Jim Bakker. Mel Gibson. Tiger Woods. And now, Lance Armstrong. What do these people have in common? All of them achieved fame in our culture. And all of them turned that fame into notoriety.
Consider the facts:
- In the 1980s, Jim Bakker was one of the most successful evangelists on TV, with his show The PTL Club attracting millions of viewers and enough donations for Jim and his wife, Tammy, to build Heritage USA, a theme park that became the third most successful in North America. Then it all fell apart, with criminal investigations of their finances and sexual allegations against Jim. He was convicted of fraud and conspiracy and served five years in jail, during which time his marriage ended.
- Mel Gibson was one of the most handsome, popular and successful actors on the planet (ever heard of the Lethal Weapon movies? Braveheart?) when allegations of racism and domestic violence, coupled with drunk driving arrests, destroyed his reputation. He hasn’t had a hit movie since 2004.
- Tiger Woods is still trying to regain the form that made him far and away the best and most popular golfer on earth. It all went south in 2009 when his marriage to Elin Nordegren exploded in very public allegations of serial infidelity. Several high-profile sponsors dropped him.
- You’ve probably been off the planet for awhile if you don’t know what happened to Lance Armstrong. He gained worldwide fame and adoration for winning seven Tour de France cycling titles and creating the multi-million-dollar Lance Armstrong Foundation, which funds the fight against cancer. When the allegations of long-term performance-enhancing drug use were proven this year, Mr. Armstrong was stripped of his titles and several major sponsors dropped him. He also resigned as chairman of his foundation.
All these men have their pictures in what might be called the Hall of Infamy. All were what the The Globe and Mail newspaper labelled “demigods” who fell flat on their faces and enraged their fans, who thought they could do no wrong.
What’s so interesting is the lesson we can learn from these men is as old as humanity. And it seems every generation has to learn it.
If the Bible has any meaning to you, then consider what Jesus told some of His followers: “Fake Messiahs and lying preachers are going to pop up everywhere. Their impressive credentials and dazzling performances will pull the wool over the eyes of even those who ought to know better.”
I get what Jesus is saying because I’ve had the wool pulled over my eyes. Years ago, I trusted an author to have found the secret to living with grace and serenity – until I found out she was a bigamist juggling a lie-filled double life. I got rid of her books after that.
So who can you and I believe in who’s not going to leave us dangling off the cliff of crushing disappointment and betrayal? Who can we trust who really does have our best interest at heart, who understands everything we’re going through and won’t leave us, no matter how bad things get? How about God, who offers the gift of Jesus to every person on this planet?