Exploring the Nature of Evil through the Penn State Scandal

Like many Americans, especially college sports fans and admirers, I have been both riveted and deeply disturbed by the news coming out of Penn State University this week. My interest in the story though goes beyond the sensationalist accounts of horrific crimes which were purportedly covered up by craven university leaders, including Joe Paterno himself (at least I like to tell myself that my interests aren’t that base). What really intrigues, and bothers, me are the fundamental moral issues involved in this scandal and how the moral problems illustrated by it are symptomatic of more widespread moral atrophy in our culture.

For instance, one of the issues I discussed/debated with my Theory of Knowledge classes today is the difference between our legal obligations and our moral responsibility, and whether Paterno did anything wrong even if he did not break the law. The distinction between what is moral and what is legal is critical in the analysis of what went wrong at Penn State, but it is one that I fear is becoming more confused in our country, especially among the youth.

There are so many weighty moral issues and dilemmas in this scandal that the biblical worldview sheds the brightest, purest light upon that I’ve decided to devote a series of at least three blog posts (following this one) on the scandal. Right now the topics will be:

1. How the moral principle of sacrificing our own interests for the sake of our children was not only violated here, but is being violated throughout our society.

2. How power ought to be used (to protect the weak) and how it was misused here (to exploit them).

3. The perils of utopian expectations projected onto societies (even mini-societies like a university town or a football program) and of conceiving of certain individuals as embodiments of moral perfections.

My mind is overflowing with rich, weighty idea on these topic and I’m excited about sharing them with you. I hope you’ll take the time to read and muse.

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