Saturday’s paper reported that Vancouver Police chief Jim Chu was anticipating that the courts would take seriously the task of prosecuting the suspected Stanley Cup rioters. Some 215 charges have already been brought against 80 suspected rioters. Last Friday, one of those rioters, Ryan Dickinson, became the first person to plead guilty of the charges laid against him.
I was encouraged to read that at least one of the participants in that disgraceful follow-up to the Canucks losing the Stanley Cup had the moral fortitude to acknowledge and take responsibility for his behaviour. However, he was not the first to do so. In fact, the day after the riot, one Emmanuel Alviar went to Vancouver’s police station and confessed what he had done. The report from Postmedia described Alviar’s decision this way:
With the strong support of his family and friends, Alviar told police he made some very bad decisions as the riot began to unfold and he wanted to own up for his “stupid” behaviour that infamous night the Canucks lost the final game. “I felt horrible about myself,” Alviar, 20, said Saturday of the feeling he had knowing he lost complete control and behaved like a criminal. He said the mob had lost any sense of sanity and the chaos was overwhelming as loyal Canucks fans turned on each other and smashed anything in the way. “There were so many people beating the crap out of each other—it felt like the end of the world. I could feel the selfishness of people damaging and looting. I was being dumb obviously being caught up in the moment—but it was thrilling.”
The story about Emmanuel Alviar reminded me first of all of the power of what is called “mob mentality.” Otherwise sane, thoughtful folk can be stampeded by the influence and passions of the crowd into behaviours that they normally find reprehensible. But such a suspension of critical thinking, moral sensitivities and plain common sense does not always need a mob. Paul rightly affirmed that our most significant struggles in life are rarely with people, per sé, but more often than not, we are dealing with the dynamics of evil at work in our world, and our own susceptibilities to fear, anger, and sin. These are the principalities and powers that often pit people against one another, against all that is good and true, against their own best selves, and ultimately against God (even if they fervently believe they are acting righteously in defence of God—which is usually a sign that they may not have listened as keenly to the Lord as to their own anxieties and angers!).
Perhaps no where do we see the handiwork of the devil more tragically manifest when Christians begin to fight with other Christians. Jesus declared that the greatest command he gave was to love one another as he had loved us, yet in the midst of church squabbles, it seems that love is the first thing to go out the window. It matters not what the issue might be. Whether over styles of worship or over approaches to scripture, whether over what is appropriate dress and attire for church or whether the kids are allowed to be too rowdy, I’ve watched congregations get all wound up and folks become divided, ornery and utterly insensitive and disrespectful. As Emmanuel Alviar put it, we end up beating the crap out of each other…, [revealing the] selfishness of people…, [and] being dumb.
I have to commend Mr. Alviar for his courage and honesty in turning himself into police, confessing his stupidity and criminal behaviour, and taking responsibility for his actions. Too often, our biggest problem is not just the mistakes we make. Rather it is that we compound the problem by being too stubborn, proud or afraid to ’fess up, humble ourselves, and repent. Instead we re-double our efforts to blame or slander others, buttress our self-justifying arguments, or otherwise keep up the pretence of innocence.
Someone once said that our sins are the abyss between ourselves and God. When we confess our sinfulness and our sins, they become the bridge. The Book of Proverbs suggests that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. I think that the readiness, like that of the prodigal and at least one Stanley Cup rioter, to own up and repent one’s mistakes, must surely be one more of those decisions that moves us miles on the journey to wisdom.
I was touched by the total artcle, of Ryan Dickson’s courage to be the first to plead guilty to the charges against him and of Alvatar’s courage to come forward and admit his own involvement in the riot and take the consequences. What a world we would have if there were more Ryans and Alvatars. It has changed me – I now look at the wrong things I have done and how my mind can scheme to make me the innocent party. I feel God talking to me through this article and I am changing little by little. Lots of contemplation on my plate today.