Saturday, July 3, 2010


I’m sure you’ve seen pictures of snipes, a member of the wader family who are close relatives to the woodcock. They have a long slender bill that they use like a sewing machine to catch their invertebrate prey and look like they could scissor anything that comes into their view into tiny bits. If you’ve ever been the victim of a human sniper, you can draw close parallels to the behavior of this wading bird.

A few days ago, a good friend of mine became the object of the kind of human sniper who fits the definition: “to criticize adversely a person or persons from a position of security; to make underhand remarks or attacks.” Such a “bird” with the long sharp bill also uses innuendo to achieve his/her purposes and is very adept at doing this from a distant or concealed place.

Human snipers who attack with malice are the antithesis of those who practice civility, often masquerading behind the secure title of “Christian” while they point out perceived flaws in other persons, and when challenged, claim “it’s the other person’s fault.” Narcissists are a variation of the sniper species and are very adept at sniping, bombarding people with little bursts of criticism in short, precise blasts so that victims frequently don’t know what hit them.

Sniping is prevalent in the media, amidst politicians, church-goers, and in the workplace where the art of civility, which I have written about before, has almost become defunct. Snipers don’t anger mature people so much as they unjustly hurt sensitive feelings, and they have an uncanny sense of knowing certain persons’ vulnerability. Their game is called “gotcha,” and it’s an old game that persists in select clannish cultures that prize sarcasm and ridicule, and whose members use people to their advantage.

I once read Scott Peck’s book entitled THE PEOPLE OF THE LIE, a treatise on human evil, and came across the statement that most of us can tell when a person is genuinely evil by the repulsion we feel when someone like a sniper approaches. The advice he gave is akin to the advice that I shared with my injured friend: “Run like hell.” However, in my personal theology, there’s no shame in speaking the truth. Most snipers use non-sequiturs to divert victims from delivering the truth to them.

Christ himself was deeply angered at snipers, those Pharisees and Sadducees who played the “gotcha” game with him. He didn’t excuse the behavior, drip syrupy platitudes into their vicious game playing, but answered them back pretty strongly: “Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you lock people out of the kingdom of heaven. For you do not go in yourselves and when others are going in, you stop them. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! .For you tithe mint, dill, and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the Law: justice and mercy and faith. …you clean the outside of the cup and of the plate but inside are full of greed and self-indulgence…”

I told my friend not to feel badly if she acted defensively and directed pertinent questions to the offender. Sniping is an unjust game and it wasn’t my friend’s fault that she felt the same kind of irritation and indignation that the “One Whom None Can Hinder” experienced while he was dealing with those unjust Pharisees he called “vipers.”

Viper…sniper…they’re one and the same.

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