The Church can learn something from the Boston Celtics
Updated: Sep 28, 2022
Last week, it was announced that second-year head coach Ide Udoka of the Boston Celtics, who, as a rookie, took the Celtics all the way to the finals of the NBA last year, has been suspended for one year. The crime: he had an intimate consensual relationship with a female in the Boston Celtics organization.
If this were just a few years ago, and I don’t mean decades, I mean like five years ago, I doubt he would have been suspended at all. The relationship was consensual, based on what has so far been reported. Bill Clinton did something similar as president of the United States, and he only became more popular over the years. (Of course, Monica Lewinsky was dragged through the mud as a Jezebel and labeled provocatrice.)
[T]he media eagerly prepared to make Lewinsky the face of the scandal. In newspapers and on cable news and talk shows, she became, variously, an innocent victim, a liberated woman, someone sexy, someone fat, someone feminine, someone unwomanly…Her humiliation became a national spectacle.
Had Coach Udoka “merely” cheated on his wife (and by “merely,” I am not making light of adultery!), he may have suffered personally, but he would not have suffered professionally. One of the things that we have learned as a society is that people under authority may do things they would not normally do when it is requested by somebody in authority. How many stories did we hear from women who felt their careers would be ruined if they did not sleep with disgraced filmmaker Harvey Weinstein? There is a different dynamic when one has professional authority over another. In other words, the relationship cannot be defined as consensual if one party has authority over the other. That’s why companies today have policies where you go to the HR department and report the relationship.
We know that the relationship between Monica Lewinsky and Bill Clinton was consensual. But we also know that Monica Lewinsky was in her early 20s and in awe of the president—‘in love’ according to her. And, she was under his authority—both as a US citizen and a White House intern. It is actually an older, more mature Lewinsky that helped us reevaluate our reaction to workplace romances between a supervisor and a subordinate in her powerful Ted Talk in 2015.
Even funnyman David Letterman was convicted over how he treated her.
“I started to feel bad,” David Letterman said on the air after he read Lewinsky’s Vanity Fair article. “Because myself and other people with shows like this made relentless jokes about the poor woman. And she was a kid, she was 21, 22. … I feel bad about my role in helping push the humiliation to the point of suffocation.”
Something shifted in the culture—not just in the US but also in Israel. Israel had been famous for its extramarital affairs between IDF officers and female subordinates. But suddenly, many of these females began to speak out. In the past, an officer might be getting high fives for such behavior—now, they get fired or are forced to resign. In a survey just a few years ago, “one in six female soldiers has reported being sexually harassed during her service.” The same article reveals that officers had been dismissed, even though the relationships were supposedly consensual. That was not always the case.
They understand that an undisclosed consensual relationship between an officer who carries a tremendous amount of authority and a female subordinate cannot truly be consensual. She could be 19 years old, and he could be 35. He could be a predator. She could feel pressured against her will, or maybe she becomes infatuated with his military career.
Amnon and Tamar, David and Bathsheba
I’m reminded of King David’s son Amnon who was in love with his half-sister. Or at least he thought he was until he raped her. Then he discarded her like trash. And how did Bathsheba feel about King David? Would any of us consider that consensual? Even if she did not resist, he was the king, and they did not have an HR department!
What about the Church?
The saddest part about all this is that most of the Church is playing catchup. While there are definitely churches that embrace a high level of integrity, there are far too many cases of narcissistic pastors who feel that despite their indiscretions, God can simply not get along without them. How many wounded adults were once manipulated by a priest they looked up to?
Christian news sites are full of stories of not only pastors falling into sexual sin but some not even taking a break from ministry. One of the more famous pastors in America not only divorced his wife (he says she left) but married her best friend a few months later. It should also be noted that his new wife was also his administrative assistant. He just kept on preaching because the congregation wanted him to—he says.
I heard an interview recently where a pastor was going to his network’s leadership conference and when he realized that over half of the speakers had had a moral failure, he also realized that he had to leave the network. I read the other day of a woman who was raped by her pastor—and he is still preaching. A Virginia pastor is accused of molesting a girl at an overnight church event. In this report, a pastor allegedly used his position to proposition females.
One of the alleged victims told police that Konold offered her a job as his personal assistant, the complaint states. Then, Konold reportedly started pushing the woman to have sex with him—and begging her not to tell his elders.
You see, it is one thing for someone to come on to another person. It’s something entirely different and takes on a demonic nature when that someone is your pastor or your boss. It leaves the victim not just feeling violated but deeply confused. How could someone you respect and expect to protect you, who is supposed to be an example of character to you, dishonor and defile you in such a way?
In the case of the pastor who raped a young woman his family had ministered to over a long time, he explained to her that it was her fault.
He later told me that I had a “spirit of sexuality” on me and that I had caused the moment. He said, “I apologized to you for it because that’s who I am, but you need to own it.”
That is what predators do. It’s what narcissists do. “I am a good guy. I am godly. But you are Jezebel, and it was your fault.”
And it is not just the Catholic Church who covered for perverted priests, but many evangelical and charismatics have been way too lenient on pastors who used their position to groom someone for sexual relations.
Why do other leaders cover for moral failures?
Somehow, we become convinced that dealing with things quietly is godlier. But the problem is that if the individual is a predator, he will not stop. This is why Paul says that we rebuke such sin publicly for the protection of the Church. (1 Tim. 5:19).
We are concerned about how it will reflect on our congregation or denomination. Another bad reason. Nobody respects a cover-up, but everyone respects honesty and openness.
We sometimes think we need to protect the anointing of the leader. In other words, if the perpetrator is someone who is a great preacher and is bearing tremendous fruit in that part of his life, we might be hesitant to do what the Bible says and expose him publicly.
The fact is, once you embrace the yoke of leadership, you are allowing yourself to be judged by a higher standard. God has entrusted us with authority in the lives of his flock. Protecting ourselves is not as important as protecting God’s precious lambs. And predatory behavior should never, ever, ever be covered by church leaders. A friend once said to me that no one is indispensable. But I told him he was wrong—to a degree. When God calls a person to do something, they are uniquely equipped to do it, and while God can certainly find someone else to take up the mantle, there is no question that their moral failure will hurt the mission.
There are some great testimonies where a church recovered, and God brought someone else in to take up the leadership role and even when behind the former leader. But there are far more stories of leaders finding themselves in moral failure, destroying or nearly destroying the congregation. That’s the great gravity of taking on a leadership mantle.
I applaud the Boston Celtics for taking action. Hopefully, in the future, the Church will not be following the culture, but the culture following the Church. How sad that we are still lagging behind.
 Constance Grady, “Every version of the Monica Lewinsky story reveals America’s failure of empathy,” Vox, October 5th, 2021, https://www.vox.com/culture/22672346/monica-lewinsky-bill-clinton-impeachment-american-crime-story  Monica Lewinsky, “The Price of Shame,” Ted Talk, March 20, 2015, 1:54, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H_8y0WLm78U  Grady, “Every version of the Monica Lewinsky story reveals America’s failure of empathy,”  Anna Ahronheim, “IDF officer suspended on suspicion of affair with subordinate,” Jerusalem Post, July 2nd, 2018, https://www.jpost.com/israel-news/idf-officer-suspended-on-suspicion-of-illicit-encounters-with-subordinate-561352  Mary Jones, “Moving Forward,” Medium, July 21st, 2021, https://email@example.com/moving-forward-b40408a3887b.