Summary: The Olympic judging scandal reminds us that this world is not our home.
This past week, the eyes of the whole world were focused on Salt Lake City. The winter Olympic games are being held there, of course, and normally that would be enough to draw attention and provoke discussion. But this week, the drama was heightened even more because of the controversy over the judging of the pairs skating competition. We’re all familiar with the story by now: the Canadian team skates a flawless program, the crowd is on their feet, chanting "Six! Six! Six!" meaning, "6.0! Perfection!" The television commentators state with confidence that they have surely won the gold. But as the scores come in, exhilaration turns to disbelief. Five of the nine judges have scored the Canadians below the Russians! Disbelief becomes outrage when the French judge reveals that she had been pressured to vote for the Russians, in exchange for a vote in favor of the French team in the ice dancing event. The outcome had been rigged! The fix was in! And from then on, the story took on a life of its own. A huge public outcry erupted; something had to be done to rectify this obvious injustice. Accusations began to fly, of long-standing corruption and vote-trading among judges. The Canadian delegation demanded an investigation. The credibility of skating, and even of the Olympics, was in danger. And then finally on Friday, the president of the International Olympic Committee announced that a second gold medal would be awarded to the Canadians.
This incident shows that even at the Olympics, which are supposed to represent the ideals of sportsmanship and fair play, we are confronted with the fact that this world is not what it should be. Sin and evil have a way of spoiling even those things which are supposed to be pure and undefiled. All you have to do is read the paper or turn on the news, to see that no area of human activity is exempt. We have business executives who deceive and mistreat their employees. Stockbrokers who steal from their clients. Politicians who abandon principle and do whatever they think will get them re-elected. Auto mechanics who charge for bogus repairs. Doctors, and hospitals, and HMO’s who put profits ahead of human life. Even the church hasn’t been spared, as we’ve seen these past few weeks in the news stories alleging misconduct by Catholic priests in Boston.
In 1991, a movie came out called "Grand Canyon." In that film, a well-to-do lawyer tries to avoid a traffic jam by detouring off the expressway, and soon gets lost in a very dangerous and unfamiliar part of the city. His car breaks down. It’s night, and although he manages to call a tow truck, by the time it arrives, his expensive car is surrounded by gang members. Clearly, they are planning to take his car by force, and possibly harm him in the process. Then the tow-truck driver, "Simon," arrives, played by Danny Glover. Over the protests of the gang members, Simon proceeds to hook the car up to his truck. And then Simon does something unexpected. He asks the leader of the gang to just let him go. "I’ve gotta ask you for a favor," he says. "Let me go my way here. This truck’s my responsibility, and now that the car’s hooked up to it it’s my responsibility too." And then he goes on, "Man, the world ain’t supposed to work like this. I mean, maybe you don’t know that yet. I’m supposed to be able to do my job without having to ask you if I can. That dude is supposed to be able to wait with his car without you ripping him off. Everything is supposed to be different than it is."
Everything is supposed to be different than it is. That’s true, isn’t it? We live in a world in which wisdom and prudence require that we view every institution as potentially corrupt, a world in which we cannot assume the integrity of anyone we meet, a world in which we must always be aware of the need to protect ourselves against exploitation -- physically, legally, financially, emotionally. Somehow, most of the time, we muddle through pretty well, at least out here in the suburbs. We buy insurance. We seek the advice of friends before choosing a doctor or a mechanic. We buy a house in a nice, safe neighborhood. We do everything we can to minimize the possibility of being victimized, but still, in the back of our minds, we know that things aren’t supposed to be this way. No matter how well we’ve learned to cope, something inside us cries out, something in our heart yearns for a place where none of that would be necessary. And that’s what our next series of messages is all about -- our journey, our pilgrimage, to that place.