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On Cultural Heroes and Moral Zeroes

Awhile back I heard a radio preacher say some people are as confused as a termite in a wooden yo-yo. That's pretty confused. But the past few days have reminded us that America is not only the land of the free and the home of the brave, but also, from time to time, the land of the flaky and home of the bizarre. Details of the pre-death private behavior of music icon Michael Jackson and popular ex-NFL quarterback Steve McNair make it clear that both of them were, in one way or another, more than a little confused. And now the post-death public discussion surrounding their passing makes it clear American culture, or at least a large segment of it, is also confused. Our ultra-tolerant, non judgmental society finds it impossible to admit those we idolize as social and cultural heroes can also be moral and spiritual zeroes. I have no desire to demonize Jackson and McNair. For millions of fans worldwide, Jackson was a musical genius whose signature "moon walk" left them moonstruck. Steve McNair was a talented pro' athlete who was tough as nails and whose skill and passion for the game of football made him thrilling to watch and easy to like. Both men are hailed as heroes in public and used their fame and fortune to try to make life better for others who were less fortunate. But their deaths brought to light some sad and sordid details about the way they lived away from the public eye — including allegations of child molestation, addiction to prescription drugs, and adultery. How should we view cultural successes who prove to be moral failures? Concerning McNair's murder (at the hands of his 20-year old mistress Sahel Kazemi) and public response to it, Elizabeth Merrill wrote, "It's a moral dilemma in Nashville, a town that worships its sports heroes and believed, for the better part of 10 years, that Steve McNair was its most perfect role model: How do you mourn a man whose imperfections were exposed in his shocking death" ("The dilemma: How to mourn McNair" @ sports.espn.go.com)? How indeed. As a hero or a zero?

I don't mean to beat up on Jackson or McNair or Kazemi (who apparently committed suicide after murdering McNair). They were human beings and they all leave behind grieving families and friends who need our sympathy and prayers. I do mean to say, forcefully so, that sin is sin and that the Bible is not wasting ink when it warns "the wages of sin is death" (Romans 6:23a) — even when the sin is kept private by successful people who are popular with the public. Michael Jackson and Steve McNair will be remembered and honored as heroes and winners in their fields of public endeavor, and rightfully so. But do we have the courage to say the sin in their private lives made them moral and spiritual losers? Yea, sin made moral and spiritual losers of us all. But the good news of the Gospel is that through Christ we can be winners (Romans 3:23; 6:23a; 1:16)! As sinners in need of God's grace, let us look to "a great High Priest who has passed through the Heavens, Jesus the Son of God. . .who was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin" (Hebrews 4:14, 15). Jesus alone is the Savior and hero of the soul. Think about it.

Dan Gulley
Smithville church of Christ