Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Lance Armstrong

I don't care about the cheating.  It's a bike race, as arbitrary as any other sport.

He destroyed other people's lives who told the truth about him.  End of story.  I don't care how much money he raised for cancer research.  This is an issue that Christians have been close to for centuries, and have worked out the details in every generation, because it comes up in every generation. We have had millions of such people, we see the reasoning that it does some good in the world, we understand that no one is perfect, and we still reject it.

Do not do evil to others for selfish reasons.  Even if you give a showy fortune later, it doesn't matter.  That does not cover sin.

Believe me, that is not easy for experienced Christians to say, because that temptation is brutally ours, front and center.  We have learned habits of giving and service, and want those to cover for our exploitation of others.  In terms of worldly, cultural advance, that makes perfect sense.  A 51-49 advantage in goodness, multiplied decade over decade, would create a paradise and is justified in this world. 

We run a higher risk.


Dubbahdee said...

Of course you are right about what is Mr. Armstrong's worst deed.

More important to me is that Mr. Armstrong is a laboratory test case for the gospel. He is a mirror. He is every one of us writ large. The self-reliance, the denial, the essentially spiritual aggression aimed at maintaining his rightness -- it's taking the smudgy out of focus snapshot of every heart and drawing a picture of it in fat black marker on bleached white paper.

Idolatry is the sin behind all sin -- depending on things (including self) which are smaller and lesser than Jesus for whatever ultimate thing we crave. We shrink from Mr. Armstrong because the example of his idolatry is so stark and huge.

Yet I'm no better. I confess, but for my own reasons. I do good things, but for wrong reasons. I am just as helplessly addicted to my own pursuit of meaning as he is. I'm a doper too, it's just my dope is different and legal. His true and real dope doesn't show up on any lab test any more than mine does.

My hope is that he can come to see and truly confess (not to the press or even his friends and certainly not to me) to the One who Knows All and Make All Right. Stranger things have happened. Look at me.

Dubbahdee said...

Went a little ranty there. Sorry. Late at night. Not thinking clearly. Sheesh. Need my own blog.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

No, rant on. That is a variation on the theme. The Medievals would have said Pride was the greatest of sins, but their meaning would not have been far from your "Idolatry."

I never followed it much. A great-grandfather of mine was a bicycle racer and showman (I should tell that story), and I found the bicycle-racing aspect of The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight fun, but I couldn't abide the topic even for the Trivial Pursuit aspects such as Eddy Merckx and Maillot jaune. People got excited by this, even in America. I saw the back-from-cancer inspirational angle, but even with that, who cares? Co-workers would get very indignant: "He's passed every test." v. "He can't be the only clean one in a dirty sport and win."

He is in one sense all of us, but not quite. He is clearly some kind of Personality Disorder, by definition a human being with some missing pieces. He is of an evil beyond the rest of us, if you stress the idea of The Elect.

Or, if you prefer, he is exactly like the rest of us - what we would all be with a single missing piece, and there-but-for-the-grace, etc.

Most of us do not have the athletic (or other) ability to approach greatness and fame. We are just regular folk, and our temptations are less. We might do as badly as an Armstrong, or a Stalin, or a Judas were we given the chance.

Praise God for your smallness and lack of importance, eh?

Dubbahdee said...

Nice. The size of my smallness is hard to overlook, isn't it? ;-)

Assistant Village Idiot said...

I'm trying to get my head around that. It seems rather Chestertonian in its paradox.

Ben Wyman said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ben Wyman said...

My up-until-now defense of Lance looks worse it hindsight, simply because I was believing the best about him. "He's fought so hard to maintain his innocence... these other people are just sniping at him... he wouldn't keep this fight going so long if it wasn't his honor at stake... it must be true." He destroyed the people who spoke out against him, but since we assumed he was telling the truth and it was they who were lying, his behavior seemed acceptable.

But when we realized the opposite was true, it's not the lying that gets us. It's the realization that he intentionally destroyed other people - honest people - to keep those lies going. The only thing that mattered was the lie.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Two cyclist friends at work have long defended him, on the basis of "If you want to accuse, you've got to prove it." A very American, English Common Law attitude. As little as I paid attention, I agreed with that. It was only a year or two ago that I flipped, and I think quickly, that the accusers would have no reason to keep going unless they were convinced.

We think that our minds change only grdually, but I think at the moment of reconsideration it is very quick. To even question our previous belief we have to have growing discomfort, and likely we are over 50% in favor of the new belief before we are fully aware of it. Some single fact is pivotal, but does not move us from1% ro 51% - it moves us from 59% to 65%, and we recognise that the dissonance is unsustainable.

It is interesting to consider such things when we look at Christian conversion. In the moment, it seems a large, lightning change. But there was likely a groundswell underneat that which we did not notice or acknowledge.

Texan99 said...

Lying is dangerous enough, but the specially ugly form of lying about someone else, for the purpose of calling down social retribution on him, is such a terrible thing that it's featured in the Ten Commandments as "bearing false witness." So it's bad enough to lie to cover up one's own guilt, but horrible to shift the lie onto your accusers and let them be eaten up by the system, just because your prestige will tend to make your lie believed.