Descanso, Baltimore Style. Photo by Matt Roth/NYT Courtesy/Khal Spencer
That old question, What Would Jesus Do (WWJD?), is a little tired, but pretty much on point for anyone who has ever studied or practiced Christianity.
Having been confirmed in (into?) Catholicism by a bunch of crazy Jesuits back at the University of Hawaii’s Newman Center, after spending time at the “thinking intensive” masses under Fr. Vin Rush at SUNY Stony Brook, that includes me. Thinking is quite good if done before actions, but only good as damage control if done after that “oh, s**t” moment. To some, contemplation precedes repentance and change.
So here we have, according to the New York Times and the Baltimore Sun, a high ranking lady in the Maryland Episcopal Church who was guilty of DWI in 2010 (0.27 BAC), later promoted to Suffragan Bishop of Maryland (second highest job in the pecking order), and who still can’t separate the car keys from the bottle.
Meanwhile, cyclist Tom Palermo was out for a post Christmas ride. I think you can guess the rest. Texting and breathing a 0.22 BAC (after finally returning to the scene), Bishop Cook veered into the bike lane, plowed into Mr. Palermo, and fled the scene while he lay dying, which he subsequently did. Bishop Cook is now in the slammer at $2.5 million bond on charges including negligent manslaughter, leaving the scene, and DWI.
Unfortunately, the Bishop had a problem: when it came to driving drunk, she could not follow her own advice, as described in the Times piece from her own sermon, available on Youtube, and linked in the Times excerpt below (you can start at about the 6:50 mark):
In a sermon last year, Bishop Cook spoke about traffic safety and the consequences of unsafe driving. “My perception is that we live in the midst of a culture that doesn’t like to hold us accountable for consequences,” she said, “that somehow everybody gets a free pass all the time. Well, we do in terms of God’s love and forgiveness, but we don’t in many of the things that happen, and it’s up to us to be responsible.”
That’s the problem with our driving culture. We think we can screw it up and let God sort it out. Often enough, we only have that WWJD moment after we are facing the tragic consequences of our lax driving attitudes and find ourselves praying for forgiveness from a judge and jury, if not from our choice of deity or patron saint. Lesson learned? Heck, this is not the first such story. I hope, as a matter of penance, the local Episcopal Church takes a time out from its usual sermons to preach this story. Perhaps start with Matthew 25:40. Because it is not just sixteen time losers who kill or endanger. Its the guy or gal in the mirror who lets his/her guard down, is in denial, or who thinks bad things happen only to those other people. And of course, its not just Episcopalians.
When a vulnerable Tom Palermo is riding his bike or crossing the street in front of you, How Would Jesus Drive? For that matter, how should you or I drive?