Friday, December 11, 2009

Just a man and his will…

“Stupid men.” Heard that comment recently? I have, and for the record, it wasn’t about tools and football. There’s nothing stupid about drills or gridiron glory. And I believe Jesus agrees.

No, this rather tongue-in-cheek remark came in response to a question I lofted at a female friend, “Did you hear about Tiger Woods?” It wasn’t just her, by the way. Other women I queried, in the church and beyond, gave almost the same reply. “Stupid men. When will they learn?” “Touché,” I thought, “Though we’re not all bad…right…” Of course, all generalizations of people groups – gender, age, race, sports fans- fall short; within any one category there’s always diversity. That said, it seems Tiger’s bad behavior touched a nerve in many that goes beyond Tiger himself.

In case you slept through last week, here’s an update. Tiger Woods, the world’s greatest golfer, had a car accident Thanksgiving night (technically, it was the next morning, 2:30 AM- YAWWWWN). Since then, speculation erupted about why the accident occurred, and especially, whether it stemmed from a family fight over Tiger’s unfaithfulness to his wife, Elin. Tabloids ran stories about alleged mistresses linked to Tiger. And the golfer published a statement vaguely admitting certain “transgressions,” his hope to become “a better husband and father,” an apology to fans and a plea for the media to “respect their privacy.” Good luck with that last one, Tiger, however decent an idea.

How to respond? Again, we admit that sports figures and celebrities aren’t default role models. They’re human, whose flaws, though, seem larger because of media exposure and greater wealth and fame. Still, this affair seemed different. It touched a deeper nerve for many people, and I must admit it wasn’t just the women quoted above. For some reason, I reacted stronger to this Tiger Woods episode than most celebrity scandals. I don’t why, but I let my guard down more in respect to his character. I wanted him to be the exception, the exemplar, yes, even the role model that others couldn’t be.

Why? Because I’m a guy who doesn’t like the notion that guys are irredeemably slavish, carnal and ceaselessly underdeveloped emotionally. I want to live as a counter example of that stereotype, and Tiger, with his uncanny coolness, seemed like an ally. I want my nephews, and the young men of our church, to discover empowering models of manly behavior that celebrate emotional complexity, mutuality, transformational vulnerability, and the deeper, more passionate joys of commitment. And I worry that young men, instead, get flooded with images and stories of men getting away with behaving irresponsibly, or worse, being praised as “cool” or “hip”. It seems like there’s a woefully short supply of places young men can turn to for examples of moral, faithful behavior. Now there’s one less. Bummer.

One of the many things I’ve enjoyed about our partnership with Thy Word Worship Center is a poster that appeared recently on their Bulletin Board. It has a boy with a sweater that reads “Teach Me,” and to his left is a list of things to teach- the usual suspects- “Don’t Do Drugs, Stay In School, etc.” It concludes with something unexpected, however, and welcome- Respect Women. Amen. The poster, you may know, is a protest against domestic violence, and I should be clear that I do not equate that with marital infidelity. Physical abuse seems worse. But it saddens me that, generally speaking (please recall the above caveat about generalizations), these infamous marital infidelities are typically men cheating on their wives. And because I’m constantly bombarded with images and stories that celebrate women’s bodies above all else, it makes me wonder… Not every act of unfaithfulness, of course, derives from a deep disrespect of women. People sometimes just mess up. But those images and stories I mentioned certainly are not respectful, and I know too many men who haven’t stopped to consider that. The image we should celebrate most is God’s image, embodied in all people.

But that’s just one thought. You got any ideas? Prayers for the Woods family. Here’s hoping they might become, at least, a model of reconciliation.

Grace and Peace,