Thoughts on Tiger Woods.

Now that the Master’s is here – one of the most glorious weekends in all of sports – I thought I would offer a few thoughts on the sad Tiger Woods story.  Here are some initial thoughts, and I will continue to follow up on this in the next few days.

Concerning the Tiger Woods debacle, it seems that Christians can view the issue from one of three perspectives.
Option number one is to cling primarily to the matter of addiction.  What Woods did was the result of addiction, a psycho-sexual impulse so deep within him that was powerless to control his sexual activity.  This option is indistinguishable from the defense used by alcoholics and drug and gambling addicts – that the addiction is so pervasive that the perpetrator is not even aware that what he is doing is wrong.  There is no choice – there is only deeply ingrained compulsion, and you are powerless to stop it.  The obvious problem here is that this option appears to absolve the perpetrator of any guilt or wrongdoing.  Judging by what I have heard on talk radio and television, our culture – while often quite squishy when it comes to moral matters – is boldly rejecting this claim on the part of Tiger Woods.

Option number two is a step away from addiction but it still holds something in common.  In this case, the perpetrator knows that he should do certain acts, but finds that despite his better judgment, he engages in them anyway.  We might call this Freshman Girl syndrome, wherein a young lady who knows she ought not to drink so much on Friday nights – and she tells her friends as much as on Friday afternoons – consistently goes on to indulge herself and is forced to live with the messy consequences.  This option is quite similar to option one, but the differences hinge upon the acknowledgement that the action in question is, indeed, an act that one should avoid committing.  This option is precarious, because it can very quickly drift back to option one, or it can move on to the very popular option three.

I consider option three to the most repeated comment in the discussion over public scandal, whether Tiger Woods is that the center or not.  In this case, the perpetrator makes zero excuses for the behavior and instead takes full responsibility for his actions and their consequences.  There are no comments to be made about addiction or stress relief or bad childhoods or missing fathers.  Instead, the guilty party steps forward to state that he, and he alone, is to blame, and – this part is always present – he or she will work tirelessly to correct the mistake.  This option is most prevalent in the debate surrounding Tiger Woods.  It is plainly obvious that people do not want any of Woods’ explanation; they simply want him to acknowledge his wrongdoing and fix the problem.  As best as I can tell, this option is the one that Christians drift towards most frequently.

The reason people find option number three so persuasive is because many people – myself often included – have grown weary of living in a culture where people rarely own up to the responsibility for their actions.  It is all too common to hear public figures duck and dodge their way out of a situation, suggesting that they might have done something, and if, maybe, they have, then they are sorry to have hurt someone’s feelings.  This is a far thing from honesty, and we are right to be repulsed by it.  Nevertheless, I am very uncomfortable with demanding this third option from public figures who have fallen into public sin, because this third option results, in theological terms, in a high anthropology and a low Christology.  In other words, when we choose option three, we often find ourselves with a low view of Christ and a very high view of ourselves.  In my next post, I will explain how this works.


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