Monday, July 23, 2012

a short word on evil and the shooting in Aurora, CO

Like all Americans, I was horrified, grieved and unnerved to hear of the massacre at a movie theater in Aurora, CO this weekend.  A movie theater of people, gathering to enjoy a summer blockbuster, was sprayed with bullets, leading to the murder of 12 people and the injury of 50-some more.  News coverage has mostly followed the typical sensational and speculative script that comes about each time one of these mass shootings occur.  Virtually every hour, news anchors on the 24-hour networks have called in criminal profilers and psychologists to try to explain to us all the "why?" behind such acts of evil.  Evil is typically something we can avoid in most of our everyday life.  Mass killings are too common, certainly, but still relatively rare in the big picture.  But when such a visceral act of violence occurs, apparently targeting individuals for no real reason, we want to know why. 

This is not the only place we have seen evil in the news lately.  The Jerry Sandusky-Penn State scandal also calls to mind questions of evil in our world.  How is it that a man could abuse children so callously over such a long period of years?  Even worse, how could "normal," professional people--even revered and admired people--tolerate it and cover it up? 

What if, instead of bringing the psychologists and the criminal profilers and the attorneys, we brought in clergypeople and theologians?  Can we continue to avoid the pervasive nature of evil, even in seemingly "good" people like Joe Paterno anymore?  Where does this evil come from?  Is there any power or force greater than this evil?  How can we hope to overcome evil?  Will a day come when we no longer must seek to heal victims of sexual abuse or bury young people mowed down in their prime?

These are all questions for which Christian theology has answers.  At a time in which we are so baffled and troubled by evil, wouldn't it behoove us as a nation to at least give a listen to what those answers may be?

My prayers continue to be with all of those who suffered losses in Aurora, CO.  May God grant you comfort, peace and the assurance of His presence through all of the stages of grief.


  1. Rebecca-

    Perhaps I'm just a natural contrarian. But I do want to quibble with your version of events at Penn-State where:

    ""normal," professional people--even revered and admired people--tolerate it and cover it up"

    In looking at the conclusions of the Freeh Report- The evidence for these conclusions seems unlikely to stand up in any court of law.
    This seems to be just another example of "Media Sensationalism" as it relates to Joe Paterno.

    Let's look at the Standard Claims

    1. Joe Paterno "Lied" regarding his knowledge of a 1998 investigation of Sandusky.

    The evidence provided by the Freeh Report for this conclusion is an E-Mail exhange between the AD Curley and the Head of Campus Security Schultz. Where they informed "The Coach" about the investigation and "Public Welfare" would interview the allegded victim. Where as in Grand Jury Testimony-Paterno claimed to be unaware of "Details" of the investigation. To be aware of details of an investigation and a investigation itself is a huge gap especially when it relates to cases concerning the welfare of Children.

    Now it's possible Paterno lied- But I'm having a hard time seeing why someone would lie about their knowledge in regards to a case where Sandusky was acquitted through proper legal channels. Although Second Mile's decision to get a 2nd Evaluation of Sandusky after the first one raised questions should be more examined.

    Although if you want to point blame in the 1998 Investigation- You need to look

    2. Joe Paterno heard reports of "Anal Rape" by Jerry Sandusky in the Penn State Showers in 2001 and choose not to do anything about it.

    It should be stated for the record that Paterno went to the AD and the Head of the Penn State Police Force with this bit of hear say.

    Let's look at the nature of the allegations themselves. Of the 48 counts brought against Sandusky. He was actually acquitted of these charges. The reason for this is there were differences amongst Mike McQueary's Testimony to different people whom he reported it including Joe Paterno and a good friend who was a family doctor. It should also be stated that anyone who reads Mcqueary's Testimony to the Grand Jury didn't describe what he witnessed as "Anal Rape". Another big issue with Mcqueary allegations was the Victim was never revealed.

    It should also be stated that the AD Curley did report this incident to the head of Second Mile in 2001. Since Sandusky was no longer an employee of Penn State at the time the mandatory reporter according to PA Law would have been Second Mile.

    Conclusion- I'm not trying to defend Jerry Sandusky by any means. His guilt was proven true.

    I am skeptical of the media's blame of Penn State in the whole sordid affair while downplaying the role of Second Mile the Charity who seems to be more culpable.

    Could the reason be that "Penn State and Joe Paterno generate more news ratings?"

    Could the Freeh Report have been written in such a way to take a complex situation and make scapegoats out of people that were already dead or indictment?

    I'm not trying to make the case that there wasn't a conspiracy involving Joe Paterno. I'm only pointing out that the evidence is not really all that clear.

    To his credit- Louis Freeh admitted that his conclusions weren't really based on the same standards that would apply within a courtroom.

  2. Stew, you're missing my point. My point is not to wade into the intricacies of the Penn State case. Admittedly, I haven't read the report, but the summaries I have read have presented convincing evidence that Paterno himself was involved in the cover-up, in fact, that he was the determining factor in causing the McQueary allegations to not be reported to the police. McQueary clearly testified in court that what he saw WAS of a sexual nature. It doesn't matter if it was anal rape or not, ultimately. The fact of the matter is, the adults at Penn State did very little to protect vulnerable children. They held up almighty football as their idol. This is why God said, "You shall have no other gods before Me."

