January 11, 2015

Rector’s Reflection – January 11, 2015

Dateline: Hartford, Conn. (AP) A Connecticut brewery apologized to Indians offended that the company is using Mohandas Gandhi’s name and likeness on one of its beers. New England Brewing Co. sells an India pale ale it calls Gandhi-Bot. The label features a cartoon image depicting a robot version of the late Indian leader, who favored prohibition.

“We apologize to any Indian people that find our Gandhi-Bot label offensive. Our intent is not to offend anyone but rather pay homage and celebrate a man who [sic] we respect greatly,” the Woodbridge-based company wrote over the weekend on its Facebook page. The brewery’s website promotes the Gandhi-Bot beer, which has been distributed about five years, as “fully vegetarian” and “an ideal aid for self-purification and the seeking of truth and love.”

Critics in the U.S. and India have complained about the commercial use of Gandhi, revered for leading India to independence through nonviolence. Proloy K. Das, a Hartford lawyer, tweeted that Connecticut “should be ashamed to be home” to New England Brewing. He told the AP that the issue is not just the use of Gandhi’s name, but also his depiction as something comparable to a robot. “There’s really no spin you can put on this,” he said.

New England Brewing referred questions to its posting on Facebook, where it also urged users not to use its page to argue with those upset by the label. “We want to do our best to be culturally sensitive and respectful,” the brewery said.

New England Brewing posted its apology on Saturday, at about the time criticism began mounting. Newspapers in India reported that a lawyer has brought a case against the beer company in Hyderabad, saying the use of Gandhi’s image violates Indian law as an insult to the nation’s honor.

State Rep. Prasad Srinivasan, a Glastonbury Republican who is from India, said he was “beyond appalled” at the use of Gandhi’s image. “How this celebrates the apostle of peace by putting his image on a beer can boggles one’s mind,” he said.

Tushar Gandhi, the Indian leader’s great-grandson, said Gandhi “abhorred alcohol drinking” and spoke against it, The Telegraph newspaper reported. Gopalkrishna Gandhi, Gandhi’s grandson, was quoted as calling the use of his image “crass and silly.”

Frankly, I’m not offended by this product. I’m offended if someone says something derogatory about my family. To say I am turned off by this product is more accurate. I wouldn’t buy the beer simply because of its name. I think it’s an arrogant and stupid marketing decision, but it’s been around for more than five years, so somebody’s guzzling it down.

What strikes me about this brewing international incident is the brewery’s apology. Their apology serves to remind me that more and more, we have become PEAs: People Expecting Apologies. It doesn’t matter whether we are the offended party, if a TV program wants us to go on line and vote whether jock ‘A’ should apologize for committing ‘B’, by golly we’re there. Say you’re sorry, Jock. Problem solved.

But this is a misunderstanding of what an apology is. An authentic apology is Act 1 in a three-act play; Act 2 is repentance, and Act 3 is amendment of life. It doesn’t appear that the brewery is going to cease production of Gandhi-Bot beer, so why apologize?

Think about the Confession of Sin we say every Sunday. We don’t simply say we are sorry for things done and left undone. God knows we’re sorry; it’s what we intend to so about it that is the key.

Rite II says, “We are [Act 1] truly sorry and we [Act 2] humbly repent…” Why? So that we may [Act 3] “… delight in your will, and walk in your ways…” Rite I says it a bit differently, but the point is the same: “We do [Act 2] earnestly repent, and are [Act 1] heartily sorry for these our misdoings; … forgive us all that is past; and grant that we may ever hereafter [Act 3] serve and please thee in newness of life…”

My advice to the New England Brewery: quit apologizing, because all you are really doing is pandering. If you were sorry, you’d be doing something about it.

And to all the PEAs out there: if you aren’t the offended party, let it go. If you are the offended party, be PEARs… because an apology is like potential energy, it could lead somewhere. Repentance, however, is what puts it into action.