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The Blog of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship
November 11, 2011
Penn State: Rage, Remorse, and Redemption
For the last three months, I have been an itinerant staff with InterVarsity at Penn State University, visiting every other week and meeting with a small group of students eager to plant a new fellowship on campus. This past Tuesday when I visited Penn State, a different type of energy welcomed me. As always, I parked my car by Beaver Stadium and took the bus to the student center, where I was meeting with students. Usually, this quiet bus ride is full of students studying for exams or listening to music on iPods. But on Tuesday, conversations murmured with buzzwords such as “JoePa,” “Sandusky,” “cover-up,” and “disgusting.” Entering the student center, I saw a swarm of people watching ESPN on the big screen TV and others looking at The New York Times’ front page picture of Penn State.
Around campus, I witnessed news stories as they developed, like the artist in downtown State College who painted over the picture of Sandusky on a mural of inspirational people at Penn State. Rallies for the revered coach Joe Paterno (JoePa) occurred on the nights before and after he was fired – resulting in a torn down streetlight and a flipped news van. Mace was sprayed into the crowd. Events I could not have imagined witnessing when I signed up to be part-time staff at Penn State a few months ago.
Very quickly, I noticed a dichotomy emerging between the reaction of students and the travesty of the scandal. While the riots were quick to put guilt on the infamous president who was not held in high regard by the students prior to a week ago, it was easy to put a shroud of innocence over the face of the idolized coach. What I saw was just the first step in the public’s grieving process—denial. Many of the students I talked with are struggling with the severity of this scandal and the harshness of the actual crimes allegedly committed. What they don’t realize is that this isn’t just a university issue; it’s a human issue.
Several questions come to mind: How might God move to renew this broken situation? As Christians, what is a loving and compassionate response to the dichotomy in students’ minds? As a relatively new staff, I’m trying to figure this out.
I know that not only does God want to transform students’ lives, he wants to also renew the campus. I am reminded that Jesus came to care for the poor, the lame, the weak, and the hurting. In my life, I have experienced such love from Jesus in a way that redeems my brokenness. I desire for those who don’t yet comprehend the gravity of this situation to be overwhelmed by the same love that Jesus has for the victims of the crime, in addition to the beloved coach. May God bring healing to the victims and their families. And may God transform the passion for school tradition to a passion for healing in a broken world.
Andrew King is a Campus Staff Member with InterVarsity at Pennsylvania State University and Bucknell University.