Monday, October 26, 2009

The Passive Aggressive Busybody

Sunday was hard.

It wasn't the part where I talked to my congregation about the blunt as a bludgeon reality of our mortally financial situation. Yeah, Keynote charts and graphs bite as the foundation for a sermon. But if they were good enough for the prophet Isaiah, they're good enough for me.

It wasn't the part where I tried to struggle through a day at church after an evening when my lungs seemed to be simultaneously 1) filled with disgruntled biting spiders and 2) trying to fling themselves out of my body. It also wasn't the part of the day where I tried to shake the lingering effects of dextromethorphan out of my system. Cough suppressants work just great if you've got no preachin' to do the next day, but they're a pain in the tushie when you do. "Like, dude, let me tell you about Was I saying something? Hey, man, like, have you ever looked at that stained glass window? Duude. The Colors...."

What was hard was not being a busybody. Me and the missus had some quality time scheduled in yesterday, and that took the form of the Classic Iconic Date. Dinner and a movie. Or, in this instance, a movie and then dinner. The movie in question: Zombieland. I'd had some reluctance to go see it, but the reviews were solid, and I enjoy the genre. There's just something about zombies that works with social commentary and/or hipster irony. It's like peanut butter and chocolate, or chaste dreamy vampire fiction and teenage girls. Some things just work well together.

Still and all, we anticipated a hip and savage splatterfest, a perfect storm mixture of gore and one liners, of tension and humor. We settled in to our seats in the MegaPlex. But then...the hard part.

A guy comes in. With him, he brings an 11 year old girl and a seven year old boy. I look across at Rache, who is equally aghast. What? This is going to be a brutal ride. Fun, yeah. But not for kids. Not even vaguely. We mutter. Folks around us mutter.

Then, his baseball-cap wearing friend enters. With another seven year old boy. And his two year old. Or perhaps the kid was three. Whichever way, the wee one was post toddler, but not by much. This movie is a hard R. It involves massive but contextually appropriate amounts of profanity. It will include shimmering tension, followed by screams of mortal terror. That terror will be followed by graphic death, and the undead noshing loudly and bloodily on the entrails of the recently living. And here there's a tiny kid, barely a baby, sitting four rows up.

Around us, more muttering.

My gut wanted me to do some rebuking. To walk over and ask what in the Sam Hill they were thinking. Were I Russian or Israeli, cultures where getting into other people's business is a national pastime, I wouldn't have given it a second thought. Heck, half of the theater would have gotten into it. Ultimately, law enforcement would have been involved.

But as it was, we collectively sat on our hands. If parents want to make horrendous decisions, then that's their prerogative. Heck, the kids had probably already seen worse. And anyway, this is America. If people want to do stupid things, we have no obligation to say or do anything. They are free to fail.

It wasn't our place.

Where are the boundaries of our moral obligation to neighbors and strangers? Can we gently note when decisions they're making fly in the face of sanity, or should we just remain silent?