As I sit in my office on a late Tuesday evening long after the staff has gone home, my mind began to try to absorb the Robert (Bob as we all knew him) Carlson fiasco.
Bob and I were personal friends; we served on a board together, he gave our leadership board of our ministry consultation on occasion, and we spent numerous times having lunch and discussing ministry. Many others throughout the community and state feel like I do at times, “bewildered” and ask themselves, “How could all of this have happened?”
The most recent news of Bob and his apparent dishonesty about his education and religious credentials continues to add to an open wound that does not go away. Trying to sort out the good deeds he accomplished for humanity and the dishonesty is difficult. To add injury to insult the public at large has a very skeptical view of religion, God and clergy in general. The recent events in Bangor surrounding Bob do not help one iota.
As a fellow clergy person who represents spirituality it strikes deeper than the average church-goer or skeptic. There are a few items that may be in order here to help us gather our thoughts and put things in perspective.
First, there are many clergy in the Bangor area that are fine, honest and moral spiritual leaders who have a genuine love for mankind and have devoted their lives to that cause. I was personally a little put out by the Jan. 17 Bangor Daily News editorial which referred to those in the arena of helping others as presenting themselves as “public do-gooders.” But I will give them some slack because many in the helping professions have presented one thing and acted another.
However, a better term could have been used rather than do-gooder. I have never thought of myself as a do-gooder, but who knows? I always thought of myself as one who genuinely loved people and have given my life to challenge people spiritually and better mankind as a whole; maybe that is a do-gooder. I hope the good people of Bangor do not look at clergy and others who give themselves to help those who are hurting, distraught, and so forth, as do-gooders.
Secondly, clergy, business people, sports figures and so forth are made up of people who fail at times and do not always honestly portray what is right or what they represent in a positive light. How many coaches, educators and business people, have lied about credentials and their accomplishments only later to be found out? Does Bernie Madoff ring a bell, not to mention the recent Penn State nightmare?
I would challenge the community not to judge the clergy at large based on one or even a few individuals who have not been true or forthright. When we are deceived or deeply hurt by someone, it’s easy to throw in the towel and forsake what they represent, even if what they represent is good, in this case, faith. God is always faithful, true and honest, when man or even the clergy is not.
Thirdly, these incidents, as painful as they are, once again remind us of the deep depravity of mankind in general and just how evil man can be or act. The acts that are alleged to have been committed by Bob are undeniably horrific and not defendable, and the clergy, as well as the general populous, should not try to defend or make excuses.
Healing begins when ownership is taken and then dealing with the issue as hard as it is.
Personally, I am saddened by the events, but I know spirituality and faith are a part of our being, and life must move forward. Right is right, and wrong is wrong, and the many actions of Bob were wrong, period. Excuses for such behavior must not enter the fray.
Even in our post-modern culture of nonabsolutes, we must as a people have rights and wrongs or we are all doomed. As clergy we must be big enough to say one of our own failed, and take the heat from the community and challenge people to keep their eyes on God and faith, not on man. The Bible is so right when it says in Romans 3:23, “For all have sinned …”
Jerry Mick is pastor at Bangor Baptist Church.