It was a high-profile divorce for a small city where not much of significance went on. They worked together at a company that was getting attention and one thing led to another, a divorce. Pretty soon, there was a new blended family around town.
I’d see them at church every Sunday, he in khakis, she in impossibly inappropriate cleavage for Mass, the brood freshly scrubbed and wearing shorts. Every Sunday they were there for worship, sometimes late, but always in the same pew.
It’s always ironic when people who sin big—adultery appears in the Big 10, remember—turn up at church all innocent and fresh-faced. I have always been good at sniffing out hypocrisy and I could smell it even over the incense being swung by priests. But then, I should be more charitable, since Jesus was all about forgiveness. That’s what I tell myself, anyway.
I didn’t know the left-behind wife, but I felt for her, abandoned in such a public way and having to deal with seeing the new couple everywhere.
Attractive, wealthy, powerful–the new duo became a high-visibility couple, although they might not have been more than a blip on the radar screen of a bigger, more significant town.
I moved away and never thought of them again until years later I came across a headline. They were getting a divorce in a messy and very public way. And that’s when I remembered the family at Mass.
It was tempting to think “what goes around comes around” because it’s rare that a happy marriage is built on the ashes of one destroyed so unethically. But who really knows the true story?
And then there were headlines. The husband was accused of doing something successful men have been doing since the dawn of time: hiding a bunch of assets from the wife so he wouldn’t have to give up as much in the coming settlement. And a most curious thing: he was accused of doing so with the help of a man who was his “disciple.”
I thought only Jesus had disciples, and maybe the Rev. Jim Jones before he killed all of his with purple Kool-Aid, so I had to read more. Apparently, the successful businessman had become a bit of a Jesus freak over the years, and was coaching others to become Christian leaders. Just the idea of this drew a great laugh from me, even in the pre-dawn hours. When I read a bio that called him a “devoted follower of Christ” I thought my head was going to swivel 360 degrees tracking the stink of hypocrisy. What Christ could that be? Certainly not Jesus Christ, right?
Since legal filings only tell a little of the story and like an iceberg, most of the story lies beneath the surface, I was sure there was so much more interesting stuff that hadn’t come out. Maybe the guy was bat-shit crazy. He certainly sounded like he could be.
But here’s the thing. I don’t know what it is about Christianity that attracts these kinds of religious hypocrites and crazy people, but I’ve seen more than my share of them. Like power, religion can corrupt, because it IS a form of power. Christianity is rife with them.
The thought of this unethical, immoral guy actually having “disciples” and training future Christian leaders turns my stomach. He’s not really a Christian at all. Perhaps if he really believed in a Judgment Day he’d behave differently, I don’t know.
As for the latest wife left behind, well, it’s an old story. I think women in situations like these are terminally naïve and blinded by… whatever—power, love, money, prestige—you name it. They never think it could happen to them, even though they were present when it happened to the last wife. At least she’s got a chance now to build herself a life on a different, stronger, more ethical foundation. If she chooses.
As for the husband, well, I kind of like that his craziness is being exposed. Sure, he can say his ex-wife is crazy, but in the back of people’s minds from here on out there will always be that little question about how sane a guy who thinks he has disciples really is.
The story’s not over, not by a long shot. We may or may not know more. But here’s the thing:
As we celebrate the birth of the founder of Christianity, we would be well-served to remember what he was all about and practice those traits. Love, forgiveness, charity, peace. These things are in short supply in the world and sometimes way too hard to come by on an individual level.
I’m no longer a Christian, but I do believe that Christ was a good man and a good teacher. Christianity isn’t about buying gifts or putting up a tree or sitting at Mass with a freshly scrubbed blended family. It’s about how we act. How we behave on a daily basis..
Oh, and truth is that I think this guy’s life review is going to be pretty interesting. I hope I’m invited, at least to see the rerun.
I’ll bring the popcorn.