Monday, December 13, 2010

The Pepsi Defense

Recently a local man was arrested for assaulting his mother. That is nothing new. Petty crime is a commonplace around here. The highlight of our local newspaper, the Beaver County Times, is Mugshot Monday, where the photos of all those admitted to the Beaver County jail in the past week are displayed.

Recently David Huffman, 33, of New Sewickley Township was charged with aggravated assault, simple assault and harassment of his 68-year-old mother. The mother suffered a fractured wrist in the incident.

The interesting aspect of this story is his excuse. Huffman told police that it wasn’t his fault: the Pepsi machine at Costco made him do it. I have a feeling he had been imbibing something a little stronger than Pepsi that evening. And he didn’t get it from a vending machine.

It illustrates the victim mentality that is prevalent these days. It is never our fault. Pepsi made Huffman do it. It is reminiscent of the famous “Twinkie Defense” used in the trial of Dan White in 1979. White’s attorney argued that junk food deranged his client to the point that he was compelled to murder San Francisco city supervisor Harvey Milk and mayor George Moscone. 

A couple of Sundays ago God made Buffalo Bills receiver Steve Johnson missed four passes. At least that is what he angrily tweeted that night. There is no shortage of other scapegoats. Our parental upbringing made us what we are. Racism, sexism, homophobia or some other cultural bias have caused our problems.

I just read the story of a man who inherited $14 million and was broke in ten years. He was angry. He said it wasn’t his fault. He blamed it on bad financial advice. Right! They made him buy all those houses and vehicles!

The classic theological formulation of this attitude is “The devil made me do it.” If it is not the external devil, it is the internal one - our “sinful nature” or “the flesh.” 

The apostle Paul writes: “For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.”

Human freedom and responsibility are tricky concepts. There are powerful forces that influence and limit our freedom, but ultimately our actions are always our responsibility. Though we may be “slaves to sin,” we are still accountable to God. Ultimately there is no defense for our sin – carbonated or otherwise.

“O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

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