This post first appeared here on July 28, 2012.
Relax. This is not what it sounds like, and it’s only my opinion, and not that of my co-admins, so keep the hate mail properly directed, please.
You know what we don’t do very well anymore? In our modern culture, we have no idea how to sin properly. We’re uncomfortable with the whole notion of “sin,” frankly. Most of us think we know sin when we see it, but more often than not, we’re wrong completely, or we don’t recognize why something may be a sin, and most hazardous of all: we don’t have the slightest idea how to react to sin in ourselves and our friends.
I point this out now because Hollywood provided us, a few days ago, with a wonderful example of how to do it right, and no one seems to care. In fact, the media and film industry are so busy myopically moralizing about the incident that they seem happily unaware that almost all their moral judgments about the event are off bubble, at least from a Christian perspective. I’m speaking, of course, about the scandal of actress Kristen Stewart and director Rupert Sanders being caught sucking face in her Mini Cooper at a Hollywood Hills overlook while they were both engaged in serious relationships with others, in his case involving marriage and children.
Am I defending the kissing couple in their behavior? Absolutely not. Was it sinful in that it hurt numerous innocent bystanders? It assuredly was, and it certainly did. But here are at least three things that everyone seemed to get wrong. First, as soon as the couple was exposed, they reacted immediately and independently with horror at their acts, and they apologized to those they’d hurt, expressing their desire to make amends. This is exactly the reaction to sin that we Christians are called to adopt. Exactly. But instead of positive comments about that, the immediate response was that they were both “desperate” and “foolish” to accept blame so publicly rather than the customary weasel method adopted by all politicians and entertainers, which is to call for privacy and to admit nothing. This reaction would be just amusing if it were not so destructive.
After all, we are sinners, every one of us, are we not? We need practice in recovering from our sins just as much as we need help in avoiding them. When those in the public eye discourage and berate those who are in the agonizing process of accepting blame and atoning for their sins, it is a horrendous thing indeed. Souls are lost as a result, and God in his heaven is not pleased. As for how God looks on the two eager sinners, I think it’s safe to say that he has already made his thoughts on that known, in the Gospels, where he made it quite clear that sinners who quickly and gladly repent enter heaven before those who think they are without sin at all. So I would choose to praise them. Well done, Kristen and Rupert. What a refreshing display of post-sin repentance. I am actually inspired. I only wish their wronged mates had reacted so well, and that leads me to the second thing that everyone happily got wrong.
Forgiveness is one of those Christian doctrines that is troublesome for everyone, despite the inconvenient fact of it being absolutely crucial to salvation. And it’s not just important to lean towards forgiveness. We are called to forgive completely and totally, like God himself does, as he says, when he will “remember your sins no more.” Further, in the Gospels, Jesus makes it very clear, harshly so, that if we do not forgive our brothers, then he will not forgive us. Unfortunately, our culture interprets this command very loosely, and frequently preaches, as the commenters all did in the case of Robert Pattinson and Liberty Ross, that their forgiveness should be very slow, if it should come at all. How very wrong a message to give. It’s not generally known, but the simple fact is that a large percentage of married couples in the U.S. have survived actual infidelity (not just the first-base infidelity in this instance), and many of those, including several marriages I know personally, had their infidelity forgiven immediately, without condition, the way we are commanded to do it. Good for them.
Unfortunately, this does not appear to be the case in the Pattinson/Ross households. The humiliated Pattinson, of course, chose to move out more or less immediately, and reports are that he and Stewart have not spoken since. Not a good start. Liberty Ross has not moved out of her home with husband Rupert Sanders, but her initial reaction, while reserved, may have included public digs at her betrayer. Another bad sign, in her case, is that she’s recently made rather public statements about her unhappiness and disillusionment with her domestic life, and her husband. My guess is that forgiveness may be a while in coming, but I pray that I’m wrong in that.
This brings me to the last thing I think was mischaracterized by the media and the public in this case, and that’s the bizarre selective outrage and harsh judgment about the sin itself. Hollywood, of course, is a place where this kind of false moral outrage and hypocrisy are standard operating procedure. That’s no surprise. But this is a town in which very few people care to speak up about some of the most outrageously evil sin-mongering there can possibly be. Let’s take just one example. Recent witness testimony in the lingering investigation of the death of Natalie Wood indicates that it’s very likely that respected actor Robert Wagner and his friend Christopher Walken covered up the fact that Wagner had brutally beaten his wife, Natalie Wood, during an argument on their yacht and thrown her overboard to her death. I was paying attention when Wood died, and I was listening when the recent testimony happened and I don’t remember any particular outrage about it. Why is that?
But contrast that silence with the outrage and hatred directed against Kristen Stewart and Rupert Sanders over their betrayal of their loved ones. It’s a little weird, especially since there was, by ALL accounts, no actual affair, and both parties conducted themselves admirably in the past in every way professionally and socially, at least regarding each other, up to last week. There’s no reason, factually, to think they planned any betrayal. How often does a couple of Hollywood glitterati text one another: “Hey, come on up and meet me, during broad daylight, in a public place, so we can get jiggy in front of the paparazzi’s telephotos. It’ll be fun!”? This was not at all like, for example, John Edwards’ secret rendezvouses in hotels with Ms. Hunter with lookouts and such. This looked like a meeting between friends that got out of hand and didn’t go very far. And if you’re going to sin, that is the kind of crime of passion you want to be guilty of, not the kind where you premeditate and then cover it up afterward. But the irony is that such an evil plan and coverup would be more respected in our culture! That is why I think this is a tragedy.