My Heart Goes Out to O.J.

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Today was going to be the final post to our God vs. Science series. Instead, I'm taking a detour — in response to your many requests — in order to comment on O.J. Simpson's upcoming interview and book, "If I Did It, Here's How it Happened." The twisted title refers, of course, to the murder of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown and her friend, Ronald Goldman.

I am prepared to receive heavy criticism for what I'm about to say. My heart goes out to O.J., and especially to his kids, and I think there's still hope for his personal and public redemption.

For 11 years he has flaunted in the face of the victims' relatives his infamous and dubious criminal acquittal. They have known his vileness for a very long time and surely have come to grips with living without the comfort of an honest admission and the relief of just retribution. Nothing he does now will surprise them or make things worse.

For them, that is. A less-than-sincere interview can make things worse for O.J. and his children. Human beings have a marvelous capacity for psychological and spiritual redemption. The public has an admirable capacity for forgiveness. However, there is at least one condition for both — honesty. If he mocks the truth this time he will set himself up to go to the grave a shameless liar. I can't think of anything worse. Oh, wait, there is something worse. He would be leaving his children the legacy of a life lived as if it were just theater.

This is not just O.J. We see in him a reflection of a culture in decay. We first saw it in the trial itself, now considered the “trial of the century.” As perhaps the best precursor to reality TV shows, our national intrigue with the case was about more than the rise and fall of stardom or even soap opera melodrama. In O.J., and in the justice system, we saw America at its worst. He was the caricature of the Machiavellian liar who cares only about getting away with it. The justice system became a showcase for the mockery big-money lawyers can make of ordinary folk on the witness stand and in the jury box.

In a new millennium and a new venue, we are about to witness Part II of the “trial of the century.” While the media trappings will remind us of everything we disliked (and many secretly liked) about the 1995 hysterics, the good news is that this sequel is not all-together certain. In her typical unabashed form, Judith Regan will conduct a publicity stunt to sell books. I don't know what is already printed on those pages, but regardless of the content, in this interview O.J. still has a chance to set the record straight. People want him to tell the truth. We certainly don't care for pseudo-admissions of what he would have done, had he done it.

The scenario of a true confession is not out of the question. Besides O.J., the two players in this, his most important game, are his lawyer and his publisher. The lawyer's job is to protect O.J., and he has said he is certain there would be full criminal impunity for his client if he were to admit guilt in the televised interview. Judith Regan's job is to sell books. She would be smart to let O.J. speak from the heart, even if it contradicts the book's claim of fiction. All he has to say is that this book is a “hypothetical” explanation of what really happened. It would sound weird, and it would be weird, but temporary weirdness is a small price to pay to get back on the path of personal and public redemption. It certainly isn't as weird as the rest of his life will be if he continues to live as if he were on a theater stage.

Oh yeah, and for his kids he could start building a legacy worth remembering.

Call me naive, but I think there's always hope for the heart. Do you?

God bless, Father Jonathan

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