American Sports Idolatry

(Originally posted in Nov. of 2011).

Perhaps you recently heard about the big sex scandal at Penn State.  I just found out about it.  After watching a handful of videos on YouTube and other places I was flabbergasted to see that thousands of Penn State University students rioted because the legendary Joe Paterno was fired.  That night, after hearing about his dismissal, many fans of PS football showed up at his house in support of Paterno…

It seems that a winning record in college football suddenly matters more than being involved in the sexual abuse of nearly twenty young males (that was the last number I heard).  Click here for more.

Have we become that desensitized?  Is a legendary football coach immune to public rebuke?  Are our sports icons above the law?  It is mind boggling to me that there is so much resistance to Paterno’s firing.  Paterno himself was “shocked” by the unanimous vote to have him ousted…  Why?  The only reason I can think of is because he thinks himself immune.  When sports become God, it is idolatrous to elevate something else above them, even decency.  God forbid anything get in the way of our precious sports franchises, even a sexual deviant like Paterno’s former assistant coach.

At least Paterno formally decided to retire at the end of the year, acknowledging his error (before being fired this week).  But some are saying that he knew about the events nearly nine years ago…

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think it’s our place to crucify the guy, by any stretch.  We all deserve to be crucified, not just those involved in the scandal at PSU.  My disgust is over the fact that so many people are protesting his dismissal.  It is as if we are endorsing the fact that he did little to nothing to stand up for these young boys whose lives were being destroyed by a man he worked with…

This is just another example of how upside down our picture of the world is.  Cheering for men willfully destroying one another’s bodies in a sports arena is one thing, but when it spills over into the locker room in the form of sexual abuse, shall we still cheer?  Whose cheering for these young boys who will likely never fully recover from these events?

We want the guilty Barabbas and Paterno to go free, let’s crucify innocent Jesus instead (see Matt 27:11-26).

Paterno was not the one directly involved in the acts, but many are reporting that he knew well about them.  Al Mohler, commenting on the scandal, wrote a great piece on what this means for all of us in (or pursuing) church leadership.

I think Lecrae, the rapper, sums it all up well in a recent Tweet, “So there’s a riot because a coach is fired and not over a 10 yr old being molested?  God save us all.”

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