Monday, August 24, 2015

The Problem with People

I felt for the tormented whirlwinds
Damned for their carnal sins
Committed when they let their passions rule their reason.

- Dante Alighieri

Well, I'm back in the saddle again.

I have two Public Speaking courses this semester & they are both full to the brim.  Word of my effervescent personality must've spread (that, or people are telling their friends about my tendency to let class go early on days I lecture because I cannot, cannot talk for more than an hour).  As of Thursday, almost everyone on my rosters is coming to class, believe it or not.  I start sweating a little when I think about how we're going to have time for everyone to deliver all the required speeches if four to seven-ish people per class don't drop the class.

As an educator, I suppose I shouldn't hope for students to drop my class, but I've been backed into a corner, a corner named reality.  It is ridiculous to cap a public speaking class at twenty-eight & expect there to be ample time for all twenty-eight students to deliver no fewer than four speeches, while also dedicating class time to lecture, the viewing of Ronald Reagan speeches, & the delivery of a few impromptu student presentations that aren't mentioned on the syllabus, because, well, impromptu!.

With everything we've got to cover this semester weighing on my mind, you can imagine the face I made when, as I finished calling roll in my nine-thirty class last Thursday morning, a student loudly said, "Hey, did you see that about the Duggar guy?"  I wanted to seize the teachable moment & say, "Okay class, this is an example of impromptu speaking.  This young man has asked me to share my thoughts on an issue about which I've prepared no speech & about which I'd prefer not to speak so soon after eating my breakfast."

I didn't say that.  I concentrated on maintaining an impassive face, & I busied my hands with papers & books & appeared to be gearing up to teach while I was thinking of the best response to the young man's question.  I didn't want to ignore him, but I also didn't want to spend half an hour of class time discussing any member of the Duggar family, or the recent computer hack of Ashley Madison's website.  P.s.: if you're unfamiliar with the Duggar family or the Ashley Madison website, you can google either, & likely will find plenty of articles explaining their connection.  I just cannot, for purposes of time & my sanity, delve into thorough explanations of either.

I did answer the student's question.  I said, in a tone that I hoped would disinvite further comments, that yes, I had seen the most recent Duggar news, & it is a tragic situation, particularly for Mr. Duggar's wife & young children.

When the original Duggar scandal broke a few months ago & it was revealed that the eldest son, Josh, had molested his sisters & a family friend (I know, *cringe*) when he was a teen, I was a wee bit surprised at some of the reactions to this news.  The Duggars made a name for themselves by (1) having a ton of kids, & (2) striving to run a Christ-centered, strict household that they agreed to televise.  Naturally, many in the media who lie in wait for Christians to foul-up were giddy with delight over the initial Duggar scandal.  They were salivating at the chance to call the Duggars hypocrites.  None of this surprised me.

What did surprise me was the way some Christians circled the wagons & immediately defended Josh Duggar, repeating his mantra that he had changed, he was forgiven, & all was well.  I was disturbed not only by the news of the prior molestation, but by the eagerness with which many Christians attempted to dismiss it, to slap FORGIVEN on Josh's forehead & cross their fingers the show would (quite literally in this case) go on.

Having taken a few PR classes in grad school, I admit I saw the scandal, & the reaction of some Christians to the scandal, as a public relations nightmare for Christianity.  Of all groups, religious or otherwise, Christians ought to be known as champions & defenders of children.  You can't read the words of Jesus & reach any other conclusion.  Here was a case of children violated in their own home, by a member of their family, a horrific situation that by all accounts was grossly mishandled by Josh Duggar's parents & the local authorities.  I admit I got a little nauseous watching & listening as Josh Duggar became the poster boy for forgiveness.

I've never watched an episode of the Duggar's reality show, so I have no particular attachment to these people.  Soon after the initial scandal broke, I discovered I have several acquaintances who did watch the show, & in so doing formed (strongly positive!) opinions about the Duggar family.  Too often, Christians, particularly in America, seek out mascots for the cause.  We rally around them, we watch their shows, buy their books, share their words & pictures on social media, & are at the ready when a negative word is breathed about them.  They are our celebrities, given that Hollywood is bereft of almost anyone with whom a Christian can identify.  We feel we desperately need the positive PR in a world that is increasingly hostile to the message of Christ.

But what happens when our mascots, our celebrities de jour, are revealed to be the base, sinful humans they are?  We know how the left in this nation reacts to this, & that is not what concerns me.  What concerns me is that Christians are elevating people to places in their hearts & their minds that should be reserved for Christ alone.  Be they preachers or reality television stars or a handsome former Florida Gator recently picked up by the Eagles, we are placing people on a platform, praising them, & pointing the world to them as worthy of emulation.  But oh, oh the haranguing when their failures are laid bare.  The left rejoices, & many Christians are stunned, & their bitter disappointment ought to highlight the fact that perhaps they placed too much faith in a person, a frail human.

