Cattle Drive, Fort Worth Stockyards, April 2010

Monday, February 22, 2010

The Golfer's Apology

Did you watch it? It was certainly hyped pretty highly. I didn't watch, but I hear discussions about it on the radio before it happened. Should he do it? Why? The discussion was pretty illumining... not about Tiger Woods and his transgressions, but about where we are as a society.

Most people said that Tiger Woods didn't owe them an apology because he didn't sin against them. He sinned against his wife and children and he should apologize to them. Yes, he break his marriage vows and it immediately impacts his wife and children. There is no debate about that. Relationships are torn apart and sometimes can never recover and heal from such trauma. Some may immediately think that the only way forward is a divorce. But here I can speak for the children since I experienced this as a child, the wounds a divorce creates in a child can sometimes last a lifetime. Divorce may be the lesser of two evils for all involved, but it is still an evil that has a long tail. It is a nightmare that we go through now as casually as we go to the grocery store. Serial monogamy is destructive to all concerned.

Back to Tiger. Did he need to get right with America, with everyone out there? What I heard on the radio was a manifestation of a Protestant notion of sin, that he had only sinned against his wife and children. But that is not true. There is no such thing as a "private sin." Not if we're truly scriptural Christians.

Saint Paul points out that because of the sin of one man, Adam, the entire creation "groaneth in travail." Our sins effect not only those in the immediate vicinity, but the entire cosmos. When I sin, I trouble the stars. There was a time when the absolute connectedness of man was understood and taken for granted. One of the greatest poems in English literature (it has previously been a sermon) was penned by Rev. John Donne (do many remember that he was an Anglican priest?). "Ask not for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee." In every man's death, we die because we are connected. We have loss even if we never knew him. We are diminished.

The corporate nature of Tiger's sin was acknowledged, but not consciously. It was pointed out that golfers now have a much smaller purse and their endorsement contracts have diminished by at least 30%. This means that the families of other golfers have been directly effected by Tiger's infidelity. Does he owe them an apology? What about their children who will suffer as a result? It doesn't end there. We can take that circle out larger. TV networks are effected financially. Golf fans are effected in their enjoyment. Society is robbed in at least one case of an example of marriage. (Perhaps with the overwhelming failure of marriage in our country this is rather more like a pebble being tossed onto a rock pile, but it still adds its own weight.)

And I think there is more. It is much darker and more difficult. Some of you may think what I am about to say is all too alarmist, but it springs from the core of the Christian faith. When I fall into an impassioned and sinful life, not only do I effect the material aspect of the world as we've just pointed out, but I also effect the spiritual aspect of it. Have you ever experienced being in a room where every one is happy and laughing and having a good time, when some one new comes into the room in a foul mood. He doesn't say any thing. He just sits and glares. What happens to the mood of the room? It begins to fall apart and soon people begin to cease laughing and often begin grousing. We've all experienced it. Sinful lives create an environment of sin, making it easier for us all to fall. It is a chilling reality.

Do you remember in high school how generally good guys could be dragged into picking on others because some one else was already doing it? That in spite of the fact that was is entirely out of character of the good guy? Why does it happen. Sin begets sin.

There is a triad that is an absolute. Sin begets evil which begets death. They are all three always connected. Tiger's transgressions brought about death amongst us all. I'm not a golf fan, and I don't live in Florida, but I felt it. I can see the death that has been created through his actions and it effects me as much as it effecting every one else on the face of the globe because I have been diminished as a human being. The world I live in has become a little more contaminated, a little more inclined to sin, evil and death.

Because his sins became public and notorious also requires a public "confession." Even its publicity was largely caused by our sinful voyeurism, it has become public. (Simply another example of how sin effects us all! Why do we watch such disgusting tabloid reporting? We are creating death through this too.)

I did not watch Mr. Woods' confession. I heard from some that he seemed contrite and from others that it seemed contrived. God knows. I don't mean that flippantly. He does. And I hope that Mr. Woods' words were sincere and that we can soon see him begin to repair what he has broken. Just as sin effects the entire creation, repentance brings healing to the cosmos. The consequences are still there, the pain is still there, but true repentance brings a healing balm to the wound that has been opened. True repentance is a miracle because it partakes of the Resurrection of Christ from the dead. It takes death and gives birth to life. The memory of our Lord's crucifixion is still carried with us, but it is overshadowed by his glorious Resurrection. This is also the case with repentance. I hope that Mr. Woods' has given the gift of repentance to us all for all of our salvation.

There are at least two lessons here for us though. The first is about our own sins. We like to think of our sins as "normal." They are what every one does and are therefore not particularly bad. We tell a few white lies. We occasionally take some office supplies home from work, they didn't cost much and we feel justified in that because of the non-compensated work we are often required to give our companies. (Their sin begets sin.) Trouble is that is it my sin that will send me to hell and for which I am responsible, not some one else's. We need to begin to become consciously aware that there is no such thing as a private sin, that all of our sins infect and poison every one around us. We have brought about evil and death through our sins and we need to repent. (Is it too much to add that the normative and healthiest way of doing so is in the Sacrament of Reconciliation? It is Lent, let us flee in haste that we might be shriven and houselled.)

The second lesson is that instead of gleefully watching tabloid news (perhaps gleeful is too strong a word, perhaps it's more an addiction), we should be shocked and broken hearted because the world has been hurt. We have been hurt. We should reach the point that when we hear such news we hear the tolls of the bell, for truly it tolls for us.

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