Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Sterling, Silver, and Gilded Standards


Yesterday Adam Silver, the Commissioner of the NBA, banned Clippers owner Don Sterling for life, based on racist comments he made to his girlfriend in private. And he also fined Sterling $2.5 Million, banned him from any League activities, and is urging the collective owners of NBA teams to force Sterling to sell his interest in the Clippers. If you follow the news, at this point the story isn't news anymore. However, I do want to address a few things and ask a couple of questions.

First of all, I am not going to talk about the merits of Commissioner Silver's decision or of Don Sterling's comments—or of racism in general. Others have done so ably, here and here. What Don Sterling said only accentuated and made public what he has believed and practiced for years.

I think it interesting that this whole thing exploded over comments made in the privacy of Don Sterling's own home. It just so happened that his 20-something girlfriend hit record on the iPhone when this conversation took place. Magically, then—not to mention illegally—we discover that Sterling is in fact a deep-seated racist, philanderer, and a creep. So the NBA must do something, right? They have to punish the immoral evil-thinker, which is what Adam Silver did—in the most heavy-handed way possible. Cultural "death penalty" sanctions.

But let's step back and look at what is really going on here. I believe there's a deep-seated inconsistency, and a process that, under the right conditions, would not bode well for Christians. First, what were the circumstances surrounding the exposé of Don Sterling's views?  He made a statement in the privacy of his own bedroom, albeit to his mistress. It was a nasty and dirty statement, but it was behind closed doors. We shouldn't go around prying into what goes on in peoples' bedrooms, right? At least that's the message we get regarding who's sleeping with whom. When it comes to sexuality, the sanctity of the "bedroom" is off limits from public scrutiny and judgment. Just ask Jason Collins. But why isn't it off-limits when it comes to issues of race? We're not even talking about one's actions (sexual behaviors); merely one's beliefs. Can you imagine the uprising if Commissioner Silver sanctioned Jason Collins in a similar way for his homosexual preference? It won't happen, because it goes against our society's moral consensus, but I think it illuminates the inconsistencies of our cultural mentality.

The bedroom is off limits in matters of sexuality because we worship our sexuality as a culture. And the reason we want the bedroom to be off-limits is because we know that our sexual worship is deeply, deeply wrong, and we don't want it exposed to the light. So as long as we keep the door closed, we can keep the lights off, so to speak, and go about our merry way without fear of judgment. I don't even think the issue is homosexuality and the moral position of the behavior itself. The real issue is that, once you start prying into the bedroom actions of homosexuals, you have to also pry into the bedroom actions of heterosexuals. And believe me, there is just as much to hide there, too. So we give a wink and a nudge and say "I won't worry about what you do sexually in your bedroom if you don't worry about what I do in mine." Repentance would have to start with the home, not homosexuals. But that's too hard.

Racism, on the other hand—not many people are holding on to that as their object of worship. At least not publicly. The White Supremacist lobby is not working public opinion to just get a little bit of tolerance for their views. Racism is condemned (rightly so) across the societal board—it generally knows no political or socio-economic grounds. It just happens to be one of those moral issues we all agree on at the moment. That's why no one raised an eyebrow when Don Sterling's words and thoughts behind closed doors were made public—everyone thought that he was wrong, so why bother? Here is where we uncover the deception, however slight.

The reality is that any society will form some moral code, enforced by those who have the most social power. Sometimes we refer to them (whether pejoratively or not) as the "cultural elite," etc. Or we just call them "the media." These social moral codes may or may not have any resemblance to the moral code of Jesus Christ as revealed in the Bible. Either way, the root is the same: the mob mentality, which is thirsty for judgment and vengeance against those who violate that mob's moral code. It's terribly unforgiving.

So when society says that what goes on in the bedroom is off-limits, that's not what it really means. The principle is not the sanctity of the privacy of the bedroom. If it were, then Don Sterling would not be banned from the NBA. This would be a non-issue. The real issue is the enforcement of society's moral code, which has no solid foundation. The lynch-mob is the foundation. As Doug Wilson put it, "lynch mobs sometimes hang guilty people, but this is not a good argument for the protection of public manners being turned over to lynch mobs." I agree. Yes, the societal moral code got it right this time. But do I want that to be the foundation? Of course not. Even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while, but the squirrel is still blind.

I place zero faith in the ability of our society to grasp, affirm, and police the intrinsic worth and dignity of all human beings. I don't care how many Don Sterlings the NBA banishes, or how much money they donate to anti-discrimination causes, or how loudly the media cheers when it does. I will still be dubious about our ability to pursue true justice in this area. When we have a hard time understanding what a person is, we are not qualified to judge whether someone else accurately affirms the inherent equality of those persons. How could we? We will never get it because we are fallen. There is only one way we will get this right, and it involves the total desecration of the Asherah we have set up in our straw homes built on our foundations of sand. Repent and believe, and build your foundation on the eternal Word. Then we will truly see.