Christians, we cannot point to anyone but Christ as the standard bearer.  Any other arrangement will leave us as dissatisfied & brokenhearted as the Jews who perpetually awaited the arrival of an earthly king.  When we shine the light on people, sometimes leaving Christ in the shadows, & those people inevitably fail, as we humans have a tendency to do, the world sees not one flawed human, but the hypocrisy of an entire religion they're itching to discredit.  No, it is not right to judge a group by the actions of one, but do we not encourage this when we hail our mascots loudly in lieu of simply showing the world Jesus?  We don't need a mascot anymore than the Jews needed an earthly king.  We need an immortal, perfect savior, & we have one.  He offers us His immortality & His perfection if we would only keep our eyes on Him, & point the world to Him, & Him alone.

I would've never written about the teenage sins of Josh Duggar had his name not reemerged in the news last week, had my student's question not highlighted the aforementioned PR crisis.  Can I tell you how shocked I was to read that Josh Duggar spent one thousand dollars on a website designed to facilitate adulterous affairs?  The answer is: I was not shocked at all.

Perhaps because I've watched lives upended by those legally designated as "sex offenders," I was tremendously bothered when Josh & his parents & his wife, Anna, & many others explained that Josh had changed & he had been forgiven, end of story.  As the details of the incident unfolded, it became apparent little to nothing had been done to ensure Josh & his victims received desperately needed therapy.  What he did as a teen is not akin to rolling houses or taking the car without permission or other typical teenage mischief.  Deviant sexual behavior should not be chalked up to curiosity, nor should it be neatly tucked away under the cloak of forgiveness; he needed help, & he didn't get it, & now his wife & four small kids can be added to the list of his victims.

The recidivism rate of sex offenders is astronomical.  Can they be forgiven?  Of course.  Are they going to babysit my kids?  No.  Does forgiveness mean they no longer have to register as sex offenders?  No.  Actions have consequences, & sometimes earthly consequences are not eradicated by God's forgiveness.

The moral of the story is this, kids: figure out your principles & apply them equally to all people & situations.  Fall back on your principles, & the Jesus in which they're rooted, & not people.  Laud Christ & Christ alone.  People are going to let you down.  People sin, sometimes in ways you'd never have thought possible.  It takes courage to admit someone you respect, maybe even someone you love, has made a terrible mistake, & address it honestly.

What is sin is always sin; David's adultery with Bathsheba sent Christ to the cross as surely as the actions of the men who funneled thousands of dollars to a website that lured them with the promise of an affair.  Speaking of David, is there any clearer example of what my former preacher, Ray Melton, used to always say, "You may be done with sin, but that doesn't mean sin is done with you."  The consequences of David's sin were far-reaching & no doubt emotionally gut-wrenching for David long after he genuinely repented of & received forgiveness for his poor decisions.

I considered titling this blog, "People Suck."  It has a ring to it.  There's a whole world of Harry Potter references I want to launch into now, but this is already longer than I'd intended.  No worries; perhaps next Monday I'll post People Suck, Part II: When Fictional People Rip Your Heart Out.

I'll close with one of my favorite quotes from the Harry Potter series (well, it's my favorite quote today).  These words are spoken by Sirius Black, Harry's godfather, to Harry:

I know Satan is after every heart that belongs to Christ, but I believe he works particularly hard to darken & harden the hearts of those in the limelight, be it on television, in the pulpit, or even on the football field.  How loudly he must cackle when someone the whole world is watching takes an ugly, public fall.

There are two ways to combat this:

(1) Make every effort to control the thoughts & actions of the one person over whom you have total dominion: you.  Never give Satan a reason to cackle in delight.  Always feed the light; don't flirt in the shadows.

(2) As the song says, place Christ on the highest place, in full certainty that He will never fall.

We place you on the highest place
For you are the great High Priest
We place You high above all names
And we come to you and worship at your feet

Okay, I'm actually going to close with this: please pray for me.  Next week is a big week for me, because it is a big week for Reagan.  We visit the endocrinologist, my quarterly numeric reminder of the many ways I fail to control Reagan's blood sugar, & Reagan begins pre-K next week.  I've yet to talk with her teacher, though she did leave me a voicemail last week, so hopefully once that conversation takes place my nerves will be slightly less frayed.  

I keep telling myself it's only three hours, three days a week (that's a total of nine hours a week, for those of you who, like me, don't care to do math in your head . . . or at all).  What I need is someone who knows how to check blood sugar (or is willing to learn) to check Reagan's number about ten thirty, which will be roughly three hours post-breakfast.  I'd love for someone to volunteer to learn the pump & be able to dose insulin, seeing that the pre-K refuses to hire a pediatric endocrinologist, but for now I'll be thrilled simply knowing someone can check her number (& text it to me, of course).  They do have snack time every day, but I can send something for Reagan that won't require medicine.  I'm basically just thinking to myself now, so I'll bid you adieu.  

I may or may not make an appearance next week.  Maybe I'll post a rerun for you.  If I am AWOL, do know that I am tucked in a corner of the Anxiety Train, nursing my nerves with coffee &/or online shopping.

Thanks.  Thanks for reading, especially when I get really preachy, & thanks in advance for your prayers for the week ahead.


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