Kevin H: The Ghost of Joe Paterno and the Church

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34 Responses

  1. Michael says:

    The church is no better…it claims a divine right to avoid accountability.
    It is a corporate institution now, not a spiritual one and it prefers the new rules of engagement to Scripture.
    If my health were not what it is, I would be demonstrating this afresh.

  2. Jean says:

    Thank you for your thoughts today Kevin. This is definitely a topic where a lot of repentance is in order. It’s shameful what is covered up false and dishonest pretenses.

  3. Babylon's Dread says:

    An underlying theme that is missed here is the power of institutionalism. Paterno was a good man but as an institutional man he had the greater concern of the institution on his mind. Yes I know that statement is ugly on the face of it but the pressure is real. Paterno acted in the interest of the institution over against the victim.

    The Catholic church is the same. They protected priest to protect the institution. The institution MUST survive… no one talks that way overtly but we all tend to act that way. Evangelical churches are the same.

    Whenever anything gets institutionalized it loses sight of the mission because existence IS the mission. We ALL think and act these ways and have to consciously fight to think otherwise.

    Let me put it another way, when an individual within a group acts badly and the whole group is punished we think it is unfair. That is the inner turmoil of groupthink in institutions. What if ONE person did something and a hundred lose their jobs like the Jimmy Swaggart fiasco. He was taking in hundreds of millions and suddenly he is taking in a trickle of it. The many hundreds who worked in his organization did not deserve to suffer for him.

    That is how institutions function and that puts a bit of a human face on it so it does not seem so egregious. It is easy to sit outside the pressure of survival and tear that down. It is not so easy from within.

  4. Michael says:


    You hit the nail on the head…except I think the building should be allowed to collapse.

    The church should run by the rules of Scripture, not the rules of corporate America.

    I still say that the reason we have no moral authority in this culture is because of how we handle our own moral failure.

  5. Kevin H says:


    I agree too that the power of institutionalism has very much to do with this.

  6. Michael says:

    Kevin must have been reading my mail…

    There is so much frustration in having so many of these kind of stories sitting around because people are terrified to go on the record against the institutional giants.

    I simply have to let some stuff go…while people continue to be defrauded and abused.

  7. Cash says:

    The power of the institution. Institutions are made up of people. The evil that is visited on children who are victims of sexual abuse should make us all weep and wail. Many never recover from the psychological damage. Imagine that. Your entire life having to carry that around with you. Regardless of the person or the institution, it’s succumbing to evil to cover up a monster like Sandusky because of the desire to protect the institution. There’s no excuse for this kind of malfeasance.

  8. Michael says:

    The “human face” card is always played for the institution and the leaders.
    Protecting the “brand’ is more important than the souls of the people.

    We need a new Reformation…and one will come, either by choice or by force.

  9. Dallas says:

    Being from the other side of the state from our Philly Phanatic writer has given (at least) me the insight of years of this playing out, to different degrees, on sport talk radio, and wow if it hasn’t been a commentary of our celebrity idol worshiping culture. I don’t think that someone could have made up a more thorough way of trashing someone’s reputation, and there are still immortal (I don’t think die hard applies anymore) Joe Paterno supporters.

    Still sacrificing our children to false gods after all these years.

  10. Kevin H says:


    I split the difference with you this time. State College is pretty much smack in the middle of the state. 🙂

    I try to split the middle with Joe Paterno. He did a lot of good over all his years at the school. And I truly mean a lot. But on this one he failed miserably. It’s hard to ascertain exactly how much Paterno knew. But on what we can reasonably determine that he did know, he fell way short on what he could have and should have done. Paterno was the most powerful man on that campus. If he wanted to, he could have had Sandusky exposed and reported to the authorities. But he did not want this. I don’t know how much his loyalties laid with Sandusky, but they certainly laid with protecting Penn State.

    Despite what has been definitively exposed about Paterno, that he knew Sandusky was doing things with kids he shouldn’t have been, potentially horrible things, and that he only took the bare minimum required action to do something about it despite holding so much power, there are those who will still protect him as if he was completely innocent in this whole mess. That Paterno may have known much more that what has been definitively proven and still did next to nothing about it is even worse. But for some, thou shalt not besmirch the name of Joe Paterno.

    Good thing the church never does this with their idols, er, I mean pastors and leaders.

  11. The Dude says:

    Sadly the heart’s of many American Christians have grown cold…..There is more I would like to say…no words for it.

