Tiger King - Guilty or...
I am guilty of being one of the 34 million Americans who tuned in to the highly sensationalized drama/docuseries Tiger King! What a WILD ride! It was described early on like a train wreck you can't stop looking at - AND IT WAS!
As I guiltily made my way through the entire docuseries, I was amazed at the power of story and its' ability to create outcomes for viewers. The main character, Joe Exotic (Tiger King), is a sleezy, jerk of a man, who is now serving a 22 year federal prison sentence for charges of murder-for-hire and for several animal rights charges. However, as a result of this docuseries, there is now an entire movement by viewers called #freejoeexotic
I watched and experienced the docuseries create a sympathetic view towards the main character (hence so many viewers now wanting him free from prison) and I also watched and experienced the "villain"-izing of a woman who has devoted most of her life to rescuing big cats and fighting against animal abuses.
Believe what you want about it but through my entire experience as a viewer and afterwards seeking out more information, I came to believe strongly in the power of story and its' ability to shape the minds and thoughts of people.
Imagine if YOUR life had been captured by millions of polaroid pictures. ANYone can be made to look like ANYthing by just one polaroid. We ALL could be made to look like villains or heroes depending on the polaroid. And NOBODY is villain picture free.
One of the problems with us humans is that we all love a juicy story. It captivates us. I mean how else can you explain why actors and actresses are some of the highest paid figures in all the earth? However, it is in the hands of the story tellers to be able to attract us to certain characters and appall us from others - hence heroes and villains, two of the main character types in stories.
When we as an audience are so quick to love one character and hate another, it shows one of humanities greatest relational weaknesses - we are judgmental people.
And what does it mean to be judgmental? Well, it means to answer questions about people that we really don't have the answer to. For example, in these crazy times we live in, we see someone at the grocery store and their cart is overflowing with food, cleaning supplies, and toilet paper (the new gold) and we think "What a selfish person, hoarding all those goods!" However, the true backstory is that that individual is shopping for all of their elderly relatives and neighbors and has just made a way for all of them to have much needed products during this pandemic.
You see, we always want to answer other people's WHY! Why are they seemingly hoarding? Why did they cut me off on the freeway? Why did they not acknowledge me? Why, why, why??? And it takes a mature perspective to realize...I don't know anyone else's why but my own.
We ALL have polaroid pictures, moments in time, which could make the best of us look like horrible people because we have all ERRED and more importantly we have all sinned! We are all guilty before each other and before God. NO ONE is without error OR without sin. We all have a few or probably MANY polaroids which could be used to make us look worse than any Disney villain.
So how do we STOP perpetuating the culture of judgmentalism among ourselves as humans? Well, it begins with applying some critical thinking skills and understanding. First off, are you the type of person to just accept things at face value as TRUE? If so, then you are not applying a proper amount of critical thinking.
There were a group of people in the Bible named the Bereans. What they are known for is testing and further researching if what Jesus' disciples were out teaching and preaching was true. The Bible says they were open-minded or noble-minded but they examined what they were taught to see if it was true (Acts 17:11 NLT & NASB).
There is a laziness of mind growing here in America which could lend itself to communist tyranny if not reversed. Media speaks, movie stars speak, politicians speak, Netflix speaks, and the laziness is that we want to just accept everything at face value and not research out whether it is true or not. We become haters of public figures, haters of entire populations, or haters in general based on what someone or some source tells us (and we don't even personally know the source, yet we trust it?).
Have you NOT let yourself down? Have your own eyes never deceived you or your own emotions deceived you? If you cannot fully trust yourself then how can you give your entire trust over to a news source or in the case of Tiger King, story tellers who are now instantly famous because of the juicy spin they put on the material they gathered.
I'm not condemning you...after all, this is really a self-reflection for me...I watched a very trashy AND popular show and I allowed it to shape my opinion about its' characters UNTIL...
As I was laying down to sleep last night I thought, how can I pretend to know the levels of guiltiness these foreign-to-me characters are? Who am I to judge them? If the right story teller could gather polaroid evidence against me and edit it just right, I could be made to look just as guilty as anyone else ever has been.
We're ALL guilty and we're ALL in need of grace and mercy. Thank God that THEE Judge, the One and Only Judge, is Jesus Christ. The Bible says this "For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him." - John 3:17 - NIV
Our Judge is merciful and He does not take the polaroids of our lives and weigh them on the balances to see if the good outweighs the bad. He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to receive the punishment for everyone's villainy. His Son forgave us, as He received our punishment, on the cross, for our sins. Jesus also taught us NOT to judge so that we would not be judged (Matthew 7:1-5).
If you find yourself today upset or hating a public figure or someone you know because you think you know all the answers to WHY they say and do what they do, I plead with you to stop. You can judge a person's actions - THAT is permitted (if you witness someone steal a loaf of bread right in front of you, your judgement is true in saying "they stole a loaf of bread"). It is when we try to answer WHY they stole the loaf of bread that we have now set ourselves up as their judge.
Let God be our merciful Savior and Judge and let us work harder to not fall into all the traps which are laid to make us a judgmental and hateful people.