Web Posted: November 5, 2020
With marches and rallies, Americans seem increasingly drawn to the
tear-wrenching forum of the public confessional, a venue which often has
strong religious or quasi-religious overtones. "Confession is good for the
soul," tells only part of the tale. The full quote, based on an old Scottish
proverb according to the Dictionary of Quotations (Evans, 1963) admonishes us
that, "Public confession is good for the soul." So, it's out of the hushed
environment of the church confessional box and into the stadium or TV studio
to bare one's soul and display transgressions to the types of audiences that
like to watch Jenny Jones, or buy black velvet paintings of Elvis or poorly
executed commemorative stamps of Princess Diana.
|THE AGONY AND REDEMPTION OF COACH BILL|
|Is there any sin that the angst-ridden founder of Promise Keepers isn't pleading "guilty" to?|
Think of public confession and who comes to mind? Jimmy Swaggart crying
hysterically after revelations that he was only a one-man band with a hooker
in some cheap hotel room? Jim Bakker, from whom few orifices and bank
accounts were safe? Let's be a bit more contemporary. Susan Powter, that
pushy and obnoxious, type-A power coach and fitness guru is back in the news,
telling us that behind the facade of diets, pumped-up muscle and washboard
abs, she was REALLY a boozer who has again serendipitously stumbled back on
the True Path, and found a cure for alcoholism which happens to have eluded
the National Institutes of Health and a bevy of scientists all these years.
Consider that a form of secular salvationism.
But in a more religious vein, there is a coach of a different sort,
football's Bill McCartney who traded in a career on the college gridiron to
found the men's ministry that has mushroomed into the Promise Keepers
movement. Just last month, the PK's million man march on the Capital Mall in
Washington one-upped Louis Farrakhan's Day of Atonement, and tapped into most
of the same cultural currents that still run deep in the American psyche. Men
wept, prayed, knelt, and even prostrated themselves in supplication for hours
on end as hard-shell evangelicals and charismatics pounded away with verbal
salvos at their reptilian brain stems. Then came "Coach" Bill, with his call
for "prayer intercessors" and "prayer networks." Would the aliens of
Carl Sagan's "Contact" have thought of all of this, had they tuned into CNN
|"Men wept, prayed, knelt and even prostrated themselves in supplication for hours on end as hard-shell evangelicals and charismatics pounded away with verbal salvos to their reptilian brain stems..."|
McCartney is now back in the news, dragging his wife, family and his own
past through the mud of public confession, admitting that he was a
philandering cheater two decades ago when his marriage was in tailspin mode.
This latest revelation broke early last week, just as McCartney's much-hyped
autobiography is due out for release on bookstore and library shelves.
Coincidentally, the book doesn't touch on the adulterous affair of nearly a
quarter century ago, but Promise Keepers headquarters confirmed that
McCartney had admitted his wandering ways to his wife in 1993.
We wonder how the crowd that delights in dragging Bill Clinton to the
metaphorical public stockade each day on talk radio for his alleged dalliances
with Jennifer Flowers or, perhaps, Paula Jones will react to this latest
revelation. Incredibly, in the case of "Coach" McCartney, who has made a
business and altar calling of religious self-abasement, the 57-year-old
salvation hustler may have turned another lemon into lemonade. The story
broke in the New York Times, when Rev. James Ryle -- a Christian Charismatic
who many see as the greatest influence on McCartney's bizarre, apocalyptic
theological beliefs -- admitted that his friend's wife, Lyndi, suffered an
emotional breakdown when she heard the bad news. But, assures Promise Keepers
spin doctor and spokesman Mark DeMoss, the coupled reconciled their marriage.
"This is what the Promise Keepers are all about, making a renewed commitment
to the family... It just shows that Bill has been down that road of
hardships," said DeMoss.
There's plenty of good 'ol American sleaziness apparently coming our way
from McCartney's autobiography, though much of it has already been unearthed
in articles about the Promise Keepers movement and its founder. McCartney's
only daughter, Kristyn, became pregnant twice thanks to romps with football
players on the coach's University of Colorado team. That kicked off a romp
with another interesting American past time, bulimia. Lyndi McCartney
contributes to the autobiography, saying that she and her husband, "both
turned away from our marriage... Bill turned to the Lord, and I turned toward
We may question whether McCartney's life and marriage really are much
improved since he traded in a 16-hours-a-day lifestyle of coaching linebackers
and quarterbacks, for a different sort of all-consuming game whipping up men
into emotional frenzies and blathering away like some kind of possessed fiend
about "prayer networks" and "crossing the line" for Jesus. Incredibly, the
pundits who watch Promise Keepers say that publication of McCartney's book,
"Sold Out: Becoming Man Enough to Make a Difference," may even help his public
credibility and stature. They're probably right.
Ironically, the kind of religious self righteousness and self-inflated
puffery about "becoming a godly man" or "taking back responsibility as head of
the household" seems to depend on the underbelly of American culture for its
very survival. To be redeemed, one must first fail; and that failure must now
be held up high for public scrutiny and confession before one is "worthy." In
this respect, McCartney -- the guy who built a $90 million-a-year evangelical
road show -- isn't much different from those people who grab 15 minutes of
fame and a few hundred bucks for a stint on the afternoon talk shows as
"guests" where they allow themselves to be subjected to the hoots and snotty
catcalls of indignant studio audiences and the prying questions of hosts.
"How did you feel about cheating on your wife while you were sleeping with her
sister, molesting her children, and serving as high priest in a satanic
cult?" It now seems to be a requirement that before one is perceived as a
good and decent sort of fellow, one must first sin, transgress and cast off
the mantle of public grace and then make orations of repentance and
"atonement" on the public confessional stage.
For the religious power brokers behind the Promise Keepers movement, it is
a stroke of genius. The American cultural stampede is toward this public
confessional. We grovel in scandal and risque revelation, which accounts for
the rise of the "tabloidization" of our news media, and our giddy fascination
with the peccadillos of celebrities, sports heroes and government leaders.
Bill McCartney is just the latest proof that flirtation with vice, coupled
with self-exoneration and public confession is a sure ticket on the road to
success, redemption, and becoming a "godly man."
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