In the busyness of the Christmas season, I'll be reposting some of my favorite posts and scaling back my original content. Leading up to New Year's I'll be posting a best-of 2012. This particular post was published in January and had the most comments this year (in fact, comments are still coming in!).
The tweet read "this is perhaps the biggest scandal in the history of college football." It was followed by, "Filing this report made me sick to my stomach." Obviously the first tweet caught my attention. The second made this a must-click. The tweets were from Yahoo Sports report Dan Wetzel, who broke the Gary Sandusky story. A simple recap if you're not familiar (and a simple recap does not do this story justice): Gary Sandusky was a former assistant coach at Penn State University who headed up a youth foundation out of an office there. The first break was simply a report of Grand Jury testimony describing how a then-graduate assistant observed Sandusky molesting a young boy in the Penn State football locker room. Like most things of this magnitude, this was only the tip of the iceberg. Eventually, more names surfaced, Sandusky was arrested, and famed head coach Joe Paterno was forced out of his job. Sadly, last week Joe Pa passed away with this cloud still hanging over his otherwise record-setting legacy.
It's a shame really. Just like you cannot say Catholic priest without conjuring up images of that scandal, so it is likely to forever be with Joe Paterno. Never mind anything else he had done over the course of his career, this is too awful to leave as a footnote in his biography.
I'm glad I didn't get around to posting last week, as I really didn't want to pile on. This story disgusts me, and I'm not writing about it just to get more hits to my blog. But the popular public face hiding the seedy underbelly of Penn State football, where Legends and Leaders are more important than integrity and protecting those who cannot protect themselves, kept coming to mind as I was reading the fifth chapter of Kyle Idleman's Not A Fan, "following Jesus or following the rules?" In this chapter, Kyle calls our attention to the "seven woes" in Matthew 23 where Jesus lashes out against the religious elite.
Six of the seven woes begin, "Woe to you, teachers of the Law and Pharisees, you hypocrites!" While we throw around that word, hypocrite, we usually don't think of what it actually means. I've read both that it means the actors in Greek plays or that it means the masks they wear. Either way, the word is synonymous with, duplicitous, two-faced, masked, or putting on an act. As more evidence of the Penn State scandal it appears that administrators at Penn State, including head coach Joe Paterno, were more concerned about the reputation of their university and football program than exposing, reporting, and prosecuting the truth. Literally, they were hypocrites. (And to be fair, it is still not clear the extent of who knew what, but the dismissals of their Athletic Director and famed head coach indicates that they knew enough to act, but chose not to. Their motives may never be known.)
But like I continue to say through these series of posts, this isn't a sports blog. Yet we can learn a lot from the headlines around us to cause us to pause and consider our own motives and our own religiosity. Christians are notorious for condemning vice from the soapbox while engaging in that very same vice behind closed doors; putting on our Sunday best while acting differently the rest of the week. It is the contrast between being religious and being faithful. Or in the context of this book, being a fan or a follower.
If we can learn anything from the Sandusky case, it is that not exposing the truth often leads to more hurt as bad behavior is enabled by inaction. We may be tempted to be hypocrites to protect some private sin, but that only allows the sin to grow. In the case of the Pharisees, their hypocrisy hurt not only themselves but also those whose very souls they were responsible for. The Pharisees were guilty of piling on rules upon rules that they themselves did not obey. And when we become more concerned about our spiritual image, we neglect the condition of our hearts.
The hypocrisy of the Sandusky case is stomach-turning. We need to have the same gag-reflex to spiritual hypocrisy. Our sin needs to disgust us to the point of being sick.
"So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to [vomit] you out of my mouth." (Revelation 3:16)
"As a dog returns to its vomit, so a fool repeats his folly." (Proverbs 26:11)
This post continues my series blogging through the book, Not A Fan by Kyle Idleman. I encourage you to follow along by clicking on the Not A Fan label to the right. And I urge you to pick up a copy of this book for yourself.