Last night I was reading an article detailing the recent developments at Penn State. The story of former assistant football coach Joe Sandusky's serial abuse of children is wretched. Even more horrifying, perhaps, is the apparent confusion of powerful people, like head coach Joe Paterno, regarding their moral and legal obligations - Paterno reported one instance of abuse that occurred on premises to his boss but neglected to notify the family of the victim, inquire about the victim's well-being, or do anything to stop future instances of abuse. JoePa, did just enough to not get arrested. Others have documented the case in more detail, so I won't add anything further about the things left undone culminating in Paterno's firing yesterday. However, I will note one detail from the article that caught my attention. On Tuesday, a group of loyal students marched to his home near campus and staged a rally in support of their beloved coach as his job hung in the balance. At one point, Paterno emerged from his home for an impromptu pep-talk that began with a call for prayer on behalf of the victims. He said,
[quote]And as I said, whether you heard me or not, the kids who were victims ... I think we all oughta say a prayer for them. Because it's a tough life when people do certain things to you.[/quote]
I agree with Paterno, prayer for the victims is a good idea. But why do the acused always seem to wait until after they are caught to encourage prayer for the victim? In moments like this, prayer sounds more like a public relations play than a genuine call to bow your head. If Paterno and others unexpectedly faced with the truth once concealed, interrupted their press conferences with an actual prayer I'd be stunned. But instead, I'm left wondering if "prayer on behalf of the victim" has become a cliche of popular culture - something you are supposed to say, but not necessarily expected to do.
I won't be giving any press conferences on my lawn soon. But Paterno got me thinking about my own proclivity to promise a prayer for people suffering through illness, grief, or worry without ever following up with an actual prayer. Maybe all of us prayer promising people with no follow up should adopt a new standard and trade an on the spot prayer for the promise of one later?