Thursday, December 3, 2009


I am not going to join the Tiger Woods hype except to deal with some important vocabulary reported from his public statements.

On the one hand, he uses some of the shifty language of our culture:

"Personal sins should not require press releases and problems within a family shouldn't have to mean public confessions..."

I recognize that his use of the term "personal sin" is vis a vis media coverage. But that kind of language can also mean "It's all about me, and I'm only sorry for the unpleasantness that I have made for myself." But sin is not "personal" - God and neighbor are violated by it. Infidelity offends God, wounds a spouse and children, diminishes the daily efforts of married couples and poisons communities, especially when the media makes such behavior stylish for threadbare souls.

On the other hand, happily, there is some good moral vocabulary and insight in some of his other statements:

"I regret those transgressions with all of my heart... I have not been true to my values and the behavior my family deserves."

That's exactly right. Transgression is the crossing of a boundary, violating the property of another. God's holiness. A spouse's love and dignity. A child's trust and security. The peace and order of a community.

And Tiger states what a Christian might call the "vertical and horizontal" relationships that are transgressed:

values are that which are above, with God;

family is that which is alongside, in humanity.

Tiger has rightly, if unintentionally, confessed to transgressing "the Great Commandment" that Jesus taught:

Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these. Mark 12:30-31

Advent reminds us that the problem is not with Tiger Woods, but with all of us who transgress the Great Commandment. And Advent urges us to turn to the one born to pay the penalty for our transgression:

God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. Colossians 2:13-14