the men, the myths, the legends… JoePa and Luther

For the past several days now it seems the biggest news story has involved college football icon Joe Paterno. Last night both the president of the university and JoePa were removed from their respective positions. But I wonder why so many people are clamoring for more. The alleged details of the situation are somewhat sketchy because it was an assistant that walked in on the man who actually is charged with rape who then told Paterno and then JoePa told the Athletic Director. In the eyes of the law Paterno fulfilled his duties and cannot be held culpable but it seems like more and more people expected him to do more and are now thrilled with his dismissal. Only, the assistant that actually walked in on the act, he’s still on the coaching staff at Penn State right now.

This is what is so intriguing to me about how people are reacting to this story and why it is getting so much media attention right now. The assistant walked into the shower room and found a young boy with an older man and did nothing. He did not remove the boy, he did not call the police, he walked down the hall, told JoePa and now JoePa’s 61 year legacy at Penn State is tarnished. Could JoePa have done more? Yes. Could this assistant have done even more? Yes. In fact each and every person associated with this scenario could have done and should have done more. That’s the problem.

No doubt this is a tragic situation, not only were young boys sexually assaulted, which would be enough to declare this situation tragic, but people proved their inability to care for other members of humanity. What I can’t figure out is why this is so shocking. Turn on the news every day and you will hear stories of rape, murder, fraud, betrayal and more too horrific to describe. It happens here at home in the US and it happens overseas. Families are separated, people are kidnapped, young children forced into becoming soldiers or worse, forced into the sexual slave trade, lent out to the highest bidder. Yet it is the situation at Penn State that has the media up in arms because JoePa didn’t do enough. Well guess what? Nobody does enough.

Today also marks another day in history. On November 10th, 1483 little Martin Luther took his first breaths. This is a guy who is responsible in large part for the defining event of the 16th century in Europe and in the Church, the Protestant Reformation. His little sheet of paper containing the now famous 95 thesis was not meant to change the world, it was offered up with the idea that some scholarly debate could be had. But guess what? He pissed off the wrong people and the rest is history. Yet for all the great things he did and all the fantastic theology that came from his pen people find his image tarnished. A black mark he can’t seem to escape is his little treatise about the Jews and their lies. Another one is how he wouldn’t come to the defense of peasants during their war but rather sided with the government and told that government to crush them. In fact, I could go on and on with story after story that people use to stain the legacy of Luther but I don’t need to because the point is clear, nobody does enough.

Scandals rock the world day in and day out because those people in leadership or those people who should know better don’t act like it. But what if they did? What if people acted the way they should act in and every situation they were ever presented from here on out? Would that guarantee happiness and joy for each and every person on this planet? Not by a long shot. Because the problem with humanity is not its inability to live according to the best way possible. The problem is that the ability doesn’t exist. I could sit here and wonder what life could be like if we all just got along only we can’t, its not realistic. Humanity at its deepest level is broken.

When a baby is born this is perhaps most obvious because the kid cares only for its own well being. As cute and cuddly as it appears, those cries and squawks and coos are all that kids way of reminding you that his or hers needs outweigh yours, that they are more important. We spend the rest of our lives trying to come to the realization that what we thought as a baby, our most primal instincts, isn’t true. That other people matter just as much as we do. No baby comes out of the womb with a note saying, “Go to bed mom I can wait to be fed.” No child is born with a cry that means, “Take some time for yourself dad I can wait to be changed.” This is one of the few things that is true of all human beings, our selfish nature. We have to teach kids to share. We have to teach the value of human life because it is not understood from the get go.

Thinking about people who have really stepped out and messed things up like Hitler, Chairman Mao, or any of the government officials who advocated the slaughtering of the natives so our borders could stretch from sea to shining sea it’s not so hard to see the humanity in them. Because they were living out the most primal desire of human beings, self preservation. Don’t get me wrong, Im not applauding or holding them up as exemplary figures in human history but before one goes accusing them as being monstrous one should first realize that monster also has a face and behind that face is the desire everyone has as a child.

So if this world sucks so much and if people are so broken what chance in hell do we have of making this world a better place? We don’t. People like JoePa and Luther remind us that even the best and brightest of us will screw up, sometimes irrevocably. But that does not mean this world is devoid of hope. It does not mean that there is nothing to which we can turn because there is. Christ. As fundamentalist as it sounds, the answer lies in the cross and resurrection because that event has redefined human existence. The truth of Christianity is not found in a code of conduct for a better life. It cannot be grasped fully and applied in a way that guarantees a better life. The truth of Christianity, that which it holds most dear is Christ himself. The living Son of God who took on this world and all it had to offer and defeated it. In that moment on the cross Christ took on all of the rape, murder, kidnapping, fraud and betrayal this world had to offer and when he rose again the power of those things was made null and death itself was destroyed.

That is what means to believe in a resurrected God, to stand in recognition of a reality greater than the one presented to us on a daily basis. But what does it look like to live in recognition of that? Well, in a lot of ways thats easier to understand than the event itself. Because when I recognize that all the things that plague me, all the things that bring fear to my life have been stamped out I can start living for others. The power of the resurrection in the life of a Christian is not the power to cure everything, escape all suffering, or live a life abundant in wealth, it is the power to be free from fear of this life. Fear that my needs won’t be met. Fear that it could end at any minute. Fear that I won’t be able to live up to the standard. The resurrection removes fear, defeats its power, declares it dead and declares you and I secure for all time. Yet it is up to us to determine how we will live in that security…

3 thoughts on “the men, the myths, the legends… JoePa and Luther

    1. To anyone who takes the time to read it. This blog is about working out my own positions out loud hoping for some feedback rather than being dogmatic about my assertions. Why do you ask?

  1. i work with abused children. i have had SO MANY conversations with coworkers this morning… i would say I’m still young and naive….but what i do know is that joepa DID report it to someone…..WHY is the man who ACTUALLY WITNESSED IT…still coaching…..its all a blur. a huge blur. its a huge tragedy but you’re right. things like this do happen all the time….joepa didn’t do enough? right. its very frustrating whats happening at penn state.

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