(Today's post is a guest post by longtime reader Matty P. If you would like to guest write for us, please check out our guest post guidelines. We look forward to publishing reader posts on future Thursdays.)
His name was Rainbow. Probably wasn’t his given name, but that’s how he introduced himself to me and my fraternity brothers. He came to us in the summer of my junior year at UC Santa Barbara, a vagrant in the truest sense. He was on a trek from Santa Barbara to San Francisco with only what he could carry on his back and pack onto his three wheeled bike.
Rainbow was a Christian. I mention this because it’s not only integral to the story, but understanding his personality as well. He took the teachings of Christ so seriously he gave up his possessions because of the story of the rich man who would not give up his wealth to follow Christ. Such was his love and resolve.
Rainbow was only passing through Santa Barbara. He'd heard that we were a Christian fraternity and asked to stay with us for a few days, setting up a tent in our back yard and proselytizeing to the locals before he continued on his journey. We agreed because it was a unique opportunity for us as a house to learn from an individual who lived quite strictly to “Christ’s laws,” as he called it.
On his last night with us, Rainbow went to talk with another homeless man that lived around our street, the man we had dubbed, "Legion." We called him Legion (a Biblical reference to possession) because he claimed to be influenced by voices, hated Christianity, and occasionally claimed to be “of the devil.” We’d talked with Rainbow about Legion previously and Rainbow didn’t want to leave Santa Barbara without confronting the disturbed man.
We heard Legion screaming, but this was not new; he would occasionally scream at cats or the voices only he could hear. We heard something new this time; we could also hear Rainbow pleading with him. Rainbow wished to pray with Legion but Legion would have none of it. We stood on our porch watching the spectacle. It began with a push and escalated to Legion flailing wildly and throwing Rainbow to the ground.
I ran to call the police as two of my fraternity brothers rushed to Rainbow’s aid. While Rainbow was on the ground, he didn’t fight back. He simply curled himself into a ball and screamed as loud as he could: “Jesus loves you!” and “I forgive you!” and “God bless you!”
Legion eventually ran away when he saw people coming to intervene. And Rainbow himself seemed unharmed other than being slightly tenderized. Rainbow refused to file a report with the police. He never tried to talk with Legion again and soon he was gone, continuing on his journey north.
What remained was something the three of us would always remember. This was an actual demonstration of passivity in literal terms. Rainbow refused to defend himself from attack and even went so far as to bless his enemy. It was something we wondered whether we could and even whether we should do given what we individually believe and the world we live in. The three of us each came to our own conclusions, but the moral question remains.
Can and should a Christian, or any pacifist, love his fellow man so much as to allow him or herself to endure pain or even death?