Archive for the 'Bill Cosby' Category

Cosby,Character, Congruence, Christ

“‘As surely as God lives’ [David]  said to Nathan, ‘the man who did this ought to be lynched!’… ‘You’re the man!’ said Nathan.“ –2 Samuel 12:5, 7 MSG


I didn’t want to believe the ugly stories  about Bill Cosby. He’s one of my all-time favorite comedians. I’ve liked what I’ve known of his offstage life. He’s supported his alma mater Temple University. He’s stood up for civil rights when that stance was costly. He’s worked toward increased opportunity for African Americans and other minorities. He’s spoken with no-holds-barred honesty about the need for black people (especially young men) to take responsibility for themselves and their actions.

I’ve hoped that the ugliness would somehow be explained away. But the evidence continues to accumulate. I have to admit that at least some of the charges have credibility. I’ve looked for honesty, if not apology, from Cosby. But he and his advisors have thus far chosen not to address these matters except with denials and as required to in court.


This longtime Cosby fan struggles with the chasm separating Cosby’s highly-regarded reputation and the dramatically different revelations regarding his character. Reputation is our public image. We (and/or our PR staff) craft our “reputation” with the vast array of tools available to 21st-century image-smiths. Reputation may be crafted to suit ourselves. Character, on the other hand, is lasting, authentic, and not subject to manipulation. .

Suddenly Bill Cosby’s character and his long-time reputation seem to belong to two different people. Of course he’s hardly the first public figure whose character and reputation contradict each other. As the Watergate affair came to light, President Richard Nixon tried to do business as usual. To his credit, he ended the Vietnam conflict and opened up US-China relations during that time. But the deteriorating cover-up revealed the widening gap between Nixon’s well-publicized reputation and his increasingly dubious character. He’s hardly the only president who was sometimes less than “presidential”. Extramarital affairs marred the reputations of Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Clinton. Beyond the White House, General David Petraeus resigned after his affair not only crossed the line of marital fidelity but raised national security issues. And beloved (at least in Cincinnati) baseball player Pete Rose’s reputation suffered severely when his betting on his own team’s games came to light.

We expect national leaders and other public figures to be the same person privately and publicly. But my “let’s-get-real” side says let’s stop kidding ourselves. Consistently congruent lives are increasingly rare commodities.


Two geometric figures are “congruent” when they are exactly the same size and shape.  You can lay one on top of the other and they fit perfectly. I worked hard in high school geometry learning to prove the congruence of various geometric figures. Living a congruent life means our life is one seamless piece. Our walk and our talk match perfectly.  We are the same person at work, at school, at home, driving, playing, in church and out. We thought Bill Cosby’s life showed reasonable congruence. But he’s as fallible a human being as the rest of us.

David was Israel’s greatest king politically, militarily, and spiritually. One day David looked out from his balcony, saw a beautiful woman bathing on her balcony. He wanted her. Kings got what they wanted back around 1000 BCE. David had Bathsheba brought to his palace. Her husband Uriah was away fighting in King David’s army. David had his way with Bathsheba and sent her back home. A few weeks later she sent him this message: “I’m carrying your child.” Actions have consequences—even for the King!

David went into full cover-up mode. He brought Uriah home on leave. David welcomed him at the palace and urged him to go home and see his wife. Uriah refused. He would not enjoy the comforts of home while his men were in harm’s way. He slept in the palace with the king’s servants. Plan A failed miserably. So David initiated Plan B. The king sent Uriah back with sealed orders for his commander: “Place Uriah at the front of the fiercest battle, and then pull back from him so that he will be struck down and die.”  (2 Samuel  11:15 CEB).

Sometime after that fatal battle the prophet Nathan dropped by the palace. He told David a story about a rich man’s outrageous treatment of a very poor man. David exploded with outrage– “…the man who has done this deserves to die…” “You are the man!” Nathan replied. (2 Samuel 12:5, 7) Nathan shined a million-candlepower spotlight on David’s congruence failure. Psalm 51  is the song of repentance David may have written after his encounter with Nathan—and Nathan’s God.


I don’t presume to know Bill Cosby’s spiritual state of affairs. I have no desire to preach to him or judge him. I do believe this word might well shape our perspective on Cosby, ourselves, and whoever happens to be the media’s Sinner of the Week :“This saying is reliable and deserves full acceptance: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”—and I’m the biggest sinner of all.” (1 Timothy 1:15 CEB) Paul claims the title for himself based on his pre-Christ persecution of Jesus’ followers. All of us who follow Jesus have had our moments. We’ve all laid claim to that title: “I’m the biggest sinner of all!” We seldom made headlines or video clips with our wrongdoing. But Bill Cosby’s globally-proclaimed sins are no less deadly than our less public misdeeds.

While we condemn Cosby’s sexual misconduct, we who are people of faith also affirm that we are equally “Congruence-challenged”. Even more important, we dare to claim that “biggest sinner of all” is not the end of the story. The last word—for Paul, for you and me, Bill Cosby, for every human being–is the limitless love described in Paul’s previous statement: “Grace mixed with faith and love poured over me and into me. And all because of Jesus.” (1 Timothy 1:14 MSG)

“How Long Can You Tread Water?” (Corrected)

(The original post referred to Bill Cosby as “late”. Thankfully, I was reminded that he’s old but still very much alive and therefore no more “late” than any of the rest of us. Maybe I’ll make it up by writing about Cosby soon. If you’re young enough to have missed him in his prime, I encourage you to check him out on YouTube or other sources.)


