Friday, November 11, 2011

410 AD

Because of the inaction of a handful of men, a dozen boys – or more – and their families had to experience abuse, humiliation, and degradation. Now the reputation of an empire lies in ruins, the far-flung roots of its legacy suddenly choked by fast-growing weeds.

It’s as though we’ve watched in helpless horror as glorious Rome is felled by the brutal Visigoths. Their stubborn axes and blazing swords sliced through tradition, pride, centuries of success, the institution itself. As our minds fought against the realization, we knew in our hearts that these vicious barbarians were hardly an outside force of drifters plotting against the crown jewel of civilization.

These villains were from within.

Can there be a more heart-breaking image?

I feel as though I have already heard every opinion there is to be had on the subject of the Penn State sex scandal. Among the two dozen people at work alone, I’ve heard Joe Paterno defended, degraded, and damned. I’ve watched social media sights catch fire with both blazing condemnation and deep sympathy. I’ve listened to the media rehash the timeline; I’ve read articles; I’ve heard broadcasts.

And I’ve determined that the Second Mile incidents are truly the least of our worries.

Picture this scenario: a man, who is specifically chosen to protect, honor, serve, and love, chooses to relax his guard. When the enemy launches an attack on the one he is assigned to protect, the man watches, disinterested, instead of reacting with anger and disgust. The man had laid down his arms instead of using them to defend. He has, in effect, castrated himself, and the one he was supposed to defend is deceived, taken hostage, and abused.

Sound familiar?

It should, if you’ve ever read the first book of the Bible.

I’m talking about Adam.

We often get the image that Adam was out naming animals or talking to lizards when Satan, in the form of a snake, approached Eve to seduce her with his lies. In fact, Adam was standing right next to his wife when the enemy attacked (Genesis 3:6). He heard the same things Eve did, and when she chose to listen, he allowed her to bring destruction upon them both – and all of civilization, even down to us. Don’t get me wrong; this is no man-bashing, hyper-feminist messageWomen on the whole have our own debilitating shortcomings, but that’s another story (which I will also eventually share). What I am saying is that Adam had the opportunity to at least try to protect Eve. She might have changed her mind; she might not have. After all, God did grant us free will. However, Adam did absolutely nothing. He chose inactivity. He chose passivity.

And the same thing, it appears, lives on. From Eden to Happy Valley, men have chosen inactivity. Some women fear men who tend towards aggression or gruffness – who have no sense of their “feminine” sides. Me, I fear men who tend towards weak-mindedness, who have fragile wills and little sense of morality or ethics – men whose sense of valor is skewed. They bravely fight for better wages, for their own self-worth or their reputations, yet cast aside their families, their sense of duty, their legacies. These are the Adams of today, who shun their masculinity in favor of their pride.

True masculinity doesn't dwell in the purchase of muscle cars, the keeping of a mistress, or a paycheck.  Even though we know this, we buy the lie that real men don't cry.  They play sports - tough sports.  They have jobs - important jobs.  We joke about the dim-wittedness of the average American father figure (Homer Simpson, anyone?)  We encourage men to be sexual and aggressive, andif they are not, we dismiss them as weak or effeminate.

I have, however, in my life known mild-mannered men who still managed to stand by their convictions. My pastor, for example, is one of them. He is soft-spoken and gentle, but his principles are unshakable.  My husband is another. He is good-natured, a peace-maker, but also keenly aware of his role as a husband, a son, and a mentor to the younger men in the church. He is quiet but he is not passive.

The men involved in this scandal, however, were. That was their key failing. Many witnessed evil being done, and none acted to stop it. None acted to prevent future evil, or make things right. Had I been in a similar situation, I would like to think that I would have spoken up. Would fear have gripped me, too? Would the fact that, with a single word, I could topple a kingdom have played a role in my decision? Would I have been as hard-nosed as the “good” cops on prime-time dramas, who valiantly go toe-to-toe with corrupt district attorneys? Would I have been trapped by shame, fear, and silence? Would the reputation of thousands of alumni, fans, and professors rest too heavily on my shoulders for me to speak?

