When my son got mugged

When my son called to tell us that he’d been mugged, I was furious. My stomach roiled at the thought of his broken tooth and the stitches his companions had to get.

The assailants were stereotypical hoodie-wearing street thieves in Seattle. They went straight to violence, stole wallets and phones, and fled in a waiting car. It had gone off just like the hoodlums had planned.

What was ironic is that I had been watching a movie that played out similarly the night my son was being mugged. Attack the Block begins with inner-city London teens waylaying a young nurse, stealing wallet, phone, and jewelry. The main character, Moses (played by John Boyega of recent Star Wars VII fame), completes his moral descent by accepting a job dealing drugs. But redemption is just around the corner for him after this low point, thanks to an invasion of dayglo-toothed aliens. By the time the crowd at the end of the movie is chanting his name, Moses has both returned the stolen property to the nurse and saved the world from invasion through selfless heroism. It’s a gritty but fun watch.

I can only hope for a similar redemption for my son’s attackers.

The connection between violent theft and drugs is well-chronicled. A certain hardness of heart has to set in for human beings to prey upon other humans, dealing soul-killing drugs and doing violence to unsuspecting people to steal phones they’ll sell for a mere fraction of their worth.

Somewhere along the way, they’ve devalued their own souls and own lives and those of others as a result. They’ve lost their image-of-God identities and have become beasts.

But as Attack the Block suggests, no one — even the one who preys on the weak — is beyond redemption. The willingness to be redeemed may be the hardest part of it. (Lord knows that I prefer to walk on my own two feet than to be redeemed by anyone.)

My anger is both that violence and theft was done to my son, trivializing his humanity in the process. But my anger, too, is that the hoodlums did violence to themselves at the same time, trivializing their own humanity.

My son will survive this. He will not give in to racism. He will pay off what he owes on his phone and get another one. He will get a new driver’s license. He will go back to his several summer jobs and then back to college, preparing to be a good and contributing citizen and neighbor and friend. And hopefully, he will pray for his assailants, asking God to save them from the mess they’ve gotten themselves into, asking for mercy instead of revenge.

I’m angry. And I’m good with being angry. Anger is a sign that something is wrong in the world. And it is one of the best triggers to pray that I know of. So, instead of roaming the streets in search of vengeance, I search for the heart of God as I pray for my son and those who threw him to the ground. May they all be lifted up.