Wednesday, June 15, 2016
The Devil And Richard Jewell
I've mentioned here before that I have become a huge fan of the ESPN documentary series, 30 For 30. I don't have cable and find little worth watching on conventional television so what I watch is often Internet documentaries. Last night, I re-watched one of the compacted efforts called 30 For 30 Shorts about the Atlanta Olympic bombing in 1996. If you remember, a bomb was detonated in the Centennial Olympic Park, killing one and wounding one hundred on July 27, after the Games had begun. Initially, security guard Richard Jewell was hailed a hero for discovering the bomb and helping evacuate the area before the explosion. For several days, Jewell did numerous television interviews as authorities searched for clues and suspects. But when a college administrator where he had worked called the FBI and told them he had been difficult, the attention turned to Jewell. Some thought he fit a certain profile of a perpetrator who tried to make himself out to be a hero. The information was leaked to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution who ran the story and it was all over for Jewell. His life became a living hell as he was surrounded and tried in the court of public opinion by the media and late night talk show hosts. He was ridiculed and mocked for eighty-eight days. There was only one problem- he had absolutely nothing to do with the crime and was indeed the hero whose actions saved a hundred lives by some accounts. He went from being unknown to a villain..... and you just can't go back again. Jewell died in 2007 from diabetic complications. He brought suit against that college and a number of news outlets, and in every case but one, won out of court settlements. He confessed that most of the money he was awarded went to lawyers. It never could undo the damage, anyway.
Do you know what I remember about the bombing and its aftermath? I recall thinking Richard Jewell was guilty as charged, even though he was never charged. Do you know why? He just looked guilty! I convicted him in my mind by what I saw on television. It had to be him but it wasn't. In 2006, domestic terrorist Eric Rudolph confessed to the bombing and was sentenced to life imprisonment. Richard Jewell was there that day- I hope it brought him some small sense of justification and peace of mind. He did not have long to enjoy it if he did.
The longer I live and teach, the slower I am to accuse. Part of it is the sobering reality of being wrong many times. Things aren't always as they seem. I don't know all the facts. My guess is that most if not all those journalists who were quick to accuse Richard Jewell were sincere in their belief that he was guilty- they were just wrong. (I did see one clip where a journalist claimed his organization was right in reporting as it did, even though he freely admitted it destroyed Jewell's life.) But as believers, we know one whose accusations are always malicious. In Revelation 12:10, John writes:
Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: "Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Messiah. For the accuser of our brothers and sisters, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down.
From verse 9, we see that accuser is none other than Satan himself. We know of two occasions where Satan had to ask permission to take a shot at Job and Peter. My take is Satan doesn't have to ask if he already has a firm grasp on the particular soul. I ask my students if Satan has to have permission to torment me- they aren't sure and neither am I. Then there is the case of Joshua, the high priest, in Zechariah 3 when once again, Satan accuses one of the Lord's own..... and the Lord rebukes the Devil. In one of my favorite verses, 1st John 2:1, I find out that I am not alone in my trials, that I have the best spiritual attorney on my side:
My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father--Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.
I already feel guilty enough without Satan piling on as John states in Revelation. Like Richard Jewell, I might appear to be guilty to the world. One of the heartbreaking things about that 30 For 30 was the appearance, at least early in the investigation, that Jewell was isolated on an island of desperation with no one loyally standing with him, except his mother. Martin Luther's A Mighty Fortress portrays Satan, full of hate and rage, at war with the world, but Satan is doomed to defeat. We have the best defender in our corner, Jesus Christ, or as Luther says, on our side. And my lawyer, He never loses a case.
Applicable quote of the day:
"This is a guy who should have been throwing out baseballs at major league games; walking into rooms and people standing up and cheering. How do you ever get that back? He (Richard Jewell) was collateral damage."
Henry Schuster (former producer, CNN)
Here is the ESPN 30 For 30 Shorts: Judging Jewell:
E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Posted by Steve Hawley at 9:23 PM