Schadenfreude, what a great word. It rolls off the tongue It means “harm-joy” in German. And it’s the opposite of true joy.
Joy is part of the fruit of the Spirit, but “harm-joy” most definitely is not. It’s more a rotten apple, a creeping noxious weed whose tendrils snake their way into the Christian garden, surfacing at opportune times, such as when we seemingly “get a win” in the ongoing culture wars.
Hence it was Schadenfreude time in Australia the past couple of days, as activist Roz Ward took a hit, the architect of the Safe Schools Coalition program getting suspended from her job at Melbourne’s La Trobe University over her comments disparaging the Australian flag.
And didn’t the comments below the line in the newspapers love it, many a would-be hack rubbing their hands with glee, when they weren’t rubbing it in.
Earlier this week I took a swipe at her behaviour too, but I ended my piece with these words:
As much as I dislike her tone, attitude, politics and agenda, I have a philosophy on life and an understanding of human dignity made in the image of the Creator that will never allow me to forcefully silence her.
There is no room in the Christian life for Schadenfreude. None at all. How could there be when we worship a God who says in Ezekiel 33:11:
I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked would turn from his way and live.
Granted, God is speaking of Israel, but God surely takes no pleasure from any of those who are created in his image going to ruinous destruction, His people or not.
Now that does not mean we cannot be grateful when the wicked, or the pernicious (in our eyes) do not get their way, but the radical call of the gospel is to love your enemies and to pray for those who seek your harm.
Perhaps, just perhaps, rather than join the chorus of below-the-line Schadenfreude commentators in the increasingly bitter election campaign Australia is experiencing, Christians could publicly express their misgivings and commit to pray for their enemies.
Who knows? That could even make the news headlines, never mind the comments section.