The tragedy at Penn State is horrific. When I say tragedy, I don’t mean the demise of a football legend’s legacy. I don’t mean a University being dragged through the mud. I mean dozens of children being victimized by a predator while those who knew about it covered it up, for reasons only they know.
Lots of commentary has been offered in the last few weeks on this subject and I am not about to go through a timeline and discuss everything minute by minute. What I do want to point out is how worldview means everything and how we can make the idols of our heart into the religion of our life.
There is one moment of this whole saga that I think gives us a glimpse into the worldview of many of those involved and helps explain, not excuse, how so many could do so little for so long.
When, then graduate assistant, Mike McQueary walked into the shower room that day and saw what he saw and did what he did, that is enough to tell us all we need to know about the situation at Penn State.
Some have said, he did the least possible thing that he needed to do, but not the morally right thing. I think they are wrong on both accounts. When someone witnesses a crime, a violent crime to a helpless victim, and doesn’t call the police immediately something is wrong. The least possible thing to do is not to go tell your boss. When someone witnesses a crime, the least possible thing to do is to report it anonymously to the police. That is, as they say, the least you could do. Joe Paterno is a football coach. He is not a law enforcement officer. He is not a campus security officer. He is a coach. So why, when you see a crime being committed to a helpless victim by a man, do you run to someone who has no business taking care of it?
The answer is sad, but one that is not new. It boils down to the way our actions are shaped by the thoughts of our heart, how our worldview shapes our actions.
It seems like Penn State football and its prestige and history had become an idol in the hearts of many at Penn State closest to the situation. The idols of their hearts dictated to them what to value. And people will fight to protect what they value most of all.
So Mike Mcqueary sees what he sees, and instead of going to the police, (outsiders to his religion), instead of stopping it, he goes to Joe Paterno (the Pope of Penn State). Things are swept under the rug and a child predator is allowed to walk freely for years. In that moment, when Mcqueary’s actions mattered most, justice mattered least.
His worldview shaped his action. His worldview told him not to call the police that it would be better just to let Joe Paterno know about it. His worldview told him not to stop it, not to get too involved. And when after his discussion with the old coach took place and Sandusky was still on campus with young boys, his worldview lead him to take no more discernible action that we know about to seek justice.
I pray that Mr. Mcqueary would seek Jesus Christ in this time. He would be humbled and repent. I pray that he would see his sin, not just in this action, but in his life, and pursue Christ’s cross for his redemption.
Since this has happened I have wondered like so many what I would have done in this situation. It is easy for me to think I would have gone in there, performed some act of heroism, and no mattered the consequences, sought justice for this victim and all the rest.
I have moved from the hypothetical into the realistic though. I will most likely never be put into that situation, with those same circumstances. But, like Mike Mcqueary, I too have an idol making factory in my heart, searching for a place to worship with like-minded believers.
I must, must be at war with my own sin through the empowering of the Holy Spirit and the idol crushing glory of Jesus Christ. The fear in all of this is that my sin is not my sin alone. It doesn’t just cost me, but left unchecked, someday, in someway it could cost others. That is a sobering thought. That is a fear of the Lord inducing thought.
Just one of the lessons of this tragedy for me is this: sin develops habits, habits develop idols, idols develop their own religion, and a religion develops a worldview. And that worldview matters in every way.