The danger of being a popular television star is that everything in life becomes fodder for tabloid scandal. When one is a public person, nothing about life is considered private, with dangerous consequences. When one has strong moral standards in a world that is deeply corrupt, there will be a considerable distance between what we say and what others want to find in our lives to discredit our beliefs. This is true whether we are television stars or only moderately famous in small circles. The issue of honor and reputation can be a tragic one that has a disastrous effect on our well-being and that of others around us. After all, there is often a substantial difference between how people think of us and how we are, and when people find out our “true nature” when they have thought unreasonably well of us, the backlash is severe.
For a while there has been an intense storm brewing about a reality television show that positively portrays a large family who has definitely fulfilled the dominion mandate to be fruitful and multiply. One of the members of this family has been investigated for molesting several teens, including several of his own attractive sisters. For very intense personal reasons, I find issues of child abuse and incest to be extremely uncomfortable, as they remind me far too much of my own troubled early childhood. And given the weight of words written both for and against the young man who is at the center of this storm, I have hesitated from adding my own to the amount, except that the accounts are both so deeply complicated and often so partial in nature that one needs to put them together in order to make sense of the case. Before commenting at any longer length about the issue, I would like to make it plain that what I most wish was the case was that a great deal of help and encouragement would be given to the young women. Abuse places a terrible burden of mistrust and alarm regarding issues of intimacy and relationships, and it can be deeply embarrassing to have one’s own private misfortunes turned into public spectacle. Healing is often a long and slow and painful process, taking years, decades, or even the whole course of one’s life. As someone who was compelled to speak out about my own personal history because it became a matter of public gossip against my own wishes and in violation of my own desire for privacy, my deepest empathy goes out to these young women whose peripheral role as public figures in a well-known family have opened their own deepest and darkest nightmares to public scrutiny. It is my hope not to add to this suffering for these young women even as I speak about it as so many others have before me.
Journalists seeking to uncover the sordid facts of this disastrous family experience have taken a few approaches to their surveys. Some have sought to read the police report directly, only to find that it has apparently been destroyed. As is the case in the Mayweather domestic abuse case, it is not uncommon in our contemporary society for police to dispose of reports that bear negatively on well-known people, regardless of the legal requirements for storage and the freedom of access to such information that exist. Others have looked at the incest jokes made by the suspected child abuser as being signs of a particularly unrepentant heart. Still others have pointed out that according to the record that exists, it was the father of the family himself who reported on his son, an act of bravery in light of the culture of silence and shame that often exists about matters of this nature. Speaking from painful personal experience, either people are too quick to jump on false allegations of this nature, with disastrous harm done to the innocent but falsely accused, or the existence of abuse is so dark and shameful that it is never dealt with in public or punished in a criminal sense, so as to protect the reputation of the guilty. In this case, the father of both the innocent and the apparently guilty cared more for the truth to be known than for the protection of his name, with the result that his family has now been subject to a great deal of criticism and contempt from those who use a case like this to discredit the belief system of the family, showing no interest either in the facts of the matter, nor in the well-being of either the innocent or the guilty.
When something like this happens, either a hue and cry exists over actual wrong done, or merely the mistaken belief that something may have occurred, there are a few serious questions that must be asked. Most importantly, as I have alluded to earlier, how are those who have been abused or feel threatened to return to some feeling of safety and security once again, so that their suffering may be eased, and their wounds healed. This is not an easy task. For another, how is a love of the truth to be combined with a love and kindness for people, so that we are not pitiless, but still just. Additionally, how may someone who is accused falsely clear their name so that they do not suffer wrong for what has been falsely said about them, neither suffer in reputation or in opportunities for service to others. For those who are guilty, what sort of process is involved in restoration. Some of these matters exist between people and God, but many of them are between people and other people. Not only is this the case between accuser and accused, but also among all of those who make judgments on character and who must weigh and balance such painfully difficult matters. At what point do we restore someone to our good graces, even knowing what has happened in the past. Let us remember that no mercy will be shown to those who show no mercy to others, and even if we have been deeply wronged in our own lives, we are all in deep need of mercy as well for ourselves. Yet it is so easy to pick up stones against others, and not examine ourselves as we ought to do.