I live in Lake Wobegon country and I must say, that heroes are falling fast. If you are a fan of Public Radio, you’ll recognize Lake Wobegon as a feature on the Prairie Home Companion show. Both our Minnesota Senator Al Franken and, former Prairie Home Companion show host, Garrison Keillor have been on the front pages of our newspapers – accused of sexual harassment. I’ll leave it to others to determine the truth behind the allegations. But, I have to say that I have been disappointed. We make our heroes invincible. We tell ourselves that they only act justly and fairly in their dealings with others. We put our heroes on pedestals and pretend they are super human, not given to the faults and flaws of others.
We want our heroes to be more saintly than we expect of ourselves. As a fan of Prairie Home Companion and an occasional teller of Lake Wobegon stories in my sermons, I’m feeling a bit deflated. Our heroes are not supposed to act inappropriately. They don’t do drugs or drink excessively. Our heroes are supposed to remain true to our highest values and never let their humanness get in the way of their inspiring us.
There are, of course, no perfect people. Those on pedestals inevitably slip off. They make mistakes. Stress takes it toll in various ways. Sharp words, bitter words spew from mouths. Alcohol and drugs can be a too easy coping mechanism when one feels misunderstood or overwhelmed. Addiction can rob the people we look up to of their credibility. Inappropriate sexual contact happens, even with our heroes. So, what is a Christian to do?
My New Testament seminary professor used to say, “God forgives, but we live with the consequences of our sins.” Then he would add the promise of forgiveness and new life. There is accountability and taking responsibility for ones actions. “If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities, Lord, who could stand?” the psalmist asked. ( Psalm 130:3) None of us is without sin, which means we all need to keep perspective. There are certainly degrees of wrongdoing, which should bring about varied degrees of repercussions.
It helps to remember that even when people fail us, the good they have done is not erased. We will have a more nuanced image in the future – a more realistic image of our hero as a flawed human being. Not everything is washed away by a mistake, failure or inappropriate moment . . . which in our black and white world we are tempted to toss. We judge people as either good or bad and not the in-between we allow ourselves to be.
We believe in redemption. Our faith is one of second chances. I’m grateful for God who gives us second chances, who restores us when we fail and promises us a life of new beginnings. I’m not sure what is going to be happening in Lake Wobegon in the next few weeks. What I do know is that in good Twelve Step Hazelden fashion, we make amends for our wrongdoing. We start again, fresh over, knowing that the God of second chances, gives each of us the same gift. Meanwhile there is prayer. Prayer for people being accused. Prayer for those who feel victimized. And a prayer that we all learn something about respect and appropriate behavior whatever our status in life, wherever we are.