Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Gotcha Time

photo by Grey World / flckr

I think we are living in a Gotcha time. Something goes wrong and we yell: “Gotcha.” And these days it seems like we are yelling this word a lot. Maybe it’s the social media—Facebook and Twitter and the Internet and these 24-hour news stations. We are deluged with TMI—too much information. It seems like we know everything about everybody and this knowledge is making a great many of us self-righteous judges. We thank God we are not like____and you can fill in the blanks.

Anybody who has served as Pastor knows the word: Gotcha. We have a bad week and the sermon is poor. Gotcha. We miss someone in the hospital. Gotcha. Sometimes our temperature rise and our tempers show. Gotcha! Sometimes our clay feet make public tracks. Gotcha. Sometimes we preach sermons that go against the grain. Gotcha.

But it isn’t just preachers. Most of us have been victim to this Gotcha mentality. It seems like our poor President is the king of receiving Gotcha’s. The man can do nothing without someone out there screaming this lousy word. Every public figure knows at one time or another he or she will be caught in the Gotcha web. Ask any public school teacher or postman.

Weeks ago a young Pastor of a mega-church (I hate that word) down the road preached a foolish sermon on Christmas Eve about revising the Ten Commandments. Even though I think he should have stuck with baby Jesus and the manger—that is beside the point. The Gotcha's have rained down on his head. And right or wrong the Gotcha’s always hurt.

The Brian Williams sage of late has nudged me to think again about Gotcha. Mr. Williams, prominent NBC nightly news anchor has told a war story that is obviously not true. The information gremlins are frantically trying to discover some of his foibles. And probably if they look hard enough they will self-righteously pursed their lips and say: Gotcha.

Mr. Williams will probably lose his job. He has been put on a six-month suspension without pay. But David Books’ column in the New York Times has said something we all ought to read. He writes: of course Mr. Williams has done harm, mostly to himself. But also to his network. He goes on to say the semi-apology Williams has publicly made is probably not enough. But the columnist reminds us though we can never slough off untruths and human failures—if we human beings are to live together in community we have to find some way of dealing with wrongs in some more healthy way.

Whatever happened to forgiveness? Must Mr. Williams suffer for the rest of his  life for what he has mis-stated?  We saw this happen to Dan Rather—and we lost one of our great news people. The old book says: “Vengeance is mine says the Lord—I will repay.”  Jesus said: “Let him that is without sin cast the first stone.” The sobbing woman at Jesus’ feet—probably a whore—was not stoned that day. I have a hunch that she went away a changed woman.

Destruction of people is not the bottom line whoever they are. When the Prodigal in Jesus’ story limped back home—his old father opened his arms and took him in. But someone has observed that the lines on the old man’s face and the hair that had turned white--tell us something of the consequences of a child’s wrongdoing.  And that does not even touch the destruction the young man had caused to himself or the years that he had lost.

Let’s give each other the benefit of the doubt. Plato, I think it was that said, Be kind everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle. This challenge is not to sweep wrongdoing under the rug—but it is a chance to say us and not them.

--Roger Lovette /

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