Lance Armstrong’s confession to Oprah Winfrey has left many people wondering. Was it genuine? Why did he wait so long? Can those he hurt forgive him? Will he ever compete again?
Each of us probably has differing responses to these questions. As a member of the clergy, what interests me is two-fold. Why did Lance Armstrong decide to confess publicly to Opera Winfrey? And , assuming he is genuine, can those he hurt forgive him?
Lance Armstrong was very wise to decide to make his public confession to Oprah. She represents a peculiarly American kind of secular religion, where people can try to find forgiveness and work through pain and sorrow. She is kind and understanding, but not obsequious.
In a way, Oprah acts as a corrective to what is often wrong with religion in America today. So often we focus on the fire and brimstone message of religion. What must you believe? Are you saved or not? What did you do to deserve your suffering?
Oprah’s message is more hopeful. She includes rather than excludes, and seeks to understand rather than condemn. She offers encouragement rather than blame. Without watering down our faith, we pastors, priests and rabbis need to do the same thing.
Trust Comes Before Forgiveness
Then question of forgiveness is more complicated. Both Christianity and Judaism teach forgiveness. It is a religious duty and helps build a more dignified and godly world.
It also takes time. And it takes an acceptance of responsibility. What makes it difficult for many to forgive Armstrong is that he denied the doping charges so vociferously and for so long!
Finding forgiveness begins with regaining trust. People need to trust Lance Armstrong; trust that he has changed, and trust that his remorse is genuine.
He is an extraordinary man with a lot to give. Will he have the character to do so? I pray that he does, but the jury is still out.
By Evan Moffic