  12. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    You should all be USC fans – scandal is our middle initial … but we like to win. 😉

  13. Steve Wright says:

    I was actually a student-athlete at Oklahoma in the mid-late 1980s. Nightline did a segment on us. Our backup QB was on the cover of Sports Illustrated (back when that was a big deal) in handcuffs and an orange prison uniform.

    I literally was walking the campus to class one day and saw a bunch of news vans near the jock dorms and my first thought was “What bad thing has happened now”

    The difference is in each case, there was no cover-up. There was immediate cooperation with both authorities and the media, and while our reputation took a huge hit at the time – those responsible paid for their crimes (when committed) paid the consequences for noncriminal NCAA violations (when committed), and eventually (after many years and many years of losses in the 90s) the reputation was restored and today, the school is repeatedly voted in the top of places that other coaches would want their kids to play at. AND they also win on the field too.

    But man, it hurt to be a Sooner there for awhile.

  14. Dallas says:

    “Good thing the church never does this with their idols, er, I mean pastors and leaders.”

    I came in late on the Mahaney stuff and haven’t gotten the opportunity to go back and get details, but is it fair to say that those two situations have a lot on common? If so it’s telling that Mahaney hasn’t even begun to see a fraction of the backlash that Paterno got (obviously visibility of the story plays a part). It’s hard to argue that Paterno didn’t die at least in some small part from his disgrace…

    Meanwhile Mahaney has conferences to attend… maybe some books to sell.

  15. Alan says:

    Great article Kevin, thank you. Great comments as well.

    Dallas (#14), you are spot on about CJM not getting the backlash that JP got. As Michael has pointed out, we Christians seem to be great at ignoring our own issues, while pointing out the issues of others.

    I’m reminded of the great quote from Alexsandr Solzhenitsyn: “The line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either, but right through every human heart.”

  16. Steve Wright says:

    I guess I should have detailed more…we had a firearm discharged in the jock dorms (no injury). We then had a gang rape of a drunk co-ed by four football players in the jock dorms. THEN we had our backup QB caught selling cocaine off campus – all in the space of a very short time. Thus my joke about seeing news vans and wondering “what now” (that one was the drug dealer bust)…that’s who we got on Nightline and the news said the football team was “terrorizing the campus” which was total garbage as everything happened in the jock dorms or off campus or was football related (various steroid busts including our most famous player as well as other NCAA violations)

    But it was the price we paid for letting the football team (and the jock dorms) get so out of control…of course the media had a field day and of course it was insulting to see multiple isolated incidents as an indictment on not just all who played for the program but the entire university…

    But that was the price that was paid for transparency and cooperation. And as I said, it took more than a decade (and a commitment and will to do so) but things eventually were restored.

  17. Kevin H says:

    I’m not well versed on the whole Mahaney and Sovereign Grace scandal, but there definitely seem to be some parallels with Paterno and Penn State. In other ways there are differences.

    Mahaney still has a position of power and influence, although it has been diminished from what it once was. Paterno on the other hand lost his job and all position of power.

    Paterno had long spoken his fears that he thought he would soon die after leaving coaching. He didn’t know what else to do with himself but to be the head coach of Penn State football. His disgraceful exit may have even expedited those fears and his death.

  18. Mr Jesperson says:

    Thanks Kevin for bringing this topic up. I agree with the comments made about protecting the reputation of the institution, the brand, instead of doing what is right and loving for members of that institution. We do need a revolution, one where leaders stop acting like self-serving dictators, and where the sheep stop submitting to the dictators worshiping them like they were Jesus. Our culture has lost the fear of God, which results in this kind of lawlessness running rampant inside the institutional church.
    Another example of this is the story of Tom White and the Voice of the Martyrs “ministry.” In April of 2012, Tom White was accused of molesting a child when a policeman knocked on his door. Late that same evening Tom went to the warehouse he had built inside his ministry compound and intentionally overdosed on drugs. The remaining leadership of VoM then threw out Tom’s books and scrubbed their compound and warehouse from any and all mention of the man who grew the ministry from 2 full-time employees to over 100 over the two previous decades. There was no internal investigation even though Tom had frequently smuggled large amounts of cash out of this country, sneaking into closed countries. He came back with pictures of people he claimed were secret believers whom he said he had helped with the smuggled cash. A child molester was given free reign unsupervised to go into places where such a person would never be caught and with money people generously donated “to help those who are suffering persecution.”
    It is known that child brothels do exist in these countries. Any thinking person would be asking a lot of hard questions about what this man was really doing with that money. This institutions leaders are the only ones who know the details and have the resources to look for children overseas that Tom may have molested. They instead ignored it. I was greatly disappointed with the donors who gave the ministry $43 million the year before, and that number only dropped to $40 million in 2012. The giving has stayed at that level since then. I expected that a scandal of this magnitude with the head man committing suicide on the ministry grounds and for the reason he did would have merited more then a bump in donations. The ministry stopped growing, but that was it. When the founders son–Michael Wurmbrand–approached the board and demanded that they investigate because it was the right thing to do, the board fired him in haste. Then, thinking that they had made a mistake, they tried to bribe him into silence by offering his job back with a huge increase in salary. Thank God he refused and instead went public. Even this event has not stopped the machine from eating up donations. VoM is a para-church “ministry.” I consider it to have morphed into a parasite ministry. Here is what Michael has to say about this:

