Scandals and privacy: Why we want both

I was listening to a news story about the Alex Rodriguez steroid scandal yesterday and reading the third chapter in Lauren Winner’s “Real Sex” book and I  got to thinking about the confusion in our culture: We demand privacy AND we love the scandal. Follow me for a minute:

1. A reporter asked the “man on the street” whether he thought Alex was no longer a role model for his sons. The man replied something to this effect, “What Alex puts in his body is his own business. Stop reading his mail. He has to make his own decisions and so do my sons. It’s a matter of privacy.” So, this man argued that what Alex does with his own body should be his own business since at the time of his taking the steroids it wasn’t illegal.

2. This thinking is commonly found in conversations about sex as well. Winner, in chapter 3, discusses our culture’s acceptance of the mantra, “what two consenting adults do is none of anyone’s business.” In fact, it shouldn’t even be the topic of conversation. FYI, Winner is arguing the opposite–that what you do in the bedroom is a matter of concern for the Christian community. So, Christians should care about their neighbor’s sexual ethic as it impacts the whole community. 

3. Yet, we love the scandal. As a culture, we are more prone now than ever to air someone’s dirty laundry. Haven’t we just been bombarded with some actor’s profanity filled rants? Obama appointees Some actress’ sex tape is “leaked”? Now, Alex Rodriguez is a juicer. I’m sure Joe Torre’s book about his Yankee years will sell big. Why? It’s going to have juicy, PRIVATE, details. We love the scandal. Just not our own.

By the way, the church really isn’t any better. We’ve all heard and repeated things like: “Did you hear about ____ son and what he did?” “Did you hear about ___ down the street and that their pastor was caught doing ____?”

Point: We want the freedom to do what we want in private without others finding out. We don’t want friends and family prying and asking those direct questions about our sex lives or other potentially embarrassing activities. Yes, I know, many of us are in accountability groups because we know we need people prying. But, really, does any human since our fig-leaved first parents really want accountability? No, even though we know that when we have folks asking us the tough questions, we’re less likely to be outed in a scandal.

2nd point: Oh, and we love the scandal for personal reasons. It makes us feel better. I, for one, would NEVER take steroids. That makes me feel better, even though I might have my own private struggles with being honest about taxes, time sheets, how I parent when no one is watching, etc.


Filed under Christianity, church and culture, Cultural Anthropology, News and politics, Psychology

3 responses to “Scandals and privacy: Why we want both

  1. I think we usually only demand privacy if it will protect us or allow us to not challenge a long-held belief (in A-Rod’s case, the fact that sports stars are just as human as the rest of us). But we also demand scandal if that will protect us from feeling bad about ourselves. It’s the old, “if everyone else is a loser, I must be okay.”

  2. Lou Buses

    Point one: Sin (particularly pride) hates light,.
    Point two: Schadenfreude, επιΧαιρεΧαΧει or what ever you want to call it. Though God tells us not to rejoice in the fall of our enemies (Pro 24:17) the psalms are full of joy when the enemy falls into his own trap (Ps 7.14-17, etc.). A little puzzling? Is there some vestige of the ‘image of God’ that rejoices in justice or is this pride, jealousy and covetousness that exalts when the other nation’s idol falls and ours is still standing (or a combination of both)? We don’t want to see anyone higher than ourselves. We are the only one that is going to sit on top of that mountain (Is 14.13). Heart issues.

  3. Scott Knapp

    It would seem the higher we exult our idols (musicians, actors, performers, sports stars), the more exhilarating it is to see them fall! The thrill of a “scandal” is in the gloating. Perhaps this is why the Greeks made their gods so fallible in their stories, maybe? I thought it was interesting how the tabloids are tearing Jessica Simpson apart the last few weeks or so about “weight gain”, in light of the lithe “hard body” she sported for “Dukes of Hazzard” junkies awhile back. While she’s being punished for not furnishing the media the appropriate flavor of eye candy, still millions of men in America are probably still going to be secretly wishing they could get next to her in any shape she may be in on any given day! The adrenaline rush of both condescending condemnation and unapologetic lust is too titillating to resist, apart from the mercy of God.

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