I was working on the assumption that I was going to be the only evangelical pastor in North America not to speak about the recent Tiger Woods debacle, warning anyone who’ll listen about the pitfalls of fame and fortune and needing a team of professionals to manage your public image. But a while after the news broke and then cooled about Mr. Woods’ alleged sexual indiscretions, I was cutting out an article from a several-weeks-old issue of Maclean’s that had been laying on my desk when there he was in a full-page TAG Heuer ad on the back cover. The issue was dated 19 November 2009.
Things change quickly, don’t they? Although they stuck up for him the longest, TAG Heuer, too, has finally washed its hands of Mr. Woods. You won’t see this company or any of his other big-name sponsors plastering pictures of him on the back cover of national magazines anytime soon.
Ironically, I had held on to that particular issue of Maclean’s for its cover story on "the new Canadian morality" entitled "What Canadians Really Believe." Near the beginning of the article, you’ll read: "There’s never been a better time to be a Canadian mink, or a seal, or a lab rat." Good luck, though, if you’re a human who happens to be weak and an invalid or weak and in utero. Statistics suggest that nearly half of Canadians condemn medical testing on animals while less than a quarter of the population oppose euthanasia. You don’t really want me to cite the stats on abortion, do you? Meanwhile, prostitution is okay; divorce is good; sex outside of marriage is great.
And yet, when it is alleged that Tiger Woods is guilty of that last one, his corporate sponsors disappear faster than a twin-engine plane over the Bermuda Triangle. That’s the ironic part. (I need to acknowledge that while extramarital sex is not a moral issue for 79% of Canadians according to the article, only 15% approve of infidelity when married. Handy how that can be split so tidily!)
Back to the Maclean’s cover story, U of T theology professor Moira McQueen defines something as immoral when it causes harm. Canadians are a pretty selfish lot when it comes to interpreting that definition – immoral when it causes harm to me. Sex outside of marriage, for example, may be great for one half of the couple so long as s/he does not consider how it may be devastating down the road to the other half. (Eventually, as Mr. Woods is experiencing, it will actually end up hurting both partners.)
Prof. McQueen is hopeful that our current state of morality will continue adjusting as she does not believe we are programmed to self-destruct. I’d like to believe that, too, but I’m not sure I’m as optimistic as Prof. McQueen. Selfishness is pretty ingrained. Those of us who are cognizant of our selfishness (myself included) realize how hard it is to combat it; wouldn’t selfishness be impossible to curb if it goes undetected? When will we see shifts in our cultural conscience if it’s always the other person’s fault when something goes awry and never because of my own self-centredness? When will the new morality actually look somewhat biblically moral if the disease of selfishness is never diagnosed and treated?
Before encountering Tiger Woods on the back of the Maclean’s issue with the article about what Canadians believe, I had read Psalm 81. It’s almost as though you can hear YHWH pleading with His people,
“Hear me, my people, and I will warn you –
if you would only listen to me, Israel.”
(81: 8, emphasis mine)
The Lord knows an infinitely better way than that demonstrated by Tiger woods and held by the majority of Canadians. It’s a way of selflessness, where we love God and love others before we love ourselves, and where God leads the way in selflessness by actually dying in our place before inviting us to die to ourselves as we follow Him. Now if we’d only listen.