You would have to be living under a rock to have not heard about the scandal surrounding Woody Allen and the allegations that he molested his adopted daughter, Dylan Farrow. Recently, Dylan Farrow wrote an open letter to Allen in the New York Times. It was a rather vicious letter that began like this: “what is your favorite Woody Allen movie? Before you answer, you should know: when I was seven years old, Woody Allen took me by the hand and led me into a dim, closet-like attic on the second floor of our house. He told me to lay on my stomach and play with my brother’s electric train set. Then he sexually assaulted me.”
It goes on from there to describe, in rather gritty detail, the relationship between Allen and Farrow. It is horrific to read things like this. To see innocence robbed is tragedy enough…but to see the man who robbed innocence be set free is even more of a tragedy. Conversations surrounding these events are difficult and yet, essential.
But not for us.
The unfortunate thing is that we have idolized celebrities so much that now we feel like we should know about everything that is going on in their lives. Conversations around the dinner table consist of who is getting a divorce, who is cheating on whom, and who recently got arrested (most likely Justin Bieber). In reality, our conversations consist of gossip. Plain and simple. But since it is gossip surrounding celebrities, it is not a big deal.
Or at least we tell ourselves that.
This is difficult for me to write because I am one who loves to talk about the lives of those in Hollywood. Sometimes I even wish that I had their lives. But in times like this, I am glad that I don’t. In times like this, I see just how deadly gossip can be.
Even if Allen is innocent, he will be forever remembered as a man accused of molesting a child. Why? Because all of America talked about it for a month. We sat in Starbucks talking about the details of this event. We went to work ready to talk about new things we found out. We even sat around the dinner table with our families talking about how sad it is to see these things.
And in all of this, we forget that Allen might be innocent. In all of this, we forget that Allen is just another person. In all of this, we forget that we are gossiping about someone’s life.
And as Christ followers, is this really the best way to spend our time? Is this even displaying Christ?
Recently, I watched a film called The Hunt. This is a fantastic movie that talks about a man who is wrongfully accused of molesting a child and the consequences that come from that wrongful accusation. He is cast out from society. He is ridiculed and beat up. He becomes the focal point of the town’s anger.
And all the while, he is innocent.
His innocence isn’t even a thought, though, because the gossip of the town fueled everyone to believe something else. That’s what gossip does. Gossip convinces each of us of things that might not have happened. It affirms wrong beliefs about people. And it also destroys the lives of everyone…including ourselves.
Why does gossip destroy our lives? Because gossip causes us to throw logic and privacy out the window. We stop thinking logically about situations and instead think about what others are telling us…no matter how ridiculous those things may be. Gossip destroys privacy because everyone’s business is now our business. That way of thinking permeates all aspects of our lives. It becomes the norm for how we think about things.
The saddest part is that we don’t even think about the lives that we are destroying in this process. We just want something juicy to talk about.
That says a lot about our lives. It says a lot about what we consider to be culture. It says a lot about what we think of ourselves.
Here’s the truth: whether or not Woody Allen is pedophile is none of our concern. Why? Because none of us know him personally. None of us hang out with him on a weekend. His life is completely separate of our lives. As far as we know, we could be completely destroying his reputation by spreading vicious lies about him. The best response I have heard about this whole situation has actually been from Alec Baldwin. He tweeted this about the whole situation: “What the f&@% is wrong w u that u think we all need to b commenting on this family’s personal struggle?” he tweeted Sunday. “So you know who’s guilty? Who’s lying? You, personally, know that?” he continued, adding: “You are mistaken if you think there is a place for me, or any outsider, in this family’s issue.” This issue isn’t about us…and we need to stop talking about him.
But not just about him. We destroy innocence every time we open our mouths to spread another piece of gossip. We burn down reputations every time we make an “innocent” remark about others. We blemish the bride of Christ every time we do this. And yet we think it is completely innocent…but our words destroy lives.
When we gossip about a pastor because we disagree with him/her…
When we gossip about a girl who may or may not be sleeping with someone in the church…
When we gossip about a guy who might be struggling with addictions…
When we gossip about a couple who might be going through marital issues…
We destroy their lives when we open our mouths. Every single one of us is guilty of this. When we open our mouths to gossip, we label someone opposite of what God has labeled them. Gossip conflicts with God.
How do we move past this blatant sin? If you hear a rumor about someone, grow up and go talk to them personally. Stop gossiping. Stop hanging around the same group of friends each week talking about the dirty details you’ve heard. It’s ugly. It’s disgusting. It’s not the church.
If you hear a rumor about someone you don’t know, you most likely can’t go talk to them…so it probably doesn’t concern you…and it probably means you should shut your mouth about it.
Gossip causes headlines like this: “Woody Allen: Pedophile.” As the Church, we cannot accept the possibly inaccurate labels that are put on people by our gossip.