Friday, December 4, 2009

When Heroes Go Down (The Faithful Must Remain Vigilant)

Dear Parish Faithful,

It is a good thing that as a society we still seek "role models" even though our pop culture is "slouching toward Gomorrah," to use the phrase of Robert Bork. Regardless of the hedonism the American public either defends, tolerates or dismisses, there remains an intuitive understanding that our children and young adults need to regard their public "heroes" as men or women with some qualities worthy of emulation. Hence, the "role model" image that we continue to cling to. This is primarily true concerning "stars" in the entertainment business or the "superstars" of the sports world. (Outside of our barrier-transcending president, are there any other politicians even considered as role models today?). So to this day, we remain in a curious state of tension between the knowledge that our pop culture superstars live in fantasy worlds of almost obscene wealth, and are thus subjected to every conceivable temptation of the mind and flesh; and our desire that they at least project an image of wholesomeness, hard work, integrity, honesty and, we may add, marital fidelity. That same tension may be one of the main reasons that the apparent marital infidelity of golf superstar Tiger Woods is so captivating the news media at a time when we are still debating the health care bill, recoiling in horror at tragic rampages of shootings and death, and assimilating the future consequences of the "troop surge" in Afghanistan.

I agree with these very public personas who plead for privacy and the "right" to keep their domestic and private affairs away from public scrutiny. I believe that Tiger Woods' website statement made that case rather forcefully. To have one's domestic disputes subjected to wild and salacious speculation has to be not only frustrating but demeaning and discouraging. However, to choose from one of many cliches: "it goes with the territory." Or, we could say, it is the "price" paid for being so highly-paid as a successful athlete. Since I am not attracted to the world of golf, I can honestly say that I have never seen Tiger Woods drive or putt a golf ball. But I do know that literally millions of his fans and fans of the game look on him with breathless seriousness every time he does actually drive or putt a golf ball. Now those same eyes are either filled with a knowing look (if not smirk); while others will reflect a sincere disappointment over yet another "idol" now wobbling precariously on his pedestal, or in danger of toppling over. The point is that it would be naive to believe all of that attention and affection will now politely accede to Tiger's request for privacy and look the other way as he struggles to bring order back into his domestic life, following his acknowledgment of certain "transgressions." This is more that just the usual grist for the tabloid rumor mills! Much to Tiger Woods' chagrin, he is learning that you can't have it both ways. He is a very public figure and his current predicament will now draw the attention and disapprobation that his amazing skills earlier absorbed and deflected as praise and adulation.

Yet, it does seem that even if that attention were to magically disappear today, Tiger Woods' will remain a tarnished hero who has lost his aura of wonder boy innocence. I am sure that the majority of the public will "forgive" him for his all too-human fallibility. Some may even be glad that he has proven himself to be like the rest of us - subject to temptation and even succumbing to temptation. I understand that there was a certain aloofness to him before that made Tiger seem like something of an abstract iconic figure. Regardless of our Christian principles, perhaps we would do better not to quickly pass judgement since it is difficult to know what we would actually do if our lives were lived in the rarefied realms of "fame and fortune." This is something that Tiger Woods and his wife will have to face together perhaps with the help of family, friends and good counsel. Still, it remains disappointing that another "role model" has now lost that mantle. Money, drugs and sex are so pervasive in the world of pop-culture entertainment and sports, that it seems amazing to find certain stars apparently untouched by such temptations. We are reaching a point where we are expecting the bigger stars to eventually get caught, which is very unfair to those who are actually "clean."

Are members in the Church - even potential "role models" like the clergy - immune from the baser temptations that come in the form of money, drugs and sex? Sadly, not always. And when these role models succumb, then we have a genuine "scandal" on our hands. (How scandalized are we any longer concerning the stars mentioned above when they fall?). Scandal here means to cause great disappointment and discouragement among the faithful; even, in some cases, to shake that very faith. The response can be a cause of further skepticism or distrust toward the leaders of the Church. Or simple anger at being "fooled" by the semblance of piety. This becomes the cause of cover-up or rationalization within the very Body where truth is absolutely essential. Of course, it is in the Body of Christ - the Church of the living God - that genuine forgiveness is practiced, but this implies repentance and the unfortunate but essential need for sanctioning the culpable. If, indeed, our popular forms of entertainment are truly "slouching toward Gomorrah" as a parade of revelations concerning "transgressions" of many kinds continue their steady disclosure; and as the hungry appetites of those who love these types of stories continues to be fed; then our vigilance from within the Church must be tireless, so as to not cause any scandal to the faithful and to the unbelieving world.

Fr. Steven

1 comment:

  1. You have eulogized Tiger Woods enough, I'd say.
    Obama as a role-model? Don't you have any role-
    models who aren't black? Try to be a little more even-handed.


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