  19. Em again says:

    there is an invisible line that has long been respected: “that’s not my department” … Paterno was a great coach, perhaps he was also a victim of the above rule? i’m here to coach, not police the whole campus? dunno

    i had an epiphany, sort of … i’m still working thru it … the corporate model evolved from the church structure model, i think… experiencing great success in an amoral environment…
    later on, the church began to move to the corporate model ushered in, perhaps, by godly business men who thought that they were bringing their acumen, their gifts, to glorify God (i think of Bill Bright – i respect him and his wife) – but God doesn’t need enhancing… still working thru this… unfinished thinking, thinking, ….

  20. Charlie says:

    To me the CJM situation is still surreal. I speak as someone who was in a Sovereign Grace church for 13 years.

    It’s incredible how he fled Covenant Life church to another celeb pastor’s church.
    Moved an entire ministry to another state and yet most people in this movement are like
    “no no he’s ok nothing to see here”

    Children and families life’s have been ruined and he just seems to have gotten of scot free.
    (At least for now).

    IMO the church should go back to the biblical design of a plurality of elders/pastors who have equal teaching responsibilities. This has a built in deterrent to the celebrity pastor model that currently prevails.

    I was in a movement in Central America where this was in practice and in a group of 19 churches in a 7 year period exactly 2 elders had to step down and the church went on without missing a beat, the sinful activities where dealt with immediately and openly in front of the congregation. Since all the elders were of equal non-celebrity weight, there was no scandalous celebrity fall.

  21. Michael says:

    “IMO the church should go back to the biblical design of a plurality of elders/pastors who have equal teaching responsibilities. ”

    Hell hath frozen solid.
    Charlie and I agree on something. 🙂

  22. Charlie says:

    # 21 Trying to think of a witty comeback, but my head cold has me more numb then usual. Glad we agree on something.!

  23. Judy says:

    Michael: Maybe they could also go back to the design where the pastor works, like Paul did, and the monies collected went to the widows and the poor. When ministry was a calling, not a career.

    Oh, but then we’d have to get rid of all those big buildings. And everything that goes with it.

    I guess not.

    This stuff really bothers me because when I really needed the church, it had no power to help me and passed me along to others. God had other plans and He did indeed help me and deliver me, but the church was busy having programs.

  24. Michael says:


    I think, as Paul said, the worker is worthy of his wage.
    Seminary is expensive and the time demands on pastors make being bi vocational very difficult.
    I did it for a long time and know…
    We need to understand the family is the model for the ecclesia, not Wal Mart…

  25. OCDan says:

    Have to chime in on the saving the brand theory. While I agree, it needs to go further than that.

    By that I mean that the brand doesn’t survive without the yes men trying to cover for it. In other words, people are covering the asses from prison, trying to keep power, and most importantly, keep the gravy train flowing.

    Hypothetical: “Hey, I didn’t say anything because I have a very expensive mortgage, two car payments, three kids in private school playing sports, and expensive hobbies to pay for.”
    Basically, a lifestyle that is not worth giving up even if kids are raped.

    Basically, as Upton Sinclair said, It is impossible to get a man to understand something when his paycheck depends on him not understanding it. I believe that can be applied to keeping on’s job even when sinful/criminal activities are covered up or overlooked.

