Thursday, August 13, 2009

Rick Pitino, Mark Sanford and Big Papi

What do Rick Pitino, Mark Sanford and Big Papi (David Ortiz) have in common?

According to the news reports, what links them together is hypocrisy. Coach Pitino, described as a devout Roman Catholic, had drunken sex with a woman who later tried to blackmail him. Governor Sanford, described as a devout Evangelical Christian, had an extramarital affair. And Big Papi, who told the media during Spring Training that guys who use steroids are ruining baseball and should be banned for a year, turned up on a 2003 list of those who tested positive for performance enhancing drugs.


Each is a sad story in it's own way. Even if you don't like Pitino or Sanford (EVERYBODY likes Big Papi), you have to feel for their wives and children. And David Ortiz was one of the guys you really wanted to believe was doing it the right way.

What the stories have in common, is the emphasis on hypocrisy.

Let's be honest. Most of us love this stuff. Gossip is always good, but it is even better if the object of the report is himself (or herself) a finger-pointing, self-righteous Puritan.

But the emphasis on "hypocrisy" says more about us than it does about them.

Rick Pitino has a friend who is a priest and often leads the team in prayer before a game. We'll assume that the prayer is for good sportsmanship and safety, rather than victory, and count it as a good thing. It doesn't become a bad thing because the coach cheated on his wife. We would like people to be less complex, but they aren't.

Governor Sanford is against equal rights for Gays and Lesbians. I think he is wrong on that. But he isn't more wrong because he had an affair. He is wrong twice, but they are really separate issues.

Most of us (I think) are aware of at least some of the brokenness (sin, estrangement, failings) in our own lives. And we take a perverse pleasure in telling ourselves, "I may have my faults, but at least I am not a bad as so and so." If the person we name once had a high standing, then it is even better.

But the comparisons are false in the sense that our own lives do not get better because someone else's got worse. It is as if we thought that life was graded on a curve. If the smart kid at the front of the class only got a "78," then my "C" suddenly became an "A." But it doesn't work that way. All of us depend on God's grace, and each of us is responsible for our own lives.

Jesus asked, "Why do you see the speck in your neighbor's eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your neighbor's eye." (Matthew 7:3-5) Somehow we feel as if finding the speck in a neighbor's eye makes the log in our own eyes smaller, but it doesn't.

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