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News -> Pastor's Column Wednesday, October 8, 2014
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"Are We All in the Same Boat?"

By Pastor Jerry Selleck,
Holton United Methodist Church

I think they’re going to bring back the ‘stocks.’ You may remember those torturous devices of the past, where an offender is clapped into a wooden device, and is left standing for an extended period of time in the town square. In addition to the pain of that device, such offenders were also subject to ridicule, beatings, or whatever someone wanted to hurl at them. Sometimes their heads would be covered, so that they couldn’t identify their silent assailants. It was punishment, shame, and unbridled retribution all rolled into one.

I’ve been surprised by the behavior of some of our athletes recently. Accusations and pending legalities abound:

-Ray Rice (Ravens) for spouse abuse,

-Adrian Peterson (Vikings) for child abuse, and

-Jameis Winston (Florida State) for sexual assault.

-Even on the home front, Thomas Rawls at Central Michigan is accused of stealing a purse at a casino, and using the stolen credit cards.

I don’t expect these kinds of issues to end, and here is why:

1) Cameras are everywhere.

2) Everybody is on Social Media, where people are exposed, tried, and viciously accused on the slimmest of evidence, or none at all. A 140-character twitter is enough to set the mobs in a frenzy, along with blogs-a-plenty. The internet is replacing newspapers, and unfortunately, replacing a lot of professional journalists along with them. ‘Innocent until proven guilty’ is now a dead concept. I think if you put Ray Rice in the stocks, there wouldn’t be much of him left at the end of the day.

3) We are craving role models. Once again, we are realizing that those in the public eye have tremendous power to teach, whether it be bad or good, or whether they want that power or not.

Now, I know that some of these accusations are serious, legal charges. And they are being handled in the courts, as they should be. But there is something more going on: Accountability. We expect our athletic heroes to be moral, disciplined, and good role models as well. Our SIN is showing, and folks aren’t happy about it.

I grew up in the age of ‘Don’t Judge Me,’ or ‘As long as I do my job, my free time is none of your business!’ So, I’m a little surprised at the current culture, that not only demands punishment for crime, but removal and banishment from the public eye. I’m sure these athletes are just as surprised, and the remaining athletes are wondering who will be tomorrow’s headline.

So what is wrong with an athlete who is a wife beater? Or one who abuses his children? What does that have to do with rushing yards and catching passes? Because we realize that children model their idols, and so do grownups. Professional football players, musicians, leaders, politicians, and more, affect how we live. We don’t just watch their performances, but their entire lives.  And so, they are held to a higher standard.

Holocaust Survivor, Elie Wiesel tells a parable:

A man is on a boat. He is not alone, but acts as if he were. One night, without warning, he suddenly begins to cut a hole under his seat.

The other people on the boat shout and shriek at him: "What on earth are you doing? Have you gone mad? Do you want to sink us all? Are you trying to destroy us?"

Calmly, the man answers: "I don't understand what you want. What I'm doing is none of your business. I paid my way. I'm not cutting under your seat. Leave me alone!" What the fanatic (and the egotist) will not accept, but what you and I cannot forget, is that all of us are in the same boat.

It’s an old concept: leaders are called to a higher standard, because we are all connected. Even in Scripture, this concept is recognized:

James 3:1 (NIV): "Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly."

It probably wouldn’t hurt to put this scripture up in every locker room in the NFL, NHL, NBA, NCAA, and every other alphabet league in the world. For when those at the top shed their morality, we all go down with the ship.






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