The Hound of Heaven
Today's UPI column
So There I was…
eating a plate of nachos and watching the tube. I like TV -- no apologies no excuses. I am a teller and collector of stories, and TV grists my mill.
One of my favorite stories lives on the A and E channel. Duane “Dog” Chapman -- a.k.a. “The Bounty Hunter” is, hands down, the winner of the “Reality TV as morality play” award. He is so real that if he chops onions on TV you are gonna cry. Carl Jung would not have enough archetypes to describe this guy. Dostoyevski could not write a better po’ man’s Jesus.
Each week Dog and his crew of family and friends chase down Hawaiian criminals who have failed to show up for court. They always get their prey -- helped out by the fact that meth makes dumb criminals dumber.
This is how “Real” Dog is. His theme song is by Ozzy Osborne. His public success has propelled him to actually marry Beth, his beloved cohabiter of 16 years, the mother of his children. He has perfected the rooster-combed, feather bedecked mullet to a level that Billy Ray Cyrus could only dream of. Dog keeps it real by taking the viewer along to his boot maker in Denver who not only puts on the silver tips on his Cuban stacked cowboy boots but also puts in the lifts that make Dog stand tall, well, sort of tall anyway. How do you not love a testosterone soaked man who can run down criminals and jump fences in high heels and a bouffant?
But what I really love about Dog is the theology. This man embodies the key aspects of every great spirituality ever lived out on this planet; Justice, Mercy, Truth, Grace. He is especially good at living out the Divine paradox of justice vs. mercy. While out on the chase, Dog is all justice. He is heaven chasing you down for your sins with an unremitting persistence. C. S. Lewis called this aspect of the Divine the Hounds of Heaven. I am telling you, if Dog Chapman is barking up your tree you might as well come on down.
But the paradox flips as soon as the bad boy is cuffed and put in the back seat of the SUV. See, Dog is tough in crime, but soft on criminals. This comes from his personal experience as a repentant criminal.
The Gospel according to Dog
“This is a second chance business and we are good at it because we are second chance people.”
If that ain’t the Gospel, this Quaker preacher don’t know no Gospel! Life is a second chance business, and we live it before a second chance God.
On the ride from the capture to the jail there is “The Talk” -- truth, speaking what it knows. Humanity is found in the vilest offender as he is often given a chance to call his mother. Compassion is doled out with smokes lit and gently placed on the lips of the rather frazzled handcuffed. And then the lesson is taught.
My favorite example was a guy named Cliff. His girlfriend had gone his bail, but revoked it when Cliff got controlling, threatening and abusive. Girl steps out -- Dog steps in -- followed by a hard, adrenaline fueled, take down, then the ride. Dog takes one look in this guy’s eyes and sees the fear behind the aggression, and he melts, again.
DC: “Man, don’t you have any brothers?”
C: “No, man.”
DC: “Well, you got brothers now – What the (bleep) do you think you were doing!?!”
Dog gets Cliff to admit that his behavior was based on his fear that the girlfriend would leave him. Then follows the lesson.
DC: “Repeat after me. You cannot threaten a woman to make her love you.”
C: (dejectedly) “You cannot threaten a woman to make her love you.”
DC: ”You cannot hit a woman to make her love you.”
C: “You cannot hit a woman to make her love you.”
Dog asks again, this time leaving blanks for Cliff to fill in
DC: “You cannot”
DC: “A woman to make her”
C: “Love you”
Cliff repeats this lesson all the way to the jail, where Dog Chapman agrees to renew his bond because Cliff’s mother is in a wheelchair and needs her son’s help. Grace thy name is Dog.
Don’t you just wish we could dispense that kind of justice, mercy, truth and grace in some really high places?
Repeat after me, Mr Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Rove
“You cannot win hearts and mind by bombing people.”
“You cannot win hearts and minds by threatening to bomb people.”
“You cannot win hearts and minds by invading people.”
Thus ends the lesson.