Collusion & Confusion: The “Loyalty” Crisis at Penn State

  1. a secret agreement, especially for fraudulent or treacherous purposes; conspiracy.
  2. Law. a secret understanding between two or more persons to gain something illegally, to defraud another of his or her rights, or to appear as adversaries through an agreement.

I once had dinner with a counselor who worked for a nonprofit organization that supports victims of domestic violence.  One of her programs involved recruiting men who did not have a history of DV to meet with and counsel men who had been identified as abusers.  I am fortunate to know a lot of quality guys who (I thought) would be great in this role, and I mentioned I would like to make some referrals.

Her words were slow and measured, and I can’t forget them.

“It’s not as easy as finding great guys.  It is a very complex dynamic when men talk, and it takes an unusual person to avoid colluding with the abuser.”

This was years ago, and I still don’t think I’m over it.  I was instantly very upset and even angry and defensive internally when I heard her words.  These were my best guys, my husband, my brother-in-law, lifelong friends I was bringing her and she thought they had the potential to collude with these horrible, abusive, violent criminals?  I was offended, and though I never said anything but, “Thank you, I’ll think about that,” I did not pursue getting involved with the program.

In my heart I know the real reason I was upset by her words, and that is because I knew instantly that they were true.

All of us have the potential to become lost when we get involved with very layered and complicated relationships.  This is because it can be overwhelming, and seems instantly easier in a tough spot to just deal with a small moment in time.

I’m counseling this guy, and he just said “Sometimes my wife just gets so mouthy it wears me out, you know?  She won’t do anything I tell her, I just lose it, I smack her around to make her be quiet.  You’ve been there, right, man?”  And I say, “Right man, I know.  Marriage is tough.”  Because I’m thinking, what do I say? Maybe I can help him by relating, by gaining his trust……

And as easy as that, you are IN.  I’ve seen it a thousand times, both men and women, people not wanting to ignite or exacerbate an already volatile situation and you just think, I’ll get past this and then we will figure it out.  I’ve done it, and I bet you have, too.

Sometimes, maybe it’s the only way, and I know we all do the best we can with what we have where we are.  But this very sad and disappointing scandal at Penn State is a reminder that even good guys, the best guys, can get lost without a road map with a very simple set of directions, and from which you never — ever — deviate.

When someone commits a violent crime against another person, there cannot be time to buy and layers to work through before we take action.  That action must result in the perpetrator being confronted and held accountable by law enforcement.  Too often we seem to think that our calling the police is what gets a person in trouble, and of course that’s crazy.  When you punch your spouse in the face, or when you engage a child in a sex act (either with or without their implied consent) you are in trouble of your own making.

We can’t rely on the minimum required by institutional procedures and policies.

Decide with me today that you will call the police when you have knowledge of a crime against another person, and especially against a child.  Don’t ask questions, and don’t wait.  Decide with me today that loyalty to a just and peaceful society that protects children is the only “winning team” you care to be on.

(Here is the most haunting article on this situation I have read to date: http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/entry/5881996/33197750)

Recognizing Jesus: Some Thoughts on Faith and Reason

I recently heard a distinguished professor of religion and ethics discuss some of the more complicated elements of the New Testament. He was a fantastic speaker and knew his material so well he needed no notes and spoke almost nonstop for two hours, holding his audience of students spellbound with both his knowledge and humor.

My favorite moment was when he spoke about the body after resurrection.

“And then there’s the question, what is going on with the body after resurrection?   Jesus has a body.  But he seems to walk through walls.   Then he sits down to eat a meal with his disciples.   I guess the food is disappearing and going somewhere….and then he apparently meets up with people who know him and they don’t recognize him.   They don’t recognize him? Hello?  Why not?  Is he wearing Groucho glasses?”

The class fell out laughing, but it’s a serious question.  What does this mean anyway?

Our professor suggested this: “Maybe when you read something in ancient texts, and it doesn’t make any sense, maybe just maybe you’re not focused on what the writer is really trying to tell you.”  Of course, his big maybe was a polite and gentle way of saying that people get into all kinds of arguments about things that are not really the point.

I get nervous sometimes writing about my personal beliefs about God, in part because we do tend to focus on the wrong things. I worry that if express my questions and doubts in a public way that I will be judged, excluded, and distrusted.   I just read about someone I consider to be a very interesting thinker (John Dominic Crossan) who gets a lot of blowback for questioning some “unquestionable” tenets of the Christian belief system.

I don’t know that I am with Crossan or not, as I have not read his work; but I know myself, and from what I have read I am fascinated.  I also want him and anyone else to ask these questions, to talk about history and scholarship, and to facilitate an open conversation.   I think our understanding of history, of ancient cultures and people, of spirituality and religion, and of the human experience is only enriched by our ability to have respectful dialogue about the most mysterious questions.

Mother Theresa had doubts. It’s rational to admit that if she felt this way and struggled, then there is no one who doesn’t hit the wall.  To some extent I think the closer to the teachings of Jesus one tries to live, the more logical it is that doubts and questions will arise.  Is this really how I’m supposed to do it, because this is very often not one bit of fun, and I’m not sure anything is getting better for anyone as a result.  Do I understand this right?  I really, really don’t want to be doing this the wrong way, or it’s all for nothing.  (I think JC had that moment himself, as I recall…..hmmmm…….)

I like the idea from the lecture I attended, and from Crossnan. If it doesn’t make sense, the answer may not be I need to “have more faith.”   Maybe, just maybe, I’m not paying attention to the right thing.  More egos in the religious community need to allow for that very real possibility.

This Easter I’ll be on the lookout for my best understanding of the man we call Jesus of Nazareth.  Note to self:  If I don’t see him, it’s probably not because he’s wearing Groucho glasses.

Image credit: 3oneseven