Earlier, I compared Penn State to ancient Rome. Penn State is not an institution; it’s an identity. And it’s not just the young boys who were victims in this tragedy, but also the scores of people who found themselves lost in that cheering sea of blue and white. The tree was still beautiful on the outside, protected by gilded layers of tradition and triumph, but inside it was rotten, and now the future of its very roots is in question.

Our words are weapons to wound, indeed, but they can also be our defense – or the defense of those who cannot speak.

These men chose to lay down their swords.

And an empire fell.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011


If you haven't heard about Kim Kardashian's multi-million dollar wedding and subsequent divorce proceedings, well, you're probably Amish (or my husband, who shuns social media as much as possible and who still thinks the Kardashians are aliens on Star Trek).  And I'm jealous of you.

Here's the thing.  I really didn't want to discuss this sort of thing at all - not on my blog, not in person, not anywhere.  Too much has already been said; too many hurtful, judgmental words, and too much arrogant criticism...especially by Christians.

I was disturbed to read that a Christian leader whom I greatly admire had shot off a few snarky comments on Twitter about the state of Ms. Kardashian's marriage, and about celebrities in general.  What was said was both perceptive and accurate...but it was also unnecessary and not helpful.  And it made me stop and think about my initial reaction to the whole debacle.  I had joined in on the discussion around the water cooler, denouncing the Kardashian family's lifestyle, bemoaning the fact that, for $20 million, whole villages in Africa could have eaten for months, or hundreds of battered women in big cities could have been given safety, or reconstruction and rescue attempts could continue in Turkey.  I had scathingly agreed that the two couldn't possibly have attended any type of pre-marital counseling, because any self-respecting counselor would have, despite their celebrity status, warned them to proceed very cautiously.  I shook my head as I said, aloud, that my goal was to have my future children grow up in a world where they would have to ask, "Who were the Kardashians?" because such lavish celebrity lifestyles would have long since vanished.

But, after hearing from some other Christian sources who advocated prayer for Kim and Kris, I had to rethink my stance.  I still believe that the wedding had been an obscene waste of money, and that the whole "famous-for-being-famous" trend simply has to stop, but now I'm starting to wonder...why wasn't sympathy my first response to this situation?  No, I don't know them.  No, I can't fathom what it is like to have more money than I could ever properly spend.  No, I am not photographed for endorsements and advertisements, nor do I have my name attached to lines of perfume, clothing, and make-up.  But, like Kim, I longed for a fairy tale romance.  Granted, that's surely where the similarities end (oh, and I had to get x-rays of my butt, too, to prove that I am totally the real deal), but what if I had friends whose new marriage was crumbling?  Maybe there had been some deception, or some disappointment, or a tragedy that one of the spouses had never needed to deal with before. 

Frankly, I am sure that there are couples whose marriage fell apart over what Ross and I had to endure this year.  It's so easy to blame, to accuse, to condemn when something horrific happens - a death or an accident.  Our faith alone allowed us to grow closer together in the midst of great sorrow.

Maybe celebrities are at no higher a risk for divorce than the rest of us, but their troubles are surely more available for us to review.  Just as one would examine a fine collectible up for auction, we appraise them, prod them, poke them, and finally, sit back and make our offer.  "Shameful," we finally sigh.  "Terrible home life."  "Wasteful."  "All beauty, no brains."  "Is this the best you can do?"

I am fairly certain that I would have made entirely different lifestyle choices if I had Kim Kardashian's looks, money, or fame.  But then again, I couldn't promise that, could I?  I am not excusing anything she has done.  I stand by my belief that, even if her marriage had lasted, the money spend on the wedding would have been wasted.  I still maintain that the American public's morbid fascination with Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton, and the Kardashians needs to stop.   It's not doing us - or the celebrities - any real good.  Still, Kim Kardashian is a person.  I don't know her character or her nature, but God knows her and loves her and does want the best for her.  I just have a feeling that his idea of the best and hers are very different. 

I also have a feeling that his idea is much, much better.

Open your eyes, Ms. Kardashian.  There's so much more to life.