Who deserves our sympathy? Reflections on the weekend’s news.

What a sad weekend it has been. We’ve all been shocked by the terrible atrocities that happened in Norway on Friday, this, for me, was compounded by the media’s cavalier approach to reporting the news – basing much of what they were saying on pure speculation.

And then, the news broke about Amy Winehouse’s death. I saw this break first on Twitter and then eventually come out in the ‘official’ news outlets.

This was all terribly sad but what I found even worse were the comments made about Winehouse. Yes, we knew she was a drug addict, yes, few of us were surprised by her death but there was no need to be so vitriolic about something as sad as a talented young woman dying at the age of 27. People were immediately saying on Facebook and Twitter that our sympathies shouldn’t be directed towards Amy Winehouse and her family but the ‘worthier’ victims of the Oslo attacks.

Just because an atrocity happened to take place around the same time as the death of Amy Winehouse doesn’t make her death any the less sad or ‘deserving’ of our sympathy.

People seem to have this strange hierarchy in their minds of what is and isn’t a ‘worthy’ victim. It reminded me of this clever sketch from the controversial satirical programme Brass Eye:

A similar thing happened earlier this year with the gloating over the death of Osama Bin Laden.

All of this has left a bad taste in my mouth – partly because I am guilty of doing this as well. However, I really objected to the implication of some of the tweets I saw that if I expressed sympathy about the death of Amy Winehouse that that somehow was an insult to those who died in Oslo. That really is absurd. As someone pointed out in a discussion about this on Facebook:

just don’t really understand how the death of a 27 year old woman can ever not be tragic

Jesus spent a lot of his time challenging the outlook of the religious leaders of his day. You only have to think of the story of the woman caught in adultery to see what kind of response Jesus would have to the death of Amy Winehouse:

John 8

2 At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them.3 The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group4 and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery.5 In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?”6They were using this question as a trap,in order to have a basis for accusing him.

But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger.7 When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”8 Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.

9 At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there.10 Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”

11 “No one, sir,” she said.

“Then neither do I condemn you,”Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

I’m just glad that the God I serve does not think like we do, His love is unconditional:

 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the LORD.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.

– Isaiah 55: 8-9

This is my prayer, that I might think and act more like Jesus:

Philippians 2

1 Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

6 Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
7 rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!

9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.


My thoughts and prayers are with the people of Norway and the family and friends of Amy Winehouse.

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