Call me crazy. (I know: Who would ever do such a thing?) But if you asked me how I’d expect a nun to respond to the heartless and heartbreaking abduction of more than 200 Nigerian school girls, the terrorist act that spawned the #BringBackOurGirls campaign, I’d probably expect her to pray without ceasing.
If you told me that the nun in question was a humanitarian activist who had been named a “CNN Hero” and one of Time magazine’s “100 Most Influential People in the World,” I’d definitely expect her to use her influence to rally worldwide support for the return of the girls.
If you told me that Sister Rosemary Nyirumbe of Uganda, who has worked tirelessly to end violence and sexual exploitation, appeared on American television to raise awareness of what she says is a crime that is committed throughout the world, I wouldn’t be surprised. But if you told me that she made a violent threat against the show’s host, I’d tell you to check your facts. Here they are:
No Laughing Matter
Sr. Rosemary’s interview with Comedy Central’s Stephen Colbert started innocently enough. He asked her response to critics who claim that hashtag campaigns such as #BringBackOurGirls are ineffective. She defends it, but says that we must do more to keep these incidents in the spotlight.
So far, so good—until two minutes, 18 seconds into their chat. Colbert tells the renowned nun that he is saddened by the mass kidnapping. Then, presumably to prompt a response from her that would touch the hearts of millions who might feel detached from acts of inhumanity in foreign lands, Colbert asks: “How does that affect my life? Why should I be sad for something that is happening thousands of miles away when there are things at home to be sad about?”
Sr. Rosemary’s response was not what I expected:
“If you cannot be sad because it is happening in Africa, which is part of the humanity, I would feel like jabbing you.” ~Sister Rosemary Nyirumbe
Rewind the tape! Were Sister’s bold proclamation and boxing gestures a joke? This is Comedy Central, after all. Frankly, if it was a joke or a rehearsed skit, it was in poor taste, given the gravity of the cause she was promoting.
“Really? You—a nun—would punch me?” he asked, looking incredulous.
“Oh, yah. I would jab you!” she responded.
“Am I allowed to punch you back?”
“How is that fair?” Colbert protested.
“Because I’m going to punch you—and I would win!” she boasted.
Shut my loud mouth. Apparently, she was planning a knock-out punch. Stunning.
There are so many disconnects here, I don’t even know where to start. OK, I lied: Let’s start with the teachings of the Prince of Peace, whom the influential Sr. Rosemary has proudly represented since 1976.
Among those teachings is this little scene: Yeshua/Jesus is instructing his disciples how to respond when Gentiles reject their “good news” message. Did he say, “Knock some sense into them until they agree!”
No, according to Matthew 10:14, he told them, “Whoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when you depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet.” In other words, keep it moving, Brother—and oh, by the way, this applies to you, too, Sister.
The #BringBackOurGirls Campaign Takes It on the Chin
Please tell me under what circumstances can those who call themselves followers of Jesus justify violence of any kind? It is a leap beyond irony that Sr. Rosemary threatened an act of violence while protesting an act of violence. If you don’t think the way she wants you to think, she’ll punch you. Perhaps she took a jab at the #BringBackOurGirls campaign instead.
No one has to be reminded of the Church’s long and gruesome history of winning converts to Christianity through ultimata, violence and murder. We wish we could forget.
Obviously, that diabolical history still has a faint heartbeat. But then, as now, this behavior completely violates Yeshua’s teachings. It also give Christianity a black eye, providing graphic evidence that Christians are not always Christlike. If they choose to act in ways that are not loving, patient, forgiving and compassionate, why don’t they call themselves something else?
When I was a Girl Scout, I learned never to do anything while wearing my uniform that would disgrace scouting, my troop or my scout leader (my mom). The same is true for those who wear any type of uniform, which made the scene of a nun throwing jabs a bit surreal, if not disrespectful.
The issue of whether a hashtag campaign such as #BringBackOurGirls is effective tactic has now taken a back seat to a more pertinent question: Does punching those who don’t get on board with the campaign bring closure to this episode for the girls and their parents? Does it align the Church with those who seek world peace or send the institution careening back to its terrorist past? In the name of all that is holy, please put down your dukes, Sister Rosemary.