Like most everyone else, I have been thinking about the situation unfolding around Penn State University. If you have not been following it, Jerry Sandusky, a retired assistant coach, who still appeared to have full access to Penn State facilities to conduct his non-profit kids camps through a charity called the Second Mile, was spotted sexually abusing a child in the school shower facility. This horrific discovery was followed up by a ridiculous parade of inaction, passing the buck, denial, and semantic games (like maybe it is just horse play for a man in his late 50’s to be fondling and touching a 10 year old child in the shower?!). It is what did not happen that is the problem. No one ever bothered to actually inform the police.
The fall-out from the lack of follow-up has caused the end of many careers, with more to come. Most famous of all, Joe Paterno, college football’s elder statesman, and self-appointed conscience has been relieved of his duties, because of the media outcry over his lack of follow-up once Sandusky’s despicable behavior was known. The students who rallied and rioted in Paterno’s defense didn’t take the time to think about how it must have made the alleged victim’s of Sandusky’s alleged depravity feel to see so much passion in defense of a football coach, and so little concern for the devastated lives of young alleged abuse victims.
As a pastor of a large institution it is a good reminder of how critically important it is to report any harm or injury or abuse that is made known to me. Of course, that is a given.
But the part of this that has stirred me is a more basic gut response. Where was the Good Samaritan in this story? Sandusky was caught in earlier bad behavior, but town officials had decided not to press charges. A big, strong (football player strong), 20 something year old assistant saw Sanduscky in the midst of an act of abuse, but instead of rushing to the aid of the child chose to leave… and a little later, called his father for advice. The most respected coach in College Football told his school president about it a few days later but never followed up, in fact, Penn State players conitued to be funneled into the Second Mile Kids camp program of Sandusky up until recent days. Coaches, administrators, law enforcement officials, all did nothing. Then a few days ago, a judge releases Sandusky on ridiculously low bond and without monitoring, and it turns out the judge is a past participant in the Second Mile program as well…
Where was the Good Samaritan… the person who saw the victimized kids not as an inconvenience, or a career ruiner for a respected man, but as helpless, vulnerable souls in desperate need of intervention? When Jesus wanted to illustrate what it really means to love your neighbor… instead of teaching us in theological principle, he told the story of travelers who passed by a wounded and dying fellow traveler not wanting to be bothered or soiled. Finally, a man arrived who truly saw the desperation and cared for the soul dying by the road. He did more than show disgust or report it down the road, he went to the victim, treated his wounds, put him on his own “ride” and even paid for his hotel room during his recovery.
Just one Good Samaritan, anywhere along the way in Sandusky’s sick trail of “alleged” abuse could have saved who knows how many victims… so this question is not just theology or even morality… is the core of humanity itself. Am I a Good Samaritan or not? Will I protect those who are the most vulnerable in the culture? Do I really know what it means to love my neighbor?
And You shall know the truth…