I have heard it said that the church is the only army that shoots its wounded. I now know that this statement is not true. It is not false because the church does not shoot her wounded. It is false because the church is not alone in this behavior.
What brought this to mind was all the discussion about Adrian Peterson and his discussions with the NFL. Even after Adrian’s case was resolved in the courts, the NFL commissioner felt pressured to come down hard on Mr. Peterson. The apparent reason for the commissioner to do so was to protect the brand and the image of the NFL in the court of public opinion.
All parties concerned, including Adrian Peterson, agree that his actions in disciplining his son were inappropriate. Also, it seems clear to me that Mr. Peterson did not intend to inflict permanent damage on his son. While his intent was not to harm his son, Adrian was wrong in his actions and it was appropriate for the state to step in and apply correction.
But the public wants more. Because some of the evidence in the case was so widely publicized, the pubic became outraged and lashed out at Mr. Peterson. As a result, the NFL became embroiled in an embarrassing situation because one of its star employees was receiving negative press. Therefore Mr. Goodell, the commissioner, felt pressured to act.
It is right to have the goal of protecting and nurturing the child in this case. My question is how does preventing the child’s father from gaining income help the child? Roger Goodell had suspended Adrian for the remainder of the season, thus denying him the income from playing. This is on top of the loss of income from product endorsements as advertisers dropped any association with Mr. Peterson.
Now, I don’t know the financial arrangements that Mr. Peterson has with the mother of his child. Perhaps Mr. Peterson’s loss of income has no impact upon the child at all. So Adrian not being able to play may not hurt the child, but the loss of income does nothing to help the child.
Should we hold Adrian Peterson to a standard with regard to his parenting style? Yes, we should. Is there a process in place for that standard to be held? Yes, there is. Did the process apply corrective action? Yes, it did. The courts did their job. The evidence was presented in the court system and we have to assume that a reasonable response to the evidence was enacted. The people who made the decision had all the evidence that they thought necessary to render the correct decision.
We need to resist the pressure to make instantaneous decisions based on incomplete information. We are angry and perhaps even hateful to Adrian Peterson based on one episode in his life. I know nothing else about Adrian other than the fact that he is a very talented football player. Yet, the media asks me make such decisions on the little bit of information they provide.
Rather than denunciation and anger, perhaps a better response would be one of empathy and support. I am reminded of Jesus’s statement in John 8, that the one without sin is the only one qualified to cast a stone. I have done and said things that I hope never get the level of scrutiny that Mr. Peterson’s case has gotten from the public. Why should I hold Adrian to a higher standard than I am willing to subject myself to?
It is likely that Adrian Peterson is neither more nor less flawed than the rest of us. We should resist the temptation to assess Mr. Peterson based on a few sound bites and a few pictures.
We should be concerned about the wellbeing of the child AND Mr. Peterson. They are both created in the image of God, the God who reaches out to all of us to bring us into relationship with himself.