Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Lacrosse, Murder, and the Poison Cup. . . .


It was only a matter of time before Michael Preston appeared on national television to say what we all - including me - want so desperately to believe about each other and ourselves. Preston was a childhood friend of George Huguely, the University of Virginia lacrosse player who has been arrested and charged with the brutal murder of UVA women's lacrosse player Yeardley Love.

This morning, a host of disturbing new details in the unfolding case are being reported on media outlets everywhere. I happened to tune into NBC's The Today Show, where I watched an eight-plus minute story that included an interview with Michael Preston about three minutes and 15 seconds into the piece. Preston repeated what's become the standard line from associates and friends of accused perpetrators in all kinds of cases: that the George Huguely he knew was "not capable of doing something like this."

I used to believe the same thing not only about everyone I knew, but about myself. It wasn't even something I had to think about in order to believe. It was just inherent in the fabric of how I thought about life. But three things changed all that. . . and I'm not sure in what order.

First, there's a basic theological understanding of human nature. Most of us just grow up believing that people are inherently good. That commonly-held cultural belief informs not only how we live each and every day, but our response to the bad stuff that happens in the world. At the very least, it leads us to believe that "I would never do anything like that!" But the script that recounts the divine drama unfolding around us and in us tells us the truth. . . and the truth tells us otherwise. Believe it or not, our natures are evil. David reminds us that we are "brought forth in iniquity" and that in sin we are conceived (Psalm 51:5). In fact, the entire script of the divine drama from Genesis 3:6 on lays out God's wonderful plan to redeem us from the prison of this reality.

Second, there's my lifetime-long swing from looking at the world and people through rose-colored glasses of optimism, to a realism about human nature that's been shaped by an increasingly populated history of people I know and love doing things beyond imagination or belief. Seen in light of the aforementioned theological understanding, the proof is piling up. And, it's undeniable.

Then, there's the third reality I've had to reckon with. Simply stated, it's me. The older I get, the more clearly I see the darkness in my own heart. And, it scares me that I don't see it as it really is. As much as I hate it, the reality is that I'm "exhibit A."

So, while Michael Preston might truly believe what he's saying, the truth is that what he's saying shouldn't be believed. His buddy George is diseased. . . and the diagnosis extends to all of us. . . who are all capable of not only doing something like this, but stuff that's even worse.

It isn't coincidence that I came into the office this morning to find an article on my chair. Derek Melleby put it there as a contribution to some conversations we've been having around here lately. Written by Vincent Bacote for the latest edition of Comment Magazine, "The Poison Cup" offers some very insightful reflections on how our depravity combines with failures in the Christian community to provide real nurturing community in a lethal mix that feeds the assassin of pride. . . who when fed enough, will kill us. Using John Piper's recent leave of absence as the occasion for his reflections, Bacote offers some penetrating analysis that can't be ignored by any of us, especially those of us who because of our calling are public figures. . . including everyone from high-profile guys like Piper down to the local church youth pastor who is adored by his young flock. Bacote's article is a must-read.

Don't ever buy the lie that the people you know could never ________________ (fill in the blank). . . . especially if that person is you. And shouldn't this be a foundational truth we must be endeavoring to teach our kids? Not only will it inform how they live, but it will serve to feed their conscious need for the Savior and a deep gratitude for His amazing grace.

7 comments:

joseph said...

Walt, I think I agree with you as far as the depravity of man issue goes. I was wondering if you had read Don Miller's blog post on the subject, and what you thought about it. I don't think he disagrees with you, but he shares an interesting take on the doctrine itself. Here's the link…

http://donmilleris.com/2010/04/22/are-people-basically-good/

Walt Mueller said...

Haven't read that - but will look at it. Thanks for the heads-up!

Melissa Maples said...

Thank you for another timely, totally accurate account of the state of our youth, our souls, and our failings as a Western church body! I'm currently reading Tangible Kingdom by Hugh Halter and found that your article resonates exactly with the author's claim that we're missing the mark in our churches today. Thanks, Walt! God bless you for your ministry!

Hiram said...

good words, Walt. I really enjoyed "The Poison Cup," too, so thanks for that - nails it on the head. It makes me want to spend more time with the Savior... now I just have to do it. so this probably isn't time to let you know that you were quoted in a message in a small church in Florence, SC this past Sunday... =)

Mrs. Donzella Thomas said...

Walt, as the mother of one of your young devotees, I was really taken aback by this post. With all due respect, are you so isolated in your lily-white suburban world that it took this incident to awaken your expressed thoughts and feelings? This brutal murder of a young girl by a young man happens every day in the ghettos of this country. Every single day. Only the color and social/financial status of the victim and perpetrator are different in this case.

This handsome young white man attended Landon Prep(MD)- $28,678 annual tuition. I can safely assume that the very attractive young white girl grew up in a similar white, wealthy and privileged environment- Notre Dame Prep(MD). Your reaction to this murder uncovers the fact that it is your secular world also. Even your trips abroad seem unable to extricate you from your tightly woven white cocoon.

I also find your website's home page very misleading. You show black, asian and hip-hop girls, yet in reviewing your staff it looks like a good ol' white boy's fraternity. Even your Associate Members are void of diversity. Of course you do add the token female, yet even she is a white Anglo. Sad. Very sad indeed.

Yet, your enormous heart is always in the right place. I've never known anyone as self introspective as you, nor as harsh on themselves. We are all victims of our environment. Keep up the good work.

Walt Mueller said...

Donzella - thanks so much for your comment. I'm not sure I'm following your line of reasoning as it relates to this post. Its not so much a post about the murder of a young woman by a young man. And, I do realize that these things happen all the time across socio-economic boundaries and lines. I will say, however, that it is disturbing that there is a definite media bias socioeconomically. I think the ratings play into it. But back to what I was originally saying - the post was occasioned by and a response to the sense that somehow people are above this kind of behavior. We're all stained by our sin. Capable of good things, yes. But bearing the burden of sin-stained and selfish hearts. That's what my blog post is really about - Michael Preston's words. Issues of color and class didn't figure into it at all. I'm having great difficulty seeing how my reaction uncovers the fact that this is my secular world also. Although, being able to afford that kind of tuition might be nice! On a more serious note, I do wonder how the legal representation the privileged can afford will play into this case.

Regarding our website - we are who we are. Who we are however, is a growing group of people who endeavor to reflect realities associated with global youth culture- megatrends, etc. And, where our own personal cultural realities fall short, we endeavor with great effort to point our constituency to those whose race, background, and experience is different from ours, thus making them the "go to" people on certain issues that we can't be. Does that make sense?

In addition, I would encourage you to go back to our web site and the front page to download the May/June edition of Simply Youth Culture that was just posted in the last 24 hours. Please read through that as its content reflects our deep desire to address some of the issues you've raised.

Please don't read any anger into my response. There's none there. I very much appreciate your concerns, your forthrightness, and your grace. I admit I'm a little bit confused by some of what you say, and hope that some clarifiers from you will help clear up my confusion. By the way, confusion is not unusual for me!

Blessings.

Mrs. Donzella Thomas said...

My sincere apology Walt. It appears that with all the 24/7 national publicity this case is receiving, that upon seeing them highlighted on your post, my mind immediately went back to the incredible amount of socio-economically biased publicity of "the missing girl in Aruba". Unfortunately, I then totally missed the different slant you took on this.

Yes, your use of "go to" people does make sense. A lot of sense. Also, your response was greatly appreciated. Again, my sincere apology.