Penn State’s Monster

We as a nation are facing a crisis of ethics.  Penn State University’s cover-up of its sexually deviant monster – Jerry Sandusky – is a tragic yet poignant example.  Polite society openly agrees that raping young boys is a heinous form of immorality.  Penn State’s coordinated cover-up, however, reveals that polite society often engages in a worse form of immorality: knowing, but doing nothing about it.

Jerry Sandusky - former Penn State coach - placed under arrest

Penn State’s cover-up perfectly illustrates the choice the apostle Paul placed before Christians in 1 Corinthian 1: the World’s Wisdom or God’s Folly.  The world regards a crucified Christ and His cross as pure folly – foolishness.  They represent weakness and defeat, which the world abhors.  Prestige, power, and success thrill the world.  Paul makes it clear, however, that we must fully embrace the folly of the cross and the gospel lifestyle, or we will cling for eternity to a dying wisdom which leads to hell.  God said, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise” (1 Cor. 1:19).

The Penn State tragedy serves as a poignant example of how easily and naturally polite society embraces the world’s wisdom, even when this wisdom leads it down a path of destruction, abuse, and hypocrisy.

The story begins in a locker room at Penn State University in the year 2002.  On his own admission to authorities as part of a grand jury investigation, Mike McQueary – a 28-year old football coach at Penn State – returned late Friday evening to the coaches’ locker room to retrieve a forgotten item.  Noticing a light and hearing disturbance in the shower room, which was strange, he investigated.  What he saw, if you’ve read any of the grand jury report, is the sickest, most heinous form of sexual deviancy imaginable.

Jerry Sandusky, former defensive coordinator at Penn State – second only in legendary status to Coach Joe Paterno – was sexually abusing a 10-year old boy in the worst form of the term.  Mike McQueary’s eyewitness account will turn your stomach.

The young coach faced an immediate choice.  Morality was screaming, “Rescue the boy!  Grab him and get him away from this monster!” McQueary was 28-years old and a former star at Penn State: old enough to know that this was horribly wrong and big enough to do something about it…while a precious, 10-year old boy was neither, trapped.  His choice came down to loyalty or integrity.  He chose loyalty – to his coach and the university he loves.

Mike McQueary, who witnessed the 2002 rape, stands next to legendary coach, Joe Paterno

Leaving the boy alone with the monster, he retreated to his office and called his father, who was a close friend of Sandusky, the predator.  His father faced the same choice.  Morality screamed, “Send your son back in immediately to rescue the boy!” But he told his son, “Leave immediately and come home.”

Together at home, they had the choice: loyalty or integrity – go back together and rescue the boy; call the police – something!  Instead, they waited until the next day – who knows what the boy was enduring – and went secretly to head football coach, the legend, Joe Paterno, and told the gruesome tale.

Mr. Paterno faced a choice: loyalty or integrity.  Morality screamed, “A precious boy was just ravaged by a monster.  Call the police!” Mr. Paterno made the same choice as the other two: loyalty.  He called the athletic director, who called the president, and they all conspired to cover up the tragedy.

Almost ten years have elapsed, and Jerry Sandusky – though retired from coaching – continued to enjoy a welcome, very public role on campus.  He officed on campus, worked out in the football weight room, and was involved in Penn State’s recruitment of high school boys.  He founded and operated a charity to – get this – help young boys.  He was often seen on campus with young boys, as recently as the last couple of years.

We now know that Mr. Paterno and the university staff were fully aware of Sandusky’s sexual deviancy long before 2002 – dating back to 1996.  Campus authorities had told him, for instance, in 1998 not to shower with young boys on campus anymore.  Can you believe that?  Penn State authorities were saying, in essence, “Abuse young boys somewhere else, just not here on campus.”

Mike McQueary – who witnessed the 2002 incident and is still coaching at Penn State – his father, Joe Paterno, the athletic director, the president, and who knows who else all knew they were harboring a monster…for over ten years.  Eight victims are listed in the grand jury case, but the number of accusers is climbing steadily as more and more victims and families come forward with their nightmarish stories.

Don’t miss what’s going on here.  The powers-that-be at Penn State University concluded that the wisest thing to do was to sweep the incident under the rug.  Why?  Because the university’s reputation, Joe Paterno’s reputation, the football program, and the significant money it brings in were judged to be of greater value than innocent little boys whose lives were ruined by a monster.

Paterno, still embracing and protecting Sandusky, even after he knew he was a monster

We have here a tragic example of how the world’s wisdom sometimes comes back to ruin you.  Jerry Sandusky, the predator, has been arrested.  The athletic director and president of the university have been fired.  Joe Paterno – the winningest football coach in major college history – has been fired.  Mike McQueary, who could’ve saved the boy and had the monster arrested ten years ago, is receiving death threats.  All the movers and shakers chose the world’s wisdom, which says that football is king, reputation is everything, loyalty trumps integrity, and money trumps it all.

Joe Paterno tried to control his own destiny last week by jumping ahead of the school’s board of trustees.  He rushed out a retirement statement, saying that he planned to retire at the end of the season.  The board fired him the next day.

Allow me to quote a brief portion of Mr. Paterno’s retirement statement, because it reveals how blind he is to true morality.

“I have come to work every day for the last 61 years with one clear goal in mind: To serve the best interests of this university and the young men who have been entrusted to my care. I have the same goal today.”

“One clear goal in mind”: the best interests of Penn State.  That goal trumped integrity.  That goal trumped caring for the boy, wondering what happened to him.  That goal welcomed Jerry Sandusky with open arms – protecting him – and all the while knowing that the monster was roaming loose, all because Mr. Paterno had “one clear goal in mind.”

He continues:

“This is a tragedy. It is one of the great sorrows of my life. With the benefit of hindsight, I wish I had done more.  My goals now are to keep my commitments to my players and staff and finish the season with dignity and determination. And then I will spend the rest of my life doing everything I can to help this university.”

“To help this university.” It’s egregious!  Knowing in gruesome detail what his friend did to countless victims, he is still blinded by loyalty to Penn State.  How about spending the rest of his life doing everything he can to help the victims he could have done something to rescue but didn’t.

We are a nation facing a crisis of ethics.  The Penn State leaders I mentioned represent the wise, powerful, and well-born.  There’s not a job these men held that most of us wouldn’t love to have, in terms of the paycheck, public acclaim, and power.  But look where the world’s wisdom can get you, if you’re not careful.

Joe Paterno is universally recognized as a man of great integrity.  He and his wife have donated $4 million to help the university, but the world’s wisdom blinded him as to what was truly moral and right.  His statement reveals that he still doesn’t get it.

Thousands of college students swarmed his home as well as the campus to show their support in the wake of his firing.  They grew so angry that

Rioting students overturned this news van as well as vandalized so violently that riot police were called in

they turned over a news van, smashed windows on cars, and rioted so violently that the riot police had to rush in with tear gas.

How asinine!  These college students are so distorted in their ethics that they can’t see that Joe Paterno is not the victim.  The precious, vulnerable, little boys whose lives are in shambles because of a monster are the victims.  And their beloved coach knew about it and did nothing to protect future victims, nothing to care for those he knew about.

I pray that none of us ever faces what that 28-year old coach saw that night in 2002.  But decide right now that, regardless of the pressure, you will choose right in any and every context.  Stand on the side of victims, because God loves them.  Defend the defenseless, because God rushes to their side.  Analyze your life and decisions very carefully to protect yourself from getting so mixed in with the world’s wisdom that you can’t see what is glaringly right.

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