Perhaps you have read Nathaniel Hawthorne’s classic novel, The Scarlet Letter. Students who read it today usually react with mockery and ridicule. They wonder how a society could be so prudish and punitive to force Hester Prynne to wear a label of shame for her sin? How unenlightened for society to place public moral condemnation on her!
But Dan McLaughlin reminds us in a recent column that “The Scarlet Letter Is Back.” Today we don’t require people to wear a scarlet A, but we do shun them and brand them as outcasts if they violate the current standards of political correctness.
The example he uses is the plight of a Manhattan lawyer who let fly a racial tirade at Spanish-speaking workers at a restaurant. Unfortunately for him, what he said was filmed and widely disseminated. Apparently, he was kicked out of his office building, has had protesters outside his building, and has already lost at least one client.
Perhaps the lawyer deserved all of this negative attention. He apparently has a history of obnoxious behavior. I’m not interested in defending him, but I do want to point out that public shaming for bigotry seems to have become the new “scarlet letter.” He may lose his livelihood over stupid comments captured on an iPhone.
It’s worth mentioning that the column by Dan McLaughlin was written BEFORE the latest controversies surrounding Roseanne Barr and Samantha Bee. Lawyers, comedians, and politicians are subjected to public moral condemnation. Dan McLaughlin wonders “how far we should go, and how indelibly the stain should endure.”
Isn’t it ironic that the people shunning and shaming today are the same people who tell us not to be morally judgmental? Unfortunately, what they are missing are the key biblical categories of sin, repentance, and forgiveness.