Sixteen days ago Dianna and I arrived back in the US after our trip-of-a-lifetime visit to China. Walking through LAX, I turned on my cell phone and found two messages. One was a voicemail from a sheriff’s deputy about “a water issue” in our home in Arizona. The other was a text message from our daughter in Las Vegas: “Everybody’s fine, everything’s OK. Call me as soon as possible.” I flash-prayed that both messages addressed the same disaster. They did. A hard freeze had hit Northern Arizona on Veterans’ Day weekend. A water line had broken and sprayed water all over the attic. The water drained down through the ceiling into the main part of the house, down the stairs into the basement, and through the top floor onto the basement ceiling which mostly collapsed. A neighbor saw water running out the door of the walkout basement and called the sheriff. He entered the house, discovered The Flood, and found our daughter’s phone number on the refrigerator. When Karin (our youngest) heard about the “water issue”, she called her big brother Paul (our oldest). He and his wife Paula fiercely threatened their teenagers regarding any inappropriate behavior during their absence, then drove the 250 miles from their home to ours. They found the “water issue’s” super-soggy mess. More important, they found our insurance papers, called our agent, and got the cleanup process started. Paul and Paula boxed up “anything that looked important” in terms of papers and files, as well as winter clothes (for the season that’s taking its sweet time to arrive this year). Our kids decided not to call us in China and ruin the trip, since we couldn’t have done anything anyway. We have great kids—including our other son David who stayed warm and dry in his home in Maine!

When we stepped off the plane (midway through our 40-hour Saturday that began in Shanghai), it was time to deal with The Flood. Monday morning we saw our home for the first time. Nobody had exaggerated.  While clearly of sub-biblical proportions, The Flood was still very bad. Every room of our large house except our bedroom suffered major damage. We met with the three(!) insurance adjusters and the cleanup crew (very caring and professional). We began learning the rules of the insurance system that has suddenly become our new reality. We discovered that we’d be out of the house up to SIX MONTHS during reconstruction. We’d been talking about remodeling and clearing out clutter, but not this way!

Somewhere in this nightmare I began hearing a voice in my head. (Yes, it’s enough to make you crazy, but this was memory, not mental illness!) I heard the great Bill Cosby’s classic “Noah” routine. The only explanation Noah  offers his curious neighbors for the boat in his front yard is, “How long can you tread water?” Later, when the project gets too hard and Noah complains, the exasperated LORD rumbles, “Noah—How long can you tread water?”

That’s what we’re doing these days—treading water. Not literally, thank God. But spiritually and emotionally we’re just trying to stay afloat. Everything’s harder. Everything takes longer. Daily routines are disrupted.  We’re learning how to do things without most of our useful, familiar, comfortable stuff. Best case, it’s in one of three large storage containers in our yard. Worst case, it was ruined and tossed in the dumpster. We’ve gone from a couple of nights with generous church friends to staying with our kids (which we’d planned to do at Thanksgiving anyway) to a few nights in a motel and now a rented home about 3 miles from the site of The Flood. We’re grateful for both good friends and good insurance! Two weeks after our return, we had our first home-cooked meals in the place that we’ll call home for a while. Maybe we’ll call this place “The Ark”!

“How long can you tread water?” Not very long all alone with no land in sight. But as long as we need to “with a little help from our friends”. We’re aware of lots of people in lots of places praying with and for us. We’ve heard from friends who had a similar experience recently. As I mentioned, some generous church friends contacted us as soon as they heard of our situation and invited us to stay with them. Their hospitality was helpful and greatly appreciated. They also let us stash stuff at their place. When we moved into our rental this week, the “muscle” from Chino Valley UMC–the guys who move chairs and tables and do most of the hard work–showed up to do an all-day job in a couple of hours.

Our other church family–Green Valley UMC, our daughter and son-in-law’s church in So. Nevada–helped more than they know just by being themselves and doing what they do. We left Southern California  early on Sunday morning after our return to see and thank our children in Las Vegas. “I need to go to church today,” Dianna said. We drove straight to the church. We found what we needed. We were cared for and healed. (Not fed. I have a problem with folks going to church to be “fed”, but that’s a separate issue.) The next Sunday, after Thanksgiving with our family, we were back because we both needed and wanted to be there. Green Valley UMC consistently provides focused, creative, thoughtful, welcoming worship. They know folks come every week in the midst of living through all sorts of issues—even treading water! We’re grateful for their ministry.

I told someone God’s sense of humor is absolutely out of control this time. Dianna and I don’t believe God burst that pipe in our attic. We do, however, believe Paul’s wisdom in Romans 8:28 (CEV): “We know that God is always at work for the good of everyone who loves him.” I’ll keep you informed as we discover the ways that happens for us. Consider this post the first in an intermittent series. Perhaps we’ll call it “Flood Journal”—or maybe “Treading Water”.