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Enough is enough: when criticism ends and compassion begins

Kanye West | Taylor Swift
AP Photo/Jason DeCrow

Super producer and ultra-popular rapper Kanye West shocked the world during MTV’s Video Music Awards show a few Sundays ago when he interrupted rising country singer Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech to proclaim to her and to the world that R&B giant Beyonce, her competitor for the category, “Best Female Video,” had made “one of the best videos of all time.” Last Wednesday, former Michigan State and Detroit Lions wide receiver Charles Rogers was arrested and arraigned on drunk driving charges. The second pick in the 2003 NFL draft, Rogers had a world of talent and the potential to be as much of a standout for the Lions as he was for the Spartans, but two collarbone injuries, constant drug and alcohol issues, and a less-than-supportive support system have contributed to his rapid decline out of football and into oblivion. Former New York Giants wide receiver Plaxico Burress received his official sentencing and began his two-year jail term on this past Tuesday for carrying an unlicensed handgun after accidentally shooting himself in the leg at a nightclub last year. On this past Sunday, Philadelphia Eagles backup quarterback Michael Vick saw his first action since December 31, 2006 after two years of prison, home confinement, and league suspension following conviction on charges of funding a dogfighting ring.

Each of these aforementioned celebrities has made very poor decisions that have affected not just their own lives, but those of others as well; three of the four have lost millions of dollars because of their actions. In fact, these decisions were so poor that no one has held back from reacting to them. With Kanye West, everyone ranging from fellow recording artists to sportscasters, to news anchors, to even Presidents Obama and Carter weighed in on the controversy and took their shots at him. Numerous Detroit sports talk radio listeners called in the day after Charles Rogers’ arrest to talk about how “stupid” he is for wasting such an immense talent. In fact, an oft-played promo for one of the radio shows features a gentleman calling in to call the former player “the walking definition of irresponsibility.” It seems like every sports analyst and writer in North America has offered their two cents about Plaxico Burress and the tumble his life has taken since catching the winning toss in Super Bowl XLII.

Michael Vick faced enough criticism on his way to prison, but in some respects, he has faced even more since being out of prison from passionate dog lovers and representatives of PETA, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals organization, who firmly believe the sentence he served and the over $100 million he forfeited did not even come close to his paying his debt to society. Every time Vick steps into an opposing team’s arena, he is subjected to spirited protests by members of PETA and is thus reminded of his past sins everywhere he goes. Even ESPN gets into the act, as the worldwide leader in sports has an uncanny knack of continuously reminding all of its viewers of the reason Vick was out of the league for two complete seasons, as if they needed any reminders.

Yes, people are to be held accountable for their actions, but what we must ask ourselves is, “When is enough enough?” These men, just as all of us, have done things we were not proud of, but how much longer must we hold those things over their heads? The world is not devoid of scores of individuals who will not hesitate at the chance to jump down the throats of anyone who does anything wrong, but the Christian community is called to act differently. The apostle Paul admonishes the Galatians in the sixth chapter of his letter to them, “My friends, if anyone is detected in transgression, you who have received the Spirit should restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness.” (6:1, NRSV) By this statement, Paul does not mean accountability should be thrown out of the window, but that the believer looks beyond the surface of sin.

While all of society throws stones and piles on, the Christian, rather, is called to put the stone down and pray, for doing so may reveal that Kanye was possibly acting out because he hasn’t been the same since the death of his mother, or that none of the three aforementioned athletes had anyone in his corner to keep him grounded and focused on solely playing football, or that Plaxico will not have the chance to witness the birth of a child and will miss two precious years of his young children’s lives. These issues certainly do not make these men’s actions acceptable, but they are worthy of prayer from caring Christians who know things aren’t always as they seem. When we witness powerful people in high places doing damnable things, let us take off the garment of criticism, put on the cloak of compassion, and pray that they would experience the same forgiveness and restoration that we all have at some point in our lives. When enough is enough, it’s time to pray!