We live in a nation of liars. I suppose that has been the case for a long while since we are all fallen creatures. Lying is just part of what it means to struggle with sin. So maybe I should say that we’ve become a nation just so totally inoculated to lying that we have ceased to see the shamelessness of it all.
Ryan Braun, the star third baseman for the beleaguered Milwaukee Brewers, said to us a year ago that he would stake his life on the fact that he has not used performance enhancing drugs. In 2007 he was rookie of the year. He was the NL’s MVP in 2011. Green Bay Packers Quarterback Aaron Rodgers even staked his next year’s salary on Braun’s innocence. Turns out, Braun was lying the whole time.
The vehemence of his self-defense reminds me of Lance Armstrong who, in January of this year, finally admitted to doping in order to achieve his unbelievable (literally) seven Tour de France wins. Armstrong so strongly insisted on his innocence that he lost friends and colleagues along the way. He even tried to destroy the lives of people who came out telling the truth.
Or how about Anthony Weiner who is running for Mayor of New York and about whom my good friend Carson Holloway writes here? Remember how Weiner denied Andrew Breitbart’s accusation of sexting? Remember how the media ignored Breitbart until, well, they couldn’t because there were the pictures proving it all.
Epically, we had Bill Clinton, the President of the United States, tell us that he did not have sexual relations with “that woman.” Except that he did.
I suppose none of this is too surprising in a secular culture based on bling and competition. Our children may learn one thing from Sesame Street, but they are taught just the opposite in every movie and t.v. show they watch. “Win, beat the other guy, have fun, hook up, don’t disrespect me, you’re awesome and can do no wrong,” these are the messages our culture feeds us. Why should it shock me that so many lie? Still, I guess it’s not that they lie but that they are so devoid of shame for what they’ve done.
Growing up I remember my mother yelling at us when we had done something wrong, saying sinverguenza (she tended to switch to Spanish when we got in trouble). The word means “shameless.” For it is one thing to fail, to sin, to stumble. It is another thing altogether to be shameless. Someone who’s shameless has something the matter in their soul that needs to be worked out. That’s what disturbs me most about our culture.
Huma Abendin, the wife of Anthony Weiner, garnered a great deal of humility after the sexting scandal hit. It was clear that her husband had serious problems. That she decided to stick with him could have been a great sign of just what one is supposed to do when marriage is on the line. Except that, he had continued his behavior after his disgrace. Also, he now wants to be mayor of, arguably, the most important city in the United States. Thus, Ms. Abedin’s defense of her husband in the name of his mayoral run is sinverguenza.
Ryan Braun and Lance Armstrong, after finally being caught red handed, could no longer deny their sin. But instead of shame and contrition they both prevaricated: “Well, I’m not perfect,” or “I know I’ve made some mistakes in my life.” Cheating for years at a game you say you love is a mistake? Lying through your teeth to everyone, media, friends, loved ones about it was a mistake? No, spilling coffee on your mother-in-law’s lap is a mistake. Watching the new Gosling/Refn movie would be a mistake. Messing with Texans is a mistake. What Braun and Armstrong are doing is sinverguenza.
Redemption is central to the Christian message. Don’t get me wrong. I hope that other people can find redemption or else there is little hope for me. But then I don’t ask the world to overlook my sin as some sort of accident, as a trick played on me by the universe. Part of redemption is admitting your failure as your failure and having the common sense enough to realize that the common good requires trust. Trust is in short supply in America, and ball players who can’t be trusted to play straight shouldn’t be playing. And politicians who can’t be trusted to keep their marriages sacred for more than a few weeks shouldn’t be running for anything.
So ban Braun for more than just a season or fine him through the nose. Weiner should be forced out of the race by the Democratic Party not the national media. That’s how grownups behave, and we need more of those.