Joe Paterno and what legacies are made of (and how World Magazine & Relevant Magazine got it wrong)
I've been reading various posts and listening to commentary on the passing of Joe Paterno this week. Some folks call him a monster. Others (mostly die-hard football fans, I've noticed) seem to exclusively focus on Paterno's winningest football legacy. But this article by Barnabas Piper, published on World Magazine's website, caught my interest mainly because it purported to lay out the proper Christian response; ie. "How does our Christian faith direct us in these understandings?"
I found the article deeply troubling and worse, directly harmful to the welfare of children.
Piper allows that disregarding Paterno's legacy "seems almost justified" but then he spends the rest of the article suggesting why Christians should be "willing not to besmirch his legacy with our vitriol and hatred but to know our God is a consuming fire and all Joe's evil has been dealt with."
I absolutely disagree. First of all, WE are not besmirching Joe Paterno's legacy. Joe did that himself. Secondly, there are certain massive failures that really DO destroy legacies. The Bible is full of them.
To suggest that Christians ought to refrain from any kind of judgment about Paterno's legacy is participate in the same culture of complicity that enabled a molester to repeatedly rape children. Why? Because saying: "Well, let's just leave it all in God's hands" is a cop-out. It exonerates us from actually having to advocate for the victims of Paterno's horrible legacy: innocent children.
Piper also claims that feelings of complicated complexity arise in the wake of Paterno's passing saying that it's "the end of his career that so complicates matters."
Because, honestly, there is nothing really complicated about covering up the sexual abuse of children. There is nothing really complex about actively participating in a complicity of silence that allowed for the ongoing abuse of multiple children. It's not like this was a one-time 'lapse' of judgment. By failing to follow-up, by failing to remove Sandusky from the coaching position, by keeping silent day-after-day-after-day, Joe Paterno definitively wrought his own demise. And worse, the demise of innocent children.
I'm not conflicted about Joe Paterno's legacy. No, it's all pretty clear to me. And I say that as a Christian mother.
Piper asks us if we can "reflect on [Paterno's] life and legacy with grace, even if it is conflicted grace?"
Here's the short answer: no.
Why? Because that is one screwed-up definition of grace. Sure, I can refrain from spewing "vitriol and hatred" but I absolutely refuse to sit back and lovingly reflect on a "conflicted" legacy.
I have a responsibility--no, WE ALL have a responsibility to the safety and well-being of children. I actually find it appalling that the supposed "Christian response" to Paterno's death precludes any kind of judgment about his legacy. Certainly I leave judgment of Paterno's immortal soul to God, but that doesn't mean I refrain from being angry about actions that endanger children. I actually believe such restraint is morally reprehensible!
Lastly, I also read Shaun King's tribute (honestly, what ELSE am I supposed to call these articles?) to Joe Paterno on Relevant Magazine's website wherein he actually claims that Paterno was "so great that I think the ultimate story about him will eventually outshine the awful ugliness of a child molestation scandal." Yes, Paterno was SO great! Except for that one thing. But hey, no worries! That one thing will be easily outshone.
King goes on to suggest that we are ALL Paterno because...at one time or another we've neglected our duty to protect children. Really?! This is the logic we're using now? We ALL enable sexual abuse? And HEY! Stop judging because we ALLLLLLLL are Paterno???!!!!
As a Christian wife and mother to five children I'd really like to know just WHO thinks these arguments in support of Joe Paterno are worthy of publication on major Christian websites?! Because I'm keeping my children far away from whoever thinks this was really A-OK.
I'm so disappointed and offended that World Magazine & Relevant Magazines found these articles worthy of their huge Christian websites.
What does THAT say about the Christian response to the rape of children?