Penn State University
The guilty verdict against former Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky offered measured closure to wounds that painfully reopened with Judge Louis Freeh’s report on Penn state’s handling of the Sandusky case. The significant and tragic failures of oversight from some of the most powerful people at Penn State University revealed intentional concealment of criminal behavior. The fact that this was done to avoid bad publicity and upsetting donors is appalling.
But a side narrative to this tragedy that is not getting as much attention is the countless others associated with Penn State who not only had nothing to do with the Sandusky case but are horrified by any association with it. Let’s not forget that Penn State is a big place with more than football. Those proud of their Penn State education should not be made to feel it is tarnished by what happened in the football program.
The significant consequences levied against the University by the NCAA raised another painful story for current players. I feel for those who have worked hard to make it to collegiate football but must endure the consequences of actions they had nothing to do with. Perhaps the biggest take away is that a few people in powerful places making bad choices can hurt many. And the lives most tragically affected were the young boys brutally molested by someone they trusted.
It’s hard to get my mind around the senseless murder of 12 people and wounding of 58 others in the Aurora, Colorado Theater. One young mother lost her 6-year-old daughter, her “miracle baby” she was carrying and has recently been told that she will likely spend the rest of her life in a wheelchair. When I consider the tragic loss and suffering, it seems overwhelming . My first response is to pray for those affected. Yet I also realize that dramas of human suffering raise deeper questions about faith. Obviously these are not matters to discuss in the initial experience of loss, but at some point hearts travels in this direction.
How do we reconcile suffering with belief in a God whose love is so great that He is love and who is so powerful that He is all-powerful? Skeptics offer answers ranging from atheism to deism but these alternatives only lead to deeper levels of despair. If I must choose between “no God” or “a God who means well but either cannot or will not help,” I am only left with more perplexing questions. I am not willing to sacrifice the intellectual integrity necessary to accepting these conclusions.
When I struggle to reconcile faith in God with what seems to be gratuitous evil, I remind myself of the sad back-story to our suffering and my personal culpability in it. This world is not what God originally provided for us but one corrupted by our sin. It doesn’t require much imagination to believe that, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). The verdict for sinning against the Creator is death (see: Romans 6:23). This does not mean that the manner of each death is a person “getting what he deserves.” Yet it does mean that all humans will experience the verdict. If God operated the world on a principle of immediate justice toward evil, none of us would be spared. This is what the Psalmist referred to in saying that God “has not dealt with us as our sins deserved” (Psalm 103:10).
No one is righteous enough to claim a perfectly good life from God. But God offers us the certainty that there is an amazing end-story for those whom he loves. This will happen when, “God’s dwelling place is among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Revelation 21:3-4).
It’s difficult to transition from the story in Aurora, Colorado to the controversy about Chick-Fil-A but I must note that those whom I know who participated in the “Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day” did not do it to oppose gay marriage but to support a business being threatened with a hateful boycott. It was a way of saying that a business owner should be free to say what he believes about marriage without being threatened. If a business owner said he opposed traditional marriage, I don’t believe it’s right to organize a boycott against his business. This is about freedom of speech without threat from hateful people — no matter the issue.
Tolerance is about treating others with respect when you disagree with them. Telling people they’re not permitted to disagree is coercion, not tolerance. The huge turnout at Chick-Fil-A is a great reminder that many people in this nation know the difference between coercion and tolerance.