Paula Deen is a terrible person who doesn’t deserve anything good in life. At least, that is the conclusion one might draw from listening to our national discourse after her confession and subsequent apology for using the offensive “N” word in a conversation that took place some 20-or-so years ago. The fallout for Deen has been significant. Walmart, Target, and other retailers are removing Paula Deen’s products from their inventory. The Food Network will not renew their contract with Deen. And, if that wasn’t enough, a significant number of Americans are having a field day casting stones at this woman and celebrating her professional downfall as if she was the very manifestation of Satan himself.
Those who know me well know that I am no fan of political correctness (PC). PC, in my opinion, is contributing to the ruin of our society. With that said, I find the “N” word horribly offensive. This piece is in no way intended to defend Deen’s use of the word; I find that disturbing and disappointing. However, I am disgusted and angered by the vitriolic reaction of many of my fellow Americans and the business partners that have cast Deen aside as if she were poison. I’m disgusted and angered, but I’m also saddened, for many of my fellow Americans who are dancing in the streets over Deen’s professional downfall profess to be Christians. This piece is for them.
God teaches us through His Word that we are equal with one another in one very important aspect. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…” (Romans 3:23). In the context of the Paula Deen controversy, the Bible tells us that Paula Deen is no better than any of us, and we are no better than Deen, either. The playing field here is completely level; each of us is a sinner and each of us falls short of God’s glory. Was Deen’s use of the “N” word a sin? I believe it was. Because she sinned in this manner is she a lower person in God’s ranking than me? I believe the Bible tells us she is not.
Jesus gave us an example of how we Christians should respond to an individual caught in transgression:
The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him. But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” “No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.” (John 8:3-11)
Look what happens here: A woman, caught in a sin considered particularly egregious, is brought before the Pharisees. The Pharisees, in an attempt to trap Jesus with a trick question, cite Old Testament law as they state their intention to stone her. Instead of answering their question directly, Jesus levels the playing field, “If any of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” One by one, her accusers drop their stones and walk away. Does this mean that Jesus thinks the woman’s sin was “OK”? Of course not! This was a lesson in pride; a lesson in humility. Jesus’ parting words to this woman are also very important, “Go now and leave your life of sin,” (italics added for emphasis).
As Christians, we know that the way we live our lives testifies to who we truly are and what we truly believe. Our life is our witness, and people draw conclusions about us based on what we put on display. More importantly, people draw conclusions about God based on what we who profess Christ display in our daily living. Our response and reaction to Deen’s use of the “N” word is an opportunity for Christian witness. The worldly response is to dog pile; tear her down; rip her to shreds then dance in the streets as she fades into the background. Sadly, many Christians have chosen that response.
I believe that the Bible teaches a different response for the Christian. We acknowledge her sin, just as we acknowledge our own. But then we forgive her sin, just as God forgives her sin and our sins. And, in the words of Jesus, we say, “Go and sin no more.”
Before I pick up a stone to cast at Deen I must look in the mirror and examine myself. I quickly see that I am no better than she is. And, fellow Christian, neither are you.