Would you listen to domestic abuser Chris Brown?
How far would you go in support of a principle?
No right thinking person could possibly support domestic violence, or violence against women as it is also known. Who could argue that a man who hits a woman shouldn't face the consequences, both legal and social?
So when I read this article by Yasher Ali, arguing that someone who listens to the music of Chris Brown is effectively saying that domestic violence doesn't matter, I was intrigued.
Rapper Chris Brown was charged and convicted in 2009 of assaulting his partner, R&B/dance recording artist Rihanna. Apparently Brown has never expressed remorse for his actions, which included biting his former girlfriend, and remains unrepentent and keen to 'move on with his life'.
Not being a fan of rap, I don't think I've ever deliberately listened to a Chris Brown song, but if I did, I wonder if I would stop listening to him because of his history with domestic violence. What if he was really good? What if I really enjoyed his songs? Would I bring out the old 'separate the art from the artist' line?
Ali argues this (and refers to rapper R Kelly and actors Charlie Sheen and Mel Gibson, all who have been involved in domestic violence in the past):
This idea of separating the artistry from the person is perfectly plausible if the artist, when guilty of making mistakes, is truly repentant. And it’s also plausible when these mistakes do not cause physical harm on other people.
But, I (and all of us), must draw the line at supporting and enriching men who are pedophiles, in Kelly’s case, and virtually unrepentant domestic abusers in the case of Brown, Sheen, and Gibson. There is a difference between an artist who makes mistakes and an artist who abuses women (or men) and lacks any sense of remorse.
I feel funny about this. In the last month I blogged about how much I enjoyed The Beaver, Mel Gibson's latest film, and said the words, "Whatever you think of the man, he is a great actor."
There are a lot of things in the world that I think are wrong, destructive and morally reprehensible. Gun trafficking, sex trafficking, drug trafficking, assault, slavery, exploitation of the poor, child abuse, exploitation and discrimination of any group in society that lacks power, including women. Then there is climate change and the degradation of the environment, the subtle abuses of power in every day language, stealing stationery from the office cupboard, avoiding taxes or doing creative bookwork, taking advantage of others, shaming children, avoiding pain by overeating or overusing alcohol, speaking meanly to shop assistants, making inappropriate jokes and giving car drivers the bird.
Ali wants me to boycott Chris Brown because he is a domestic abuser. That's easy for me to do. But how am I going to boycott things that support the other evils in our world? I buy clothing from chain stores - which (I'm sure) don't pay their workers enough. I eat chocolate, for which (its more than likely) children have had to harvest cocoa beans. I have a mobile phone, which relies on the 'conflict mineral' cassiterite to make it vibrate. Who knows how many women and children have been raped in Congo because of that trade?
Domestic violence is an easy 'sin' to condemn. I condemn it. There is no excuse. Chris Brown should repent and change his life. But if you take Ali's argument to its logical conclusion, which is that we should all boycott things that support evils in this world, then there is nothing left to eat, wear, do, buy or grow.
The fact is, our whole world is broken. Everything is tainted. Nothing is pure. Every person on this planet has done evil and has been in a morally wrong place at one time or another. I can't live on the moral high ground because I am a person as well. My heart is not clean.
And the second fact is, we can't change this world ourselves. No amount of trying or boycotting will stop the evil that is all around us. We are completely reliant on the grace of God, shown best in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, who took our punishment for us.
Instead of boycotting Chris Brown, I would prefer to say, "Chris, you were wrong. But there is grace if you will repent. I'm just like you. I do violence in my heart. But God is good, and his grace is big and free."