The Cosby Show was one of my favorite television programs when I was a kid. For a period of time, it was probably my absolute favorite. Of course, created by and starred in by Bill Cosby, the show for the most part was good wholesome family fun. As with anything, there were always elements that could be nitpicked or criticized, but on the whole, the program was very humorous and successful.
Bill Cosby was known as America’s Dad. His role as the father of the Huxtable clan on this family sitcom, the number one rated show on tv for several years, forged his reputation. Cosby was beloved for his humor and devotion to family and generally wise advice about life and parenting and relationships. He was a revered American folk hero.
Undoubtedly, you know where this is going because Bill Cosby has been in the news the past couple years for entirely different reasons. Last week in suburban Philadelphia, a mistrial was declared as the jury could not come to unanimous agreement as to Cosby’s guilt on charges of sexual assault. Prosecutors want another trial while reports are that Cosby wants to start a speaking tour, tutoring people on how to avoid accusations of sexual assault (insert your own snide remark here). The whole thing is quite demoralizing.
When accusations first came out against Cosby, I hoped them not to be true. Bill Cosby was a man whom I had long liked and thought of well. I enjoyed his humor and entertainment and he seemed to get the importance of life and family and responsibility. I did not want the allegations to be true. If the same accusations were made of many other famous people, I would probably hardly blink an eye. But with Cosby, I thought he was different than the norm.
As the number of accusers continued to grow and grow, my hopes became less and less. Some people came to his defense saying that it was all a liberal conspiracy to take down an African American man who spouted many conservative values. Was such a thing possible? I guess so. However, there was just too much forebodement of guilt for me to sign up for any conspiracy theory.
I was not in that courtroom and I have not done any thorough investigation of the details and circumstances of all the accusations, but I am inclined to believe that Cosby is guilty of some, if not most and possibly even all of the accusations of sexual misconduct against him. And this is the reason why:
I have seen this type of scenario play out so many times over the last so many years and the accused almost always end up being found guilty. And this scenario is where an individual, or group of individuals, or organization has partaken in some type of sexual misconduct, sometimes over long periods of time, and have managed to conceal and cover up that wrongdoing by measure of their power and influence wielded over the victims. From the Catholic Church priest abuse scandal to the Penn State football program to the various other stories covered in the media, including many church-related cases covered here, the story is remarkably the same. Someone or some group that commits these terrible crimes, along with support from their close allies, collectively shame and manipulate and pressure their victims into silence and have been able to keep control over the situation for a long time. Finally, and thankfully, enough circumstances and details eventually escape the control of the controllers and slowly but surely the wrongdoers are found out.
The advent of the internet and social media probably has much to do with this. While these things can be a double edged sword and much harm can be brought about by false accusations, it has also given a voice and a conduit to be heard to those who previously had none. Sometimes it takes only that first person to speak about what happened to them. Then someone else out there in the world happens to see what that first person said and it hit homes with them because they experienced the same. They are encouraged and emboldened by that first person speaking out and so they speak up, too. Then another person sees those first two people speaking out and so on and so on. What starts as a trickle can sometimes quickly turn into a deluge. When these types of things happen around false accusations and nefarious motives, they are terrible incidents. But when they revolve around the truth-telling of terrible past happenings, they are helping to bring justice to situations that otherwise would have never been resolved or even known.
In Cosby’s case, there have now been more than 50 women who have spoken out. Very few or none who even knew each other, but just about all with very similar tales of what he allegedly did to them. Yes, it could be some great grand conspiracy. Or much more likely it is that Cosby is a dirty old man who long had been able to use the power of his celebrity to get away with sexual assault. Adding to the accusations, there is Cosby’s own past deposition where he admits to drugging women and committing some pretty creepy sexual behavior toward/with them. And finally, according to the reports, ten of the twelve jurors on this one case that did make it court thought he was guilty and wanted to convict. All in all, I am very inclined to believe the alleged victims. Sadly, it would seem quite probable that the real Bill Cosby has a very dark side that betrays his former fame as America’s Dad.
For those of us in the church, we should take heed to learn from and be aware of such situations. We well know the church is not immune. We should not be quick to believe every accusation thrown against our pastors and leaders and other fellow believers and even unbelievers. But we also should not be so quick to dismiss the accusations, especially when there appears to be potential substance to them. Our acumen and own sin nature should tell us that all of us, even our spiritual leaders, can be just as vulnerable to harrowing sin. And our observation of other similar cases should tell us that it is far from abnormal for a person or group of people to use their position of power and influence to constrain and conceal their sins and their victims.
May God give us wisdom and compassion and a sense of justice if and when encountering such potentially traumatic situations.