This has been the celebrity story that will not end for the past year. And maybe it shouldn’t. Maybe it still needs to come to resolution.
To date, 30 women have publicly accused Bill Cosby of rape charges, the number accelerating since November of last year. In each case, the statute of limitations, a state-by-state determined law which forbids prosecution for crime after a specified number of years, has been reached. The wisdom behind such a law is the understanding that the further away we get from the event’s occurrence, the murkier any evidence, whether physical or eyewitness, becomes.
While the law makes sense, in these particular cases, it almost complicates matters further, because it seems as though no true resolution is in sight. While many celebrities close to Cosby have spoken out in his defense, many others, whether alleged former victims or female comedians, don’t seem to want to let this get by unpunished.
While the story appeared to be losing steam, with the last “new” info reported on March 3rd, comedian Amy Schumer stirred the pot a bit more on her Comedy Central show Tuesday night. You can watch the full clip here. Schumer’s satirical sketch aimed to poke fun at the reasons she thinks so many defenders of Cosby WANT to believe Bill Cosby is innocent. As unworthy.com contributor summarized, the implied reason for defending Cosby appears to boil down to the idea that he was so beloved as “America’s Dad,” such an important black male role model playing family man, Dr. Heathcliff Huxtable, such an important part of many of our youths, that we almost have an a priori belief that Bill Cosby is pure good and we’d refuse to entertain any evidence to the contrary.
I think Schumer (and other accusers) might have something there.
Now, to be clear, I honestly don’t have a strong opinion of Cosby’s innocence or guilt in these charges. I don’t consider myself fully qualified/informed to offer too strong of an opinion. There are some, including Cosby’s biographer, Mark Whitaker, a very highly credited writer and former editor of Newsweek, who said, “I was aware of the allegations, but ultimately decided not to include them in my book. I didn’t want to print allegations that I couldn’t confirm independently.” Now, Whitaker has since expressed regret for not pursuing the charges more aggressively, but then again, how fair would it be to include unsubstantiated allegations in a man’s biography? Others, especially victims, are demanding justice, at least an apology from Cosby, if the charges are indeed true, regardless of statute of limitations rules. In short, there are many people very close to the situation that are on other side of the debate, so why should I think my opinion, from so far away, would somehow be more accurate?
Setting aside the legalities of the issue, as Christians, it’s important that we give some thought to Schumer’s claims, no matter how irreverent or exaggerated they may be. Is it possible that we choose what we want to believe, irrespective of the evidence, and then use our thoughts and whatever data we can scrape up, to make a defense of our predisposed opinions. Put differently, is it possible that some of us believe Bill Cosby is innocent simply because we love Bill Cosby, have fond childhood memories of him, and therefore refuse to accept evidence to the contrary. On the other hand, is it possible that some of us have had strained relationships with men, including/especially fathers, and are more inclined to believe Cosby is guilty, because deep down inside, all men are evil, selfish, and sex-crazed, women are victims, and someone needs to finally pay for this. According to social psychologist, Jonathan Haidt, in The Righteous Mind, these predispositions are not only possible, but probable – we largely believe what we want to believe and then we start gathering our data.
So it’s interesting to me that many of the people who are arguing that the accusations of 30 independent eyewitnesses who would face public ridicule couldn’t possibly be orchestrated, yet some of these same people would also refuse to believe the 500+ independent eyewitnesses who were willing to face death to testify to Jesus’ resurrection. “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living.” (1 Cor. 15:3-6) Again, we believe what our hearts tell us to believe, and then we try to dig up some data. Unless we’re honest about our predispositions, it’s harder to find the truth.
So how does a Christian process the Cosby accusations?
1) Bill Cosby is a sinner – While I don’t know if Cosby’s guilty of any/all of the charges brought against him, I know that from the time his mother conceived him, Bill Cosby was sinful (Psalm 51:5). No human belongs on a pedestal. Every mere human belongs in hell. We’re all only anything because we’ve been adopted into God’s family through the grace that comes in Christ Jesus (Gal. 3:27-29). Every truly good thing we’ve ever done, ever had, ever produced, is a gift from God (James 1:17). Consequently, any Christian who has been adamantly defending Cosby’s innocence on the basis of their childhood laughter at Dr. Huxtable’s funny faces will want to repent of false justifiers.
2) I am a sinner – As we’re knocking Bill Cosby off his lofty entertainment pedestal, we realize he doesn’t fall below us. He falls to the same level as us. Even though we still have no concrete proof against Cosby or confession from Cosby, let’s for a moment say that the accusations are accurate. What does it mean? What does it change? What have we learned? Humans are capable of great evil – were we so poor at history and social studies that we were unaware of this? Societies governed by sinful humans are corrupt and often unjust – the same? I think what we’ve learned is something about ourselves – the wickedness expressed in the life of the murderer or rapist when compared to the best of us – is merely a circumstantial difference. In other words, a little boy who steals a pencil out of another student’s desk without his knowledge or a comedy legend who has abused women due to his lofty social position – it’s the same impulse – self-interest as opposed to other-interest – but the circumstances are different. The color of evil in us is universal, but the shades are just a little different. Point being, we all stand equally condemned before the court of God’s Holy Law. In no way am I attempting to minimize the awfulness of such crimes. But the fact of the matter, according to the Bible, is that we are all equally guilty of the most heinous crime in history – the murder of God’s only, innocent Son, Jesus. So whether he committed these crimes or not, I’m no better or worse than Bill Cosby. “There is no difference… for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” (Rom. 3:22-24)
3) God saves sinners – What’s interesting is that the same sinners who are justified by grace are often resentful of God’s grace. You listen to ex-supermodel and alleged victim Janice Dickinson’s passionate public pleas for Cosby to come to justice and you see a woman who doesn’t know or understand the Christian doctrine of Judgment Day, or perhaps the vile nature of her own sin. See, within the Christian framework of belief, no one gets away with anything. Either, you repent of your sins and turn to Christ to receive forgiveness through his payment of your sins, or you will pay for your own sins eternally. Either way, sin gets paid for. Either way, the scales are balanced. And the Apostle Paul tells the Romans that in EVERY case, Jesus had to do that for ALL mankind. God is in the business of graciously declaring sinners not guilty for the sake of Jesus.
I wonder if Janice Dickinson is equally concerned about herself being brought to justice? How can someone be angry with God (or the world) for the grace and patience shown to others when God has shown (and I have needed) the same incomprehensible grace and patience. It makes no sense to be angry over the same trait of God that is necessary for my salvation.
Whether or not Cosby is guilty of these rape charges, I don’t know, you don’t know, and due to the way our legal system is set up, we may never know. On the cosmic scales, this doesn’t change much. Cosby has always been a sinner who could only ever be saved by the sacrifice of Jesus, which brings justice and peace with God. The same could be said of you and me. And any statement about this case that doesn’t keep that reality in mind is forgetting the gospel.
Christians, remember the gospel.