Wednesday, June 13, 2007

People Are "Objectified" When There Is No God

Today’s news carries the story of a Louisville, Kentucky high school teacher and coach resigning his positions because of a photograph of him taking a garter off of a female student with his teeth at the prom. Brett Coogle, 28, had been removed from the classroom since the picture surfaced on May 17 and given administrative type duties while the matter was under investigation. Now Coogle has resigned, thus ending the investigation.

As I read the story I winced as once again I learned of an adult in a position of trust and authority crossing a line with a person and abusing that trust. It seems to me that there is a story every week of a teacher, minister, officer of the law, politician, etc. who is behaving badly or acting criminally against someone entrusted to their authority.

I decided to read some of the comment thread and pick up a little conversation from across the country and was grieved at a deeper level. Several of the comments were of this nature, “What’s the big deal?” “He must have been a popular teacher who was reported by an unpopular teacher.” “America is so sexually regressive.”

Granted, with the anonymity of Internet commentary sometimes people just say outrageous things because they can. However, I found the comments believable and thus I was provoked to reflect.

Were those making the comments actually suggesting that our society ought to “progress” to a point of accepting teachers behaving sexually with students, even having sex with students? And, why is the line blurring and disappearing between those in positions of authority and those entrusted to them?

I realize that many factors play into the changing of society’s mores but I want to highlight one factor in particular. I wonder if a teacher would behave sexually toward a student if the teacher imagined someone else doing the same thing with his own daughter. In other words, because a teacher can suppress the reality that a student is a child of a mother and father he is then able to objectify the student. The student, though a person, becomes an object with which to address or satisfy a sexual urge.

And, how much do all of us do that everyday in multiple ways? When we forget or suppress the reality that others are sons and daughters of God we can cheat them at the cash register, flip them off in traffic, treat them harshly in the restaurant or refuse to offer help when they are in need.

Take the Presence of God out of our daily experience and we will treat others as objects for our advantage, pleasure, scorn, or ridicule.

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