Advertisement

At the Intersection of Faith and Culture

At the Intersection of Faith and Culture

Shamelessness, Not Forgiveness: Americans and “Fallen” Celebrities

On the front page of the January 18th-20th weekend edition of USA Today, one of the headlines reads: “Can You Forgive?” The article uses Lance Armstrong’s recent “confession” of “doping” to Oprah Winfrey as the point from which to segue into a discussion of the broader topic of Americans’ readiness to extend mercy to those celebrities who have veered from the straight and narrow path.

Rick Hampson writes: “From Bill Clinton (again toast of the Democratic Party) to Charlie Sheen (again a sitcom star) to Michael Vick (again an NFL quarterback), the bar for public redemption seems to have gotten lower and lower.”

This one article provides much food for thought. 

Unfortunately, it is all junk food.

Advertisement

USA Today expresses our culture’s conventional wisdom on this matter of forgiving those public figures who have fallen from grace. And this is exactly what we should expect would pass for wisdom within a culture that elevates celebrity status above that of every other station.

“Forgiveness” and “redemption” are concepts that originally emerged within a religious context—specifically, the context(s) of Judaism and Christianity.  Within this framework, they are preeminently meaningful.  Once they have been dislodged from this setting, though, they open themselves up to the worst sort of abuse.  Hampson’s USA Today piece is a classic case in point.

I cannot forgive Armstrong.  Neither can you.  Nor can either of us forgive Clinton, Vick, Sheen, Don Imus, Richard Nixon, or any other celebrity who throws himself at the mercy of the court of public opinion.

Advertisement

It isn’t that either of us is necessarily merciless.  Rather, we can no more forgive any of these famous penitents for their offenses for the same reason that neither of us would ever think to offer forgiveness to the other’s spouse for undermining his or her marriage.

In other words, neither you nor I can forgive the rich and famous for their transgressions because they didn’t transgress against us.

Real forgiveness is among the most painful things in the world for both the persons who ask and offer it.  The person who seeks it is pained by the acute realization that he has wronged another.  Yet he is also pained by the fear that his request will be rejected and he will be humiliated.  The person who is asked to forgive is pained by the transgression. But he too is afraid, for in forgiving, he will render himself vulnerable to being harmed once more.  Maybe he will even be thought weak, a sucker.

Advertisement

In the Christian tradition, forgiveness or mercy is a virtue, an excellence of character.  Like any other virtue—whether moral, intellectual, or physical—it comes about only as the result of the blood, sweat, and tears of those who make the point of practicing it.

To suggest that we can collectively “forgive” a person who hasn’t lent us any personal offense and about whom we could care less isn’t just to cheapen the concept of forgiveness; it is to cheapen it to the point of extinguishing it.  

In remarking that “the bar for public redemption seems to have gotten lower and lower,” it isn’t upon Americans’ ever growing capacity for forgiveness that USA Today comments.  It is, rather, their ever growing capacity to tolerate shameful conduct to which it speaks. 

Advertisement

A country that is indifferent to the most shameful, most dishonorable, sorts of conduct is itself shameless.  In conflating this most odious of vices with forgiveness, the noblest, the most divine of virtues, we convict ourselves of more than just an intellectual error.

We hurl ourselves into the depths of moral confusion.

The problem is that as long as we insist upon treating our vice as virtue, the less likely it is that we will recognize our shamelessness for what it is.

And the less likely it is that we will be able to practice forgiveness in our personal relationships—where it belongs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Previous Posts

Myron Pauli: The Pledge of Allegiance versus The US Constitution
Just in time for Independence Day, guest-blogger Myron Pauli addresses the conflict between the Pledge of Allegiance, on the one hand, and, on the other, The United States Constitution. All patriotic Americans who have the opportunity to do so ...

posted 10:26:12pm Jun. 29, 2015 | read full post »

Dylan Roof, the Confederate Flag, and the Logic of the Left
The Dylan Roof/Charleston massacre supplies much food for thought. (1)Predictably, the agents of the Racism-Industrial-Complex (RIC) wasted no time in exploiting this horror for their own political and ideological purposes. From Fox News to ...

posted 10:11:17am Jun. 24, 2015 | read full post »

The CHARGE of "Racism" is Eurocentric Bigotry?! An Academic Leftist Weighs In
An email from "Leon Marlensky," the only consistent leftist remaining, as far as he is concerned. Here, he sounds off a bit over the Charleston, SC coverage. I have reprinted this here with Leon's permission. Dear Jack: In the wake of the ...

posted 11:06:40pm Jun. 19, 2015 | read full post »

What "Caitlyn" Jenner and Rachel Dolezal Teach Us About the "Progressive" Worldview
The events of Rachel Dolezal and “Caitlyn” Jenner are classic textbook case studies in the intellectual and moral incoherence of the contemporary leftist/progressive worldview. Dolezal is a biologically white person who has spent years ...

posted 10:29:58pm Jun. 17, 2015 | read full post »

The Last of the True Progressives Weighs in More on Caitlyn Jenner
Leon Marlensky (an alias for a fellow academic who wishes to remain anonymous) elaborates more on his disgust over, as he sees it, the betrayal of progressivism as revealed via the coverage of the Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner issue. To Those of You ...

posted 10:25:20pm Jun. 15, 2015 | read full post »

Advertisement


Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.