So apparently the Jussie Smollet story was all a hoax. Really? It all seemed so credible. (Insert eye roll here.) He claimed he was attacked by two black Trump supporters in Chicago. Considering that fewer than two percent of African Americans in the city voted for Trump, the odds of Smollett running into two bleach-toting MAGA hats wandering the streets, on one of the coldest nights of the year no less, were pretty low. He may as well have claimed he was attacked by a yeti wearing an Oprah mask.
Jokes aside, it gives me no pleasure to be proven right in my scepticism; the entire situation makes me sad. Sad that a certain segment of the media seemed unseemly eager to report on the attack, pleased that it fit into their narrative of a deeply racist country. (Will anyone note the irony of Smollett using two Nigerian-born bothers to stage the attack? After all, why a black man want to come to America if discrimination and bigotry are rampant?) I’m sad that we have learned nothing from other times we rushed to judge and were proven wrong. (Rolling Stone UVa story, anyone?)
But I’m even sadder for Jussie Smollett.
I’m sad that someone could be so narcissistic in his bid for a racially-charged victimhood badge that he did’t care about the lives he could have cost. I remember the deadly 1992 Los Angeles race riots—Jussie Smollett is lucky his self-serving antics didn’t touch off a similar situation. He took several detectives away from working on real crimes, crimes that too often impacted people of color in Chicago.
I’m sad because I’m pretty certain Jussie Smollett doesn’t have God in his life. According to police, his motive was to increase his public profile in order to earn more money, lured by our culture’s siren song of fame and wealth and victimhood. Having faith doesn’t mean a life without pain or a character without flaw; we all have troubles and we all fail. But where God is absent, the false gods of a secular world engender narcissism, discontent, and a disordered sense of entitlement.
Having faith gives you the freedom to know that your self worth comes from your status as a child of God, not from what you have. An embrace of Judeo-Christian values means you fight against your worst nature, and reject the moral relativism a pursuit for worldly things can engender. To make a better society, we need to make better people and I believe faith is vital to that. The Jussie Smollett story would have been vastly different if he turned to God to help him keep his wealth and fame in perspective.
In his news conference this morning, Chicago Police Chief Eddie Johnson’s righteous anger over the Smollett incident echoed my own. His entire statement was refreshingly blunt and authentic, but it’s how he ended that resonated with me. “I’ll continue to pray for this troubled young man.” While I wouldn’t describe Smollett as troubled, I do agree that he needs our prayers. And so does the city of Chicago and our entire nation.
May God heal what divides us, and may we turn toward Him and toward each other, for the good of our whole nation.