Christian Armed Robber Talked Down By Christian Shop Assistant
Extraordinary story on the BBC site today. An armed robber who raided a mobile phone shop in Florida was talked down from his robbery by a shop assistant who ‘spoke to him about Jesus.’
The man said he was a Christian and was “embarrassed” to be doing what he was doing but that he needed $300 (£190) to avoid being evicted. The shop manager told him: “I don’t know what you’re going through, but all of us are going through a hard time right now.” When she explained that she would have to make up any shortfall, he decided to leave.
There are a whole number of theological conflicts going on here, but two I think are very interesting.
Firstly, what kind of Christianity and faith-experience leads a man to pick up a (replica) gun and go out to rob someone? There’s a violence here which is surely contrary to any reasonable reading of the gospels. Secondly though, what kind of faith is it that leads to this kind of lonely, sole action, rather than deciding to turn to others in the community for financial help? Here is an isolated, violent faith that is initially prepared to put the fear of death into the other in order to overcome the fear of financial ruin and eviction that a landlord has put on someone. Financial pain trumps physical pain in this world. Capitalism is this strong.
Interestingly though, it is when the shopkeeper explains that the financial burden will pass to her – not to a faceless corporation – that the robber leaves. Once the face of the other is seen, once they become a person, threats of physical violence are far harder.
One has to hope that the man has not only seen the fallacy of violence, but has also found a community prepared to gather round and help him out with his rent.