    My overriding point here, again, is not to debate the intricacies of the case, but to point to the reality of original sin present within even what we would consider "good" people. Evil is possible even in the "best" of us. Because ultimately none of us are good or best. We are sinful human beings and our capacity for evil is shocking and frightening. But, that's why Jesus came. And in Him we have hope. In Him, we can be made new creations.

    1. I've been reading this post and the comments with great interest. Firstly, this happens everywhere as witnessed in Norway recently and in Dunblane years ago, and so on and so on. The problem with America, if you can call it that, is the ease of getting high-powered weapons of various kinds. Also, you have the third biggest population in the world, so statistically it's odds on that things like this will happen in America now and again. You made a very good point Rebecca when you wrote: ' point to the reality of original sin present within even what we would consider "good" people. Evil is possible even in the "best" of us.' Yes it is, absolutely. No one is free of sin, and we can all be evil and we can all be good. Most of us don't shoot down dozens of people but that doesn't mean we should pat ourselves on the back on how wonderful we are, because we aren't. Sin is like the air we breathe, everywhere, indiscernible, but clinging to everything and tarnishing human society in every way possible. A 'good' person can abuse kids; a 'nice' person can shoot down dozens of people for no reason. It is why we must cling to the saving grace of Jesus and never rely on our own 'goodness' because quite frankly it's not good enough!

    2. Tim, you are getting my main point here! Exactly! The point is not to argue minutiae of a specific case...the point is to see that sin is hidden in every heart and we need a Savior. For those who want to dissect the Freeh report, they can do that on their own blogs. :-)

  3. Rebecca-

    1. What's the convincing evidence of a cover-up. The report does make mention of meetings taking place between Spanier, Schultz, and Curley. It never provides any evidence that Paterno attended or was even aware of these meetings. It should also be stated the most relevant individuals were not interviewed by Freeh on account of other legal matters. This is a very weak standard of legal proof.

    2. As far as the Mcqueary allegations. This isn't quite right. Penn State operated as it's own indepedent police force so Paterno reporting to Schultz was proper protocol. Mcqueary's story came off differently to different people as evidenced by the testimony given by family friend-Dr.Jonathan Dronov during the Sandusky Trial.

    3. Your statement: "The fact of the matter is, the adults at Penn State did very little to protect vulnerable children."

    I would question this statement as being a fact. The Media Narrative along with the Freeh Report seem not to be able to differentiate between the two.

    So I'll raise a few questions.

    1. How many of Sandusky's incidents took place on the Penn State Campus? 1-of which Sandusky was acquitted. Were proper legal channels followed? Yes. I'm curious as to what more should have been done.

    2. Is there clear legal proof of a cover-up? Probably not- again I'm not saying it's not possible only that the legal standard is not clearly met.

    3. Where was Sandusky getting access to these children even after questionable Physc.Evals taking place in the wake of the 1998 allegations? Penn State or 2nd Mile.

    4. Did Penn State cooperate with the 1998 Investigation? This isn't really disputed.

    Conclusion: Sandusky's guilt is not an issue. The role of Penn State and Joe Paterno seems way less clear cut. The role of 2nd Mile seems to be receiving way less scrutiny then it should. RATINGS! RATINGS! RATINGS!

  4. I realize this isn't the point of your blog post. I do get irritated with the way the Media shapes the news narrative. But I'll comment on the more relevant part.

    When reflecting on cases like Aurora or Sandusky/Second Mile. I think this creates a good opportunity to reflect on the influence of Satan within the world. I don't believe Jerry Sandusky or James Holmes to be subhuman monsters. I believe Satan was able to appeal to them that their actions served the greater good. For Satan's work is defined by making the ugly turn beautiful and the beautiful turn ugly. Satan's influence in cases like this should always be noted because "When we deny the power of the Demoniac within the world- we tend to demonize others instead".

    1. One thing I do agree with you on, Stew, and that is in wondering why Second Mile has not been further analyzed in terms of their culpability. Because it sounds like they did know that Sandusky was doing this stuff.

      Satan is part of the problem here, for sure. But our sinful selves (all of us...not just Sandusky or Holmes) are also to blame. And only Christ can save us. What I am trying to do in this post is seize a cultural moment, in which many of us feel overwhelmed by evil and point to the hope that is found in Christ. Please stop arguing the minutiae of the Penn State case. That's not the point of this post. If you feel it's something that needs to be addressed, please do it on your own blog. The point of my post is a spiritual concern.

  5. Rebecca- I'm not bringing these issues up with Penn State to come off as a "Troll". The reality of the Sandusky Scandal is Second Mile is much more closely connected then Penn State. Second Mile was the ones that had a Physc.Eval performed on him in 1998 that was scrapped when it raised some very troubling concerns. Second Mile then kept sending kids to his care. The reason this is downplayed is because bringing down a Pious Legend like Joe Paterno makes more money whether the evidence is convincing or not.

    Your Broader point though (Which I realize you aimed to address) does provide good fodder for Sermon Material about the role of sin and evil in society.


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