    Why is there so much corruption in this country? Sure, there are more people. There is more news coverage. There is more opportunity. Check all of them. However, the biggest reason is self-interest, in whatever form it may take. From the guy trying to feed his family in war-torn Kenya to the highest levels of office, public and private, in this the United States. People put themselves before others.

    The takeaway from my rant is that none of that will fly when we meet the almighty. Sure, we covered up my fellow police officer’s crimes because hie wife had cancer and needed the money, drugs, and insurance. We could never fire him. Well, I don’t think God is going to let that slide, especially if everyone involved claims to be a Christian.

    Lastly, we need to remember Peter’s writing that if we know we should do good and don’t we have sinned.

    Many in the church and not in the church need to relearn what the fear of the Lord is. He ain’t going to accept any excuses.

  26. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    OC Dan – so if the cop in your coverup at the end of your post is a Christian — when you say, ” Well, I don’t think God is going to let that slide, especially if everyone involved claims to be a Christian.” – what is God going to do?
    Cast him into hell? Kill the wife with cancer (God killed David’s baby in the OT) – what are you imagining the consequence?

  27. Alan says:

    @ Steve Wright, good ole Barry Switzer Huh?

    I remember reading about all of that stuff you talked about, in SI.

  28. Steve Wright says:

    Oh, but then we’d have to get rid of all those big buildings. And everything that goes with it.
    Yeah, the roof. The chairs. The heat and air conditioning. The running water and working toilets. The electricity. Insurance (unless the members of the church want to take personal liability for any civil claims, real or imagined)

    Now, unless each church has plenty of families with the large homes (and the willingness) to house the fellowship and provide those things each week – and donate the costs, take the risks – then you’re going to have to meet somewhere – and pay those expenses plus rent…..and that includes (in our town) strangers, drunks, and homeless who want to come in and be a part of the service from time to time.

    Building ownership by churches as some financial boogeyman is so odd….and it has nothing to do with whether that church has a commitment to use funds for the poor.

    Almost 2000 years of church history have taught that…

  29. Steve Wright says:

    Alan – yeah, but that is the thing. Switzer never protected the guilty but fought at how the program as a whole was being tarnished by the actions of the handful of guys (six) that did these crimes.

    What Switzer did do is tell the NCAA to jump in a lake when he was “guilty” of giving a player the money to fly home to the funeral of the grandmother who raised him as a child – saying these players make coaches like Switzer and their schools millions of dollars and he was not going to tell the kid he could not buy him a plane ticket for his grandmother’s funeral. It is a stupid rule and you don’t tell the NCAA they are stupid when your team just committed multiple felonies.

    So he got fired for that sort of mindset, and went and won a Super Bowl ring instead (with Jimmy Johnson’s players) 🙂

  30. Kevin H says:

    Barry Switzer’s worst crime was coaching the Dallas Cowboys. 😛

  31. OCDan says:


    I have no idea what God will or won’t do to those people. However, based on my reading of the bible, there will be consequences, since the wages of sin is death and that trusting in evil actions, rather than God is sinful, and not doing good, as I mentioned what Peter wrote is sin.

    I am just saying that we and that includes me take our sin lightly and try to justify it all the time, even if we use the Jesus paid for it on the cross line.

    Look, I don’t believe God is looking to throw everyone into Hell. However, if you read my last point, many of us including believers take God for lightly and that includes me.

    Sure, is it better to be a toilet washer in Heaven, so to speak, than the ruler of Hell? Sure, but that doesn’t mean we should take sin lightly or overlook it to keep our bellies full and lifestyle going, esp. if we say we have faith in God to provide.

    That’s all I am trying to say. Not even speculating on what punishment God will mete out or, maybe not.

    However, I seem to remember our Lord saying something about causing little ones to sin and the idea of a millstone and sea.

  32. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    OCDan – I know what you are saying, but to me it sounds too much like “God’s gonna get ya!” – as if that sin is not covered – or in the cases we are talking about , those are big institutional sins that God must intervene on — vs little personal sin.

    And we all take sin lightly – otherwise we wouldn’t sin at all.

  33. Alan says:

    @ Steve (#29),

    Great points, interesting to hear from someone who was involved first hand.

    Yah, don’t get me started on the NCAA. You’d be hard pressed to find a more corrupt organization.

  34. brian says:

    You know MLD I always found that rather arbitrary in real life. In the bible is direct and you know its God killing them like in Job and with David’s child and when God killed the people because David counted them and with Noah ………. But in the modern world, there seems to be a complete randomness to it.

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