God, Evil, and the Penn State Scandal

Loyalty is not always a virtue.  The same can be said of compassion.  Indeed, misplaced loyalty and compassion is something that resulted in great evil in the 20th century and the human heart has not changed.  And be it that we are standing by, no matter what – our country, our boss, our employee, our college, or even our church when evil is uncovered, is not good. It is the exact opposite.

Last night a group of college students protested Penn State’s firing of beloved coach and football legend Joe Paterno.  They believed that the board was gutless in not firing him in person and looking for a scapegoat for their own misdeeds.  They were appalled at the lack of respect shown to their coach.  But what is lost on them is the responsibility Coach Paterno had, not as a coach, but as a human being to ensure children would no longer be victimized (at Penn State or anywhere else).  Child molesters commit a horrible evil.  Jesus said that the greatest love one man has for another is to give his life for them.  He also said that it would be better for a person to have a millstone tied to their neck and thrown in the sea than to cause a little one to stumble. And each person at Penn State who decided not to turn that molester over to authorities needs to be held to account.

The only way to stop this evil in our midst, which we have learned over the past few decades is more pervasive than we ever imagined, is to build a culture where we teach everyone that it is never acceptable to look the other way, hope for the best, or assume someone else will take care of the problem when we suspect a child is being victimized.  Sexual predators cannot be spotted by the way they look, by the job they have, or by their marital status.  They also will not stop even when shamed by their peers.  The only way to stop them is to get them off the streets and into confined custody.

People often fail to report their suspicions because they think that no one will believe them or that they have insufficient evidence to back up their suspicions.  But it is not up to those who suspect abuse is going on to prove their case, it is only their job to report it and to let the authorities determine its validity or lack thereof.  The only way for evil to succeed in our midst is for good people to look the other way and do nothing.  Coach Paterno should have called the police as well as his supervisor.  And the moment it became readily apparent that Penn State was not going to call the police, he should have done it himself.  His significant lapse of moral judgment happened not once but twice.

Does this mean that this is the only thing Coach Paterno should be remembered for?  No.  Is this the only thing Penn State should now be known for?  Of course not.  But at the same time, Coach Paterno well deserved getting fired.  And hopefully Penn State will soon have the toughest policies in the nation about protecting children on their campus.

People like to ask why God lets such evil occur in our midst.  But the real question is why we let such evil occur in our midst.  The way to, if not stop it completely, greatly reduce it is to create a culture where no one looks the other way when we suspect a child is endangered.

Until next time,

Tom

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