Commentary: A Pastor's Take on the PSU Scandal

Pastor Joseph Thomas of the Neshaminy Valley Baptist Church shares his views on the PSU scandal.

Pastor Joseph Thomas of the Neshaminy Valley Baptist Church felt compelled to share his thoughts and propose an interesting idea for Saturday’s game…

The values of a society are recognized in what we celebrate, protect, and mourn. We derive joy or anger over that which we value.  We also fight for that which is worth preserving.  Watch the people in the Middle East who are willing to fight and die for what they value – freedom.  How we respond to a crisis, is often a window to revealing the values we hold. Our immediate decisions are an indicator of our intended future.

The culture at Penn State has come under scrutiny because it has shocked people – I am surprised it has.  When entertainment, money, and reputation are high values on which a culture is built – don’t be surprised if the cry of a little boy or the complaint of a lowly employee is ignored.  Why? It is obvious that if taken seriously, it would threaten the very edifice on which the institution is built.

As a father of a Penn State Senior and because of my own vocation, I am interested not only in what led to the collapse but even more fascinated in discovering the responses of the students and the Board of Trustees.  I’ve reminded myself that the Student reaction will be varied. There are those who will riot and do foolish things and then there is that group of students and probably a majority that have a different view. Since they are not dramatic like the first group, they don’t attract the attention of people and media.  Do remember that these students will come and go, and institutionally they are just a passing voice.  What one needs to watch closely is the Board of Trustees and those who have the authority to make decisions both immediate and affecting the future.  Their decisions will give you great insight into the future direction. This is why when they make their decision, why they make them, and how they make it is sometimes more important than the decision itself.

Revealing is the fact that the time, energy and media attention has been predominantly on football and Joe Pa.  When you consider the when, why, and how in the Boards responses you discover that on the when they are reactive rather than proactive.  In the firing of Joe Pa, their declared reason was that the “decisions were made … [in the] best interest of the University as a whole”.  A little vague. When you see how it was done – impersonally.  Didn’t someone have the courtesy or compassion to look this man in the eye, and be personal in sharing this news? People of conviction are bold people – they not only do the right thing but they do it the right way.  Obvious is the contradiction that Coach Mike McQueary was allowed to stay.  At this point I am not sure whether there is conviction and clarity in their responses.  Is it because the crisis has not been defined? Is it integrity in leadership? Is it the loss of an icon in Joe Pa?  Is it the victims?  Is it the reputation of PSU?

Since “best interest” is a touted value, and most of us can agree that the best interest should be the victims, I would argue that the Institution, the sport of football, and everything else be treated secondary at this particular moment.  Remember after 9/11, we mourned for a few days when all sports were halted, talk show hosts were not funny, and then after a period of silence we slowly resumed normalcy. 

Here’s a challenge to the Penn State Trustee Board.   May I suggest that in the best interest of victims, PSU concede tomorrow’s game to Nebraska?  There are two ways of doing it – either concede the game and not play, or gather for the game and within the first 3 minutes let Nebraska score a field goal or a touch down and end the game.  My recommendation is for the latter choice because I understand that for the seniors, this is a significant day.  Every society has its rituals, and so for the Senior football players and their family one could go through those rituals. They could then use the rest of the play time to mourn, keep silence and take a monetary collection for the victims. They could do something creative and redemptive, rather than entertain themselves with the same sport, whose leaders were instrumental in ruining lives.

Any takers?

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