The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. This is the Lord's doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. Psalm 118:22-23 NRSV

Monday, August 17, 2009

Michael Vick


Anyone who knows me knows that I am an increasingly avid sports fan. I have changed my cable provider so that I can watch the Phillies almost daily. I frequently wear team gear for the Phillies and Yankees. And although I am more of a baseball fan than football these days, in the winter you can observe me in my Eagles gear. But even if I weren't following sports so closely, I would have been hard-pressed to miss all of the hullabaloo engendered by the recent signing of Michael Vick to the Philadelphia Eagles football team.

For those of you who have been in a cave, Michael Vick, formerly a ProBowl caliber quarterback for the Atlanta Falcons, just completed an 18-month sentence for charges related to a dog-fighting operation he ran out of his home in Virginia. A couple weeks ago he was reinstated to the NFL, although he remains suspended for an as yet undetermined number of games. He was available. The Eagles signed him. Animal rights activists and dog-loving fans, especially in Philadelphia, had a fit.

This brings me to the question that prompts this blog: What do they want? Michael Vick served time for heinous cruelty and has seen his life and fortune dismantled. Is he never supposed to work again? Is he forever to be shunned from all polite company? Was he simply supposed to die in prison? Or is it okay from him to be released and to work, but just not to make a lot of money or to be truly successful and potentially celebrated as a great quarterback? I want to say to the detractors, I know you don't want him to do this, but what's the alternative? I know, I know: Throw him to the dogs.

Now hear me, I'm not one of those sanctimonious types who judgmentally declares that we should not judge others. Clearly, Michael Vick has some restitution to make, but he can never make such restitution if we don't acknowledge that redemption and righting wrongs are possible.

To make a larger and perhaps more important point, as individuals and as a society we have to figure out how to reintegrate people who have messed up in a way that both acknowledges their wrongs and their potential. We can neither fail to punish wrongs, nor continue to punish forever.

12 comments:

NDK said...

Sadly, the church is a microcosm of the world. While attending an ordination service for 15 deaconesses a few years ago, the Cathechist asked the candidates if there was a biblical basis for restoration. Only ONE candidate quoted ONE scripture. I shook my head and whispered a prayer. I guess they had not planned to restore anyone...

Anonymous said...

It also opens the question of how we respond to the oppression of the prison industrial complex on our communities. Vick is an easy mark because he is famous and has high earning potential. But what about a regular brotha? How is that man supposed to leave prison for good and make a living?

Leslie D. Callahan said...

@Anonymous: That's exactly the point I'm making. We don't do the re-entry, reintegration thing well period.

PROVIDEntially PURPOSEd said...

Bottom line: Race Matters. Period. There will always be a double standard.

Rev Marilyn said...

1 in 100 Americans are in prison. Those numbers are much higher among poor and ethnic Americans. Most of us know those numbers. The real issue is that most of those who are incarcerated are coming out one day--one day soon. So, thanks for writing my sister and for raising the real question, “what shall we do with these returning citizens?” Mike’s not alone in this particular game. And did I mention that it is not just the men but women as well? And oh yeah, while they are incarcerated, what shall we say to their families and their children, who are quietly and I believe often painfully ignored by society and God help us even the church? Should we cut out the prison reference of Matthew 25:31-46? Or shall we live the words of that Scripture?

Miss Jones said...

I wonder if those raising such a fuss have ever received a parking ticket from the less than gracious Philadelphia Parking Authority. If so, then I understand their need to torture another human for his crimes. I wonder if any of the animal rights activists (who are entitled to their opinion and their passion) have ever considered your question of "What then?" or if they are only concerned with condemning Vick to the 'scarlet letter' treatment. Until they have to wear a scarlet P for Parking Violations in Philadelphia - which they have already paid, then they need to ease back and let the brother ride the pine for a while. Strange analogy? Then perhaps you've never gotten to your car seconds after the money ran out and the meter reader wrote it up!

Wil Gafney said...

It's also important that he has acknowledged and apologized for his wrong-doing. He's been very clear about that. Unlike some others in the public who make non-apologies.

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