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Forgiving the Faults of Our Idols

January 27, 2012

Yesterday I took Moose in for his follow up appointment. I didn’t particularly want to be in the room for the follow up procedures, so I stayed in the waiting area and worked on a Modern Bible post. After awhile though, I had to plug my headphones in and do something else to block out the sound of the television.

The channel was turned to some sport show that was doing commentary on the Joe Paterno memorial. I understand that people at a memorial service aren’t going to bring up the dead person’s faults. But the amount of adulation for Paterno was making me a little ill.

It is my understanding that Paterno was a great football coach. Not being a fan of football myself, I couldn’t really say. He did encourage education in a culture which doesn’t seem to care what the player scores on the test, so long as they score well on the field. If these were his greatest accomplishments, he would surely be a worthy idol and all his faults forgotten.

There are some faults, however, that I feel cannot be forgiven. It may not have been Paterno who was caught in the shower raping a little boy. But from the moment he knew that it was going on, it was Paterno’s responsibility to make sure it stopped. Whether or not he did right by going to the university first, he did wrong by not following up when it was clear that the university intended to look the other way. Every day that he averted his eyes from the horror happening in his own house, he became that much more complicit in the act.

We tend to forgive a lot of our idols. Actors, musicians, artists, and politicians are all forgiven for their faults. Right up to the point where they commit some unforgivable sin. For me, ignoring the rape of little boys is just that sort of sin. Regardless of the good he did from that moment on, every act from there on out was tainted by his silence. Paterno made a big difference in the lives of a lot of young men under his care. Imagine the difference he could have made in the lives of those little boys.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. January 27, 2012 9:53 am

    Someone I talk to on twitter said something about Paterno, and you would not believe the onslaught of hate messages he started getting from Penn State fans.

    • January 27, 2012 10:12 am

      Oh, I would. I’ve seen some of the bile that is directed at anyone who speaks ill of Saint Joe. It’s part of the reason I put off writing this until today. I wasn’t sure if I could cope with the expected backlash earlier this week. I just couldn’t put it off any longer after watching the way that people talked about him yesterday. Some of the comments had the reverence and fervor of devout believers at the site of a recent martyrdom.

  2. January 27, 2012 5:21 pm

    This came up at work the other day and the dividing lines of who thinks he’s a gift and those who saw both the his accomplishments and his faults was surprising. Do you mind if i share this with some folks at work (credit given of course.)?

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