Just some early morning thoughts from me to you…
Take your evil deeds out of my sight! Stop doing wrong, learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow.
Isaiah 1: 16-17 (NIV)
He played well for awhile. His wife and children were at home. He hit it in the woods. He bounced it off a tree. He cursed. He didn’t win.
That’s what I heard, anyway, because for the first time in a long-time the Masters Golf tournament was not on our television set throughout the weekend. Not when all the coverage by CBS was on every swing (on the golf course), nose scratch and comment by Tiger Woods, and a fawning golf media accepted back a man singularly focused, it seemed, on winning golf and reclaiming commercial endorsements.
Forgiveness and redemption, of course, but genuine remorse ought to be mixed in there somewhere also. He said the right things and his PR commercials were designed to make you respect or like him again—if you held either sentiment previously. Believability would be nice, too. Of course, we should all be cautious about looking at the speck of sawdust in someone else’s eye while paying no attention to the plank in our own. But once again it seems to be all about money and winning—to him, to corporations, to the PGA, to tournaments and tournament sponsors, to the media—and we as a society accept it. So, I suppose for us, it’s all about money and winning, too.
It’s probably why it’s so hard to tell the good guys from the bad guys at times—when simply doing the right thing is not a factor. When the standards are not simply about doing what is right, but instead are all about money, power, fame and winning—it’s pretty easy to slide from one side to another without much of a catch in our spirit, or damage to our conscience.
Just keep it out of the woods—hit it on the green and make a putt or two.
I suppose there was a time when it was about doing what was right. Lynda’s Daddy was like that. A couple of federal Judges I clerked for were like that. They knew what was right—they didn’t need an idolizing public to decide for them which way was the right way—they knew it in their gut. They found it affirmed for them in scripture verses like the one above.
But even back then and way before then, there has always been the opportunity and lure to fall away. I suppose it’s the state of original sin the Bible talks about—leading to our tendency to err on the side of wrong when left to our own devices and desires.
I was reminded of that as I watched the movie Judgment at Nuremberg again the other night. It depicted the third trial of thirteen international war crimes trials which were held after WW II with the intent of bringing to justice those guilty of crimes against humanity—like the wholesale extermination of 6,000,000 of our citizens.
The question posed for this particular tribunal—sitting in judgment over a number of judges of the Third Reich—was how much responsibility one should be held to for simply following orders. Heinous things were done—but not always by people who were demonstrably evil or heinous themselves—but seemingly ordinary, otherwise right-thinking and acting people—perhaps who looked a lot like you and me.
The defense’s argument that “It wasn’t my fault, the ‘devil’ made me do it”, so to speak, didn’t persuade the majority of the tribunal which found all the defendants to be guilty, and declared that actions carry with them responsibility—whether under the direction or duress of “orders” or not. Otherwise, one could make the same argument that “it wasn’t my fault” based upon an addiction, illness, age, infirmity, ignorance, relative insignificant consequence, falling away from my faith or stopped going to church, or what I heard the other day about our fallen golfer of note—“others were probably doing what he did, too.”
At the end of the movie, one of those found guilty—Ernst Janning, a previously respected German judge, asked to speak privately to the chair of the judicial tribunal—Judge Dan Haywood. He told Judge Haywood that his decision was the right one—he was guilty. But Janning went on trying to explain, and to some extent excuse himself and his actions, by saying that when it all began it was just one or two and then: “Those millions. I never knew it would come to that. You have to believe that.” To which the Judge Haywood responded: “It came to that the first time you sentenced a man to death whom you knew to be innocent.”
Maybe it’s all about money, power, fame and winning in our society today. Maybe it’s too much about all of that. But it also seems that it’s still worth fighting for to try to hang on to the value that doing the right thing is worth more than all of that stuff.
In that case, whether our fallen golfer wins again, will not depend on having the lowest score after four rounds of a golf tournament, or the highest for that matter. Whether he wins again will depend on him doing the right thing—for the right reasons.
You and me, too.
In His Name—Scott