) beggar, anger at the (irresponsible) woman, and disgust toward the (wild) adolescent. Are these harsh opinions justified?

Terms such as "lazy," "irresponsible," and "wild" fit the life situations of some people. But they are demeaning judgments against others. Perhaps it is simply easier to criticize than care, less exhausting to pigeonhole than help.

I've seen it in churches. We've been known to shoot our wounded! It has happened in families. A parent's "position in the community" is more important than honesty about a child's needs! It happens in the workplace. It's far easier and more efficient to replace someone than help him work through a mess.

Without being so hesitant that you cannot make a decision or so merciful that you cannot stand for principle, try to err on the side of kindness. Otherwise, the rest of us can only hope that more innocent people don't get killed.

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