Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Penn State situation

Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. (James 3:1)

It is a sad day for many of us, for many reasons. We have learned that an institution that we respect has been tainted by the most insidious of crimes for many years. And we have learned that people in powerful positions who could have done more to stop it...didn't. And they have paid with their jobs and their reputations.

I have dozens of thoughts running through my head, most of them filled with anger and outrage toward the perpetrator. But some of them serve as a warning...a warning that we must always be on our guard to do the right thing. Not just complying with the law, but doing the right thing no matter what the cost.

  • First and foremost, my heart is with the children who were hurt and their families. I cannot imagine the damage that has been done over the years to them. That is the most important thing here. I can only pray that they will experience God's unconditional love and healing over time.
  • Turning to life lessons, you can erase a lifetime legacy in a single failing of character. There is no disputing how much positive influence Joe Paterno had on young people over the last 46 years. He has been considered a beacon of building a successful college football program the right way. But from reports (including his own statements and grand jury testimony) it seems he became aware of an unspeakable evil and stood by doing nothing. He did what the law required, but apparently he did not use his power and influence to make sure it stopped (or - perhaps - to dig into how serious it was; this is part of the responsibility when you have been put in charge of young people). How will he be remembered? Sadly, for this. For all of us, when we face that moment where we can take the path of least resistance (inaction) or do the right thing, we must do the right thing. If we don't, we risk losing a lifetime of building a good reputation.
  • As the announcement was made tonight that Paterno and President Spanier had been dismissed, I thought about the Scripture at the top of of this post. When you take on the responsibility to be a leader, the bar is raised. Any of us who want to lead people, we need to count the cost. If we want to lead young people, the bar goes even higher. I think that's why the PSU Board had to move.  Not because we know all the facts; it's possible we'll learn later that the coach was incredibly naive. But because regardless of how the whole thing is resolved legally, the leadership in the face of this evil did not meet the high standard of James 3:1. And that had to be addressed immediately.
I am sad for my friends in Pennsylvania who are part of the Penn State family. I have so many friends there who I met over the summer and my heart hurts for them. I cannot even imagine how I would be feeling if this had occurred here in Alabama. If you are reading this, please know I love you and I know that the pockets of evil do not erase all the good things about your university. As a friend posted this afternoon, "We Are...more than this scandal." We know that. And we know you will come through it strong.

A era is over. It's sad.

Children have been injured. It's outrageous.

God is sovereign. And I can rest in that. But it's not easy.

1 comment:

  1. As I was reading Katie's book this afternoon and reading the descriptions of the hunger and pain in the lives of the children, I had to say to myself exactly what you said at the end of this post, "God is sovereign. And I can rest in that. But it's not easy." Understanding the hurt and pain in the lives of people in this fallen world is never easy. I am so thankful that we can rest in His sovereignty. We are going to hear about this story for many days to come and I am thankful for your reminder He is sovereign in each and every circumstance.