South Park is a lot of things, many of them bad, many of them brilliant, but it never ceases to make it’s point, usually with the subtlety of a sledgehammer. A recent episode, titled “Safe Space” deals with shaming, self-image, and having a “safe space” where you can express yourself without the fear of ridicule or negativity. South Park takes these ideas to extremes as it always does, with examples such as Whole Food’s cashiers shaming people for not donating an extra dollar to charity when they buy their food, a character eliminating all negative comments on Twitter and only showing the positive ones, a charity event that is against shaming for not donating to charity, and finally a literal character named Reality (who looks like a mixture of Snidely Whiplash and Wario) who finds that people will ignore him no matter what to feel good about themselves. It’s incredibly blunt, shocking, absurd, and yet points a very harsh mirror at what we’ve become in this society: a society that demands that no one ever say anything we don’t like. We want to be validated for everything we do, when not everything we do deserves validation.
Reality, whether it looks like a horrible villain with a cape and twisted mustache, or the silent thing that walks alongside us every single day, is something we can never really escape, ignore, or, like South Park did, hang in the town square. It’s a fact of life, and ignoring it will bring consequences.
Please don’t interpret this as a defense of shaming. On the contrary, I don’t think it’s a good thing. It’s horrible, cowardly, and self-serving. Everyone should have a voice and a place to express themselves, but, we cannot have our cake and eat it too. We cannot demand that everyone be OK with everything because this will never happen. This is a fallen world, and it is full of fallen people. While the ideal of having equal rights and voices for everyone is indeed a noble one, it becomes a problem because this will always turn into a “me vs. you” mentality. Equality in theory breaks down in practice. Everyone is special, everyone is right, and everyone else is wrong.
We should all strive to teach each other with kindness and respect but this will never happen all the time. Ideolgy will almost always circumvent kindness. So how do we live in this world where tolerance has become it’s own version of intolerance? We do what Jesus did.
Jesus didn’t let resistence shake him from his mission and his message. The religious leaders called him a son of the Devil, tried to trap him and prove him as a hypocrite, most of his followers left him when he made it clear what they would have to sacrifice to follow him, he endured insults, beatings, spittings, abuse, and the most agonizing death imaginable, without uttering one word of complaint. He knew what his purpose was, and he had a thick skin and a soft heart.
James 1:12 says Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will recieve the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. Basically, life is never going to safe and easy, but we can endure because of God’s love so we can share God’s love.
We need to have a healthy perspective on hardship. It’s not because God doesn’t love us, it’s because God loves us all the more. Hardship helps us grow in character. Air resistance creates the lift that gets planes off the ground. Conflict makes stories more meaningful. Breaking down your muscles in a workout makes them grow back stronger. Constructive criticism, no matter how hard it may sound, makes your work come out better. Enduring hardship for Christ creates a deeper bond with him.
No space is ever going to be totally safe, but we have a Savior who saved us and is saving a place for us with him. That is worth any discomfort the world can throw at us.