In Nathaniel Hawthorne's 'The Scarlet Letter,' Hester Prynne was tried and convicted of adultery. Her punishment was to wear a brilliant red colored letter "A" at all times - the titular scarlet letter. This was her mark, her brand, her label. This "A" was not meant as discipline. The people of Boston had one purpose for Hester's scarlet letter: to shame her - publicly humiliate her.
Part of me wants to say I am thankful that we live in a better society today. But that isn't entirely true. Sure, public shunning has been removed from the verdicts of our judicial system. Yet we have not eliminated humiliation as a form of punishment, we have only found more complex ways to do it.
+ Consider The Village Church's treatment of Karen Hinkley when she filed to annul her marriage after learning of her husband's disgusting porn habit.
+ Consider the coordinated online harassment, hate mail, and threats of death and rape that Zoë Quinn and Anita Sarkeesian faced during gamergate.
+ Consider social media's wrath against Victor Paul Alvarez and Justine Sacco for jokes they made in bad taste.
+ Consider the backlash against big game hunters after Walter Palmer killed Cecil the lion.
We have not ended the practice - we made it an art-form. And we're more relentless than ever before.
Any kid that was bullied in school know there are certain words that are just as devastating as Hester's "A." Retard. Gay. Slut. When I was a kid, that word was nerd.
Words carry weight and when used as a label they stick. For most of my life, words like geek and nerd and loser have been my scarlet letters. Intended to wound, to humiliate, to shame, to brand me as weird.
As mentioned in my previous post, I have grown to embrace the geek label. I wear it like a badge of honor. I celebrate my nerdish ways and revel in geekery. Through this, I have discovered a heart for the freaks and geeks like me who were left out and overlooked.
My love for my fellow nerds and outcasts goes deeper than identifying as a part of the tribe. It is more than being one of those picked on and labeled.
I truly believe that God made me a geek. That this personality is His gift to me. I also feel like He has given me a heart for those who are the last one's picked, who are braving their way through this judgmental world.
The more I study the Bible, the more I am convinced my soul is in the right place.
+ Again and again, scripture points to a God of the losers. The books of Luke and Mark contain a story about Jesus being criticized for hanging out with sinners. Jesus responded, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners." In a similar story from the book of Matthew, Jesus added "go and learn what this means: 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice.'" He didn't come here for winners, the champions, or the self-made. He came to give victory to the losers.
+ Again and again, scripture points to a God of the underdogs. He is a God who called a powerless and oppressed nation of slaves to be His people. A Savior who asked a bunch of blue collar misfits to be His disciples, and used the most unlikely people to spread His story to the ends of the earth.
+ Again and again, scripture points to a God of the brokenhearted. In the Psalms, David describes a God who does not delight in animal sacrifice or burnt offerings. He wrote, "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise." Elsewhere, he says "The Lord is close to the brokenhearted, and he saves those whose spirits have been crushed." Another psalmist wrote God "heals the brokenhearted and bandages their wounds."
+ Again and again, scripture points to a God of the outcasts and the overlooked. The book of James refers to the care of orphans and widows to be a pure and undefiled religion. Jewish law is filled with instruction to care for the poor, the fatherless, the widows, and the foreigner. In the Gospels, Jesus frequently takes time to express love to kids. Jesus heals and extends grace to those on fringes of culture. He parties with prostitutes and corrupt government workers. He gives dignity to people shunned by society.
When I was picked on and pushed around in junior high, that was my God. When I was a high school student eating lunch in the auditorium with the other theater geeks, that was my God. When I spent my time as a young adult at concerts or playing Halo with my musician friends, that was my God. When the grown man version of me was ridiculed for my affinity of science fiction, horror, and music with screaming in it, that was my God.
Now as a parent raising geeky kids, He is still my God. As I introduce my kids to the Star Wars universe, to the writings of J. R. R. Tolkien, to comic books, to modern superheroes and Greek mythology, to theories about time travel and parallel worlds. He is still my God.
He is the God of geeks like me. I love nerd culture because God loves nerds. I have a heart for those that don't fit in because God is on their side.
At the end of Hawthorne's novel, Hester Prynne returned to Boston after years of absence and resumed working for charity. She still wore her scarlet letter, though there was no need for her to do so. Her time of punishment had ended and the people around town no longer used the "A" to mock her. In fact, Hawthorne wrote that it "ceased to be a stigma" and it was instead "looked upon with awe, and yet with reverence, too." Hester did not need to wear her "A," yet she still chose to do so.
Similarly, there is no need for me to brand myself a geek but I still do. Because I now refuse to allow it to be a term of scorn or derision. It is my scarlet letter and I gladly wear it with honor.