The Good (Tiger), the Bad (Kate), and the Ugly (Pence)

Once you raise the bar of perfectionism, there’s no way to lower it without a little hypocrisy of your own making.

Vice President Mike Pence is so squeaky clean as to be downright boring. But he won’t receive any breaks — especially from evangelical faculty — as long as he is in office with President Trump. Taylor University has invited Pence to speak at this year’s commencement exercises and some on the campus among students and faculty are upset.

 

H. L. Mencken defined Puritanism as the “haunting fear that someone, somewhere, might be happy.” The new Puritanism seems to have it that “someone, somewhere, might be innocent.”

Take the cases of Tiger Woods, Kate Smith, and Mike Pence.

Woods won the Masters a week ago and his less than virtuous past (anyone remember #believeher?) did not prevent Bishop Robert Barron from both rooting for the golfer and then using Woods’ comeback to illustrate the power of redemption:

“When Tiger had his great collapse 10 years ago and the stories came out about his personal life and how out of control he was, like many people I shared a certain disgust about that, this guy has really lost his way,” he said.

“But at the same time, I confess that all these years I’ve been rooting for Tiger,” Barron said. “I know that some people gave up on him and said, ‘I don’t like this guy anymore, I’m rooting against him.’ But even during this long desert period I was hoping. Every major, somewhere in the back of my mind, if Tiger was playing, I was hoping he’d win.”

“So it was unique, it was a very special thing,” Barron said. . . .

“What we saw was a very Biblical archetype of someone who falls from grace and is then forced through in his case a 10-year desert experience whose purpose was, if we’re going to think spiritually, to bring him to what really does give life its deepest meaning,” he said.

“I think that’s what people sense in the embrace of his kids after the [final] round,” Barron said.

In that sense, Barron said, Woods is almost like a Biblical figure.

It probably goes without saying — though I’ll say it — that a bishop defending a philanderer is not exactly the best look for Rome right now.

If only the owners of the New York Yankees and Philadelphia Flyers could be as willing to read Kate Smith’s career in the light of biblical narratives:

The singer Kate Smith’s recording of “God Bless America” has been a cherished part of sports tradition in the U.S. for decades. But in the aftermath of a discovery that the singer had also recorded at least two songs with racist content in the 1930s, two major American sports teams, baseball’s New York Yankees and hockey’s Philadelphia Flyers, have announced that they will stop playing Smith’s rendition of the Irving Berlin patriotic classic. On Sunday, the Flyers also took down a statue of Smith that had stood in front of their stadium since 1987.

A fan alerted the Yankees last week that Smith had recorded at least two problematic songs: 1931’s “That’s Why Darkies Were Born” and 1933’s “Pickaninny Heaven,” from the film Hello, Everybody!, the New York Daily News reported on Thursday.

On Sunday, the Philadelphia Flyers removed a statue of Smith that stood outside of the team’s arena since 1987, first at the Spectrum and later at the Xfinity Live! venue. Smith had sung “God Bless America” live for the Flyers before Game 6 in the 1974 Stanley Cup Finals — after which the Flyers beat the Boston Bruins. Since then, the Flyers had treated Smith’s rendition as a talisman for the team.

The offending songs Smith sang came from a Broadway production that ran in 1931 at New York’s Apollo Theater. Will someone step up to say the theater should be razed? Turns out it was in 1996 (I wonder if it had anything to do with the Clinton-Lewinski scandal).

That leaves Vice President Mike Pence, who is so squeaky clean as to be downright boring. But he won’t receive any breaks — especially from evangelical faculty — as long as he is in office with President Trump. Taylor University has invited Pence to speak at this year’s commencement exercises and some on the campus among students and faculty are upset:

Taylor alumni have started a Change.org petition claiming that the Pence invitation makes “our alumni, faculty, staff and current students complicit in the Trump-Pence Administration policies, which we believe are not consistent with the Christian ethic of love we hold dear.”

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