Baltimore Ravens’ Ray Rice got caught. The video of his violence against his then fiancé, now wife Janay Palmer has offended every compassionate person that has seen it. Evening news has been consumed with the story, and it is everywhere on social media.
As it should be.
Ray Rice is a metaphor of our times. He stands for anyone who objectifies another human being and turns them into something else such as a punching bag, an object of abuse, or something to be taken advantage of sexually or in some other way. While the violence of Ray Rice is not to be diminished, I would say the doorway into that violence is objectification.
Objectification happens when a man whistles or makes cat calls at a woman in his proximity. To do such a disgusting thing, he has to ignore her humanity, intelligence, and rights. To do so requires that he suspend his own capacity to be kind, noble, and respectful. Such a person is sometime said to “think out of his zipper” which means he is not using his brain but rather his animal impulses.
This is humanity at its worst. Humanity without intelligence, compassion, or dignity. It is the lowest form of humanity.
Objectification also occurs when one person treats another person as a project. Such as when a salesman pretends to care about you, all the while working you to make the sale. It happens when someone uses a “friendship” to exploit you. Like a friend did when he called me after years of no contact to sell me something. “You can buy this excellent health supplement by going to my wife’s website. Blah, blah, blah.” I went deaf.
Churches may likewise objectify others. Like when a person is asked to use their position, power, or wealth for the church, sometimes even before developing a relationship with them. Or when they are turned into an evangelism project apart from any friendship and participation in church life.
In a world of respect, people are not objectified. Each person is treated with deference and nobility. Clearly, violence against another person is in a class by itself when it comes to harm done. At the same time, it is easier to be violent to someone who is just an object and not a person. Like Ray Rice did to Janay Palmer. Or when any human being uses vulgar or epithetic terms to refer to another person.
Respect, on the other hand, makes one think about the Other in kind and compassionate ways. Violence of any sort is not a possibility where there is respect. Nor is treating someone like a project or a sales opportunity.