On Bill Cosby and What We’d Hoped Him To Be

Bill Cosby

In a taped concert by gospel trio The Booth Brothers, Michael Booth said something about Bill Gaither that I’ve never forgotten. Speaking of Bill’s friendship and encouragement as the young gospel trio made their rise, Michael said, “Bill is exactly who you would hope him to be.” He was kind, gracious and generous, Michael said. Exactly as fans who do not know Bill personally but have been blessed by his music would hope him to be.

For decades, Bill Cosby appeared to be the person America hoped him to be. He was America’s favorite comedian, America’s favorite sitcom dad. He was Cliff Huxtable. He was dorky, funny and wise. Wrapped in that comfortingly hideous sweater, he made you want to run out and eat a Jello Pudding-Pop just because he was advertising it, and he was too darn lovable too resist.

Bill Cosby: Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient, pioneer of clean comedy, father-figure to a generation of black youth.

Now, everything is changing, with relentless and horrifying rapidity. Every day brings a new name, a new story, varying in the particulars but always consistent on the now inescapable fact that Bill Cosby was not the man we hoped he was. The credibly vivid, disparate testimonies of over a dozen women, plus damning new information from the man who spent years paying off his “customers,” have now come together to form a very different picture: the picture of a man who, had justice been served, ideally should have been executed for serial rape decades ago.

Most of the women were in their teens or twenties when they claim to have been assaulted by Cosby. They range from models, to waitresses, to aspiring actresses and comedy writers he took under his wing. The accusations span decades, from his Playboy days of the 60s, to the 80s and beyond, when he had undergone an image makeover and emerged as the King of Squeaky Clean. All carried the secret with them for years, not daring to tell anyone beyond their closest friends because of Cosby’s legal invincibility and capacity for vengeance. All went on to re-build their lives, some slowly and painfully. One went on to get married but still suffers from anxiety and sleeps fully dressed to this day. One sought legal recourse, but her case was settled out of court over a decade ago, and it seemed that the media and the public were going to leave it behind for good. (Now, many of the “Jane Does” who were willing to testify at that time have come forward publicly, along with new accusers.)

It was probably in reference to that supposedly forgotten case that a different comedian boldly accused Cosby of rape in his routine recently. Not that this comedian is a paragon of morality himself, but the point was made and the clip went viral. Meanwhile, somebody who has no idea how the Internet works decided it would be a great idea for Cosby to tweet an invitation for his fans to “meme” him. “Create an image of me plus any caption… right as a clip digging up my sordid past is going viral!” Somebody in his PR department is so gone right about now. Of course, it backfired disastrously, and now the whole world is learning, mostly for the first time, what kind of man Bill Cosby really is.

The details are painfully explicit, and some reveal heartbreaking circumstances in the lives of the women he abused. One young woman was fresh out of rehab when he pressed spiked alcohol on her. Another said that her brother was suffering from cystic fibrosis in a children’s hospital, and her professional connection to Cosby meant that her brother and other patients in his ward got private visits from the beloved comedian to cheer them up. She chose not to go to the police partly because she feared for herself, partly because she didn’t want her brother’s routine to change. (Personally, I find the logic to be somewhat odd—if this man has raped you, why do you want him to continue entertaining your brother and other children in a hospital?? But I can kinda sorta see how someone might twist their mind into thinking that way.)

To be sure, some of the tales are cautionary ones for any women who might be reading. Some of the witnesses admit to having consensual as well as non-consensual flings with the comedian, while others allowed themselves to be exploited by him more than once even after one horrible warning. Obviously, this does not mitigate the evil of what he did. And it seems that many instances were completely engineered by him from start to finish, including one nightmarish scenario where a woman courageously tried to pull him off her friend, only to be assaulted herself.

His reputation is crumbling, as it should. Re-runs of his show have been canceled, upcoming performances have been canceled, a new sitcom that was in the works is now no more. People are dropping him like a hot potato and walking away, as they should.

What lessons can a Christian observer of pop culture take away from this monstrous story? Our lesson is that we must wear our celebrity attachments lightly. Scandals within our own sub-culture should have demonstrated that Christian celebrities are hardly immune to sin, including sexual sin. Christians, don’t place your hope in princes and principalities. By this I do not mean that we must view every celebrity we love with suspicion when there is no reason to do so and every reason not to (as far as we can tell). We must be innocent as doves and wise as serpents. We must hope for the best and be steeled for the worst. If the man on whose back we have pinned our souls goes down in flames, this is merely a reminder that we should not pin our souls on any man’s back, not the best man we know.

Meanwhile, if you, like me, are still smarting at the thought that Cosby is by now too old, too powerful and too rich for earthly justice to be done, recall the words of our Lord: “Vengeance is mine. I will repay.”

Oh sinner man, where you gonna run to?
Sinner man, where you gonna run to?
Where you gonna run to?
All on that day

Well I run to the rock
Please hide me, I run to the rock
Please hide me, I run to the rock
Please hide me, Lord
All on that day

But the rock cried out
“I can’t hide you” the rock cried out
“I can’t hide you” the rock cried out
“I ain’t gonna hide you, now
All on that day”

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11 thoughts on “On Bill Cosby and What We’d Hoped Him To Be

  1. Sherrill Woconish

    Innocent until proven guilty . Bill Cosby has always been a tremendous roll model. The news love to bring down Christians. Even though it’s wrong , praying that’s the case here. I have always admired Bill Cosby 🙂

    1. Actually, Cosby has never professed Christianity that I’m aware of. He was raised in the church but later said that he didn’t consider himself particularly religious. You may be confusing that with the fact that he has said some conservative things, mostly focused on liberals’ race-baiting tactics. Honestly, I agree with most of what he’s said in calling out his own community. Just because the person saying something true turns out to be a bad-guy, that doesn’t negate the truth in what he said. Someone else has hypothesized that this is why the leftist-controlled media is going after him in particular versus other known-but-hushed-up rapist cases like former president Bill Clinton. Clinton is a Democrat darling, Cosby isn’t. So, in that sense, you may be right that there are other factors at work in the asymmetry of the vilification machine here.

      However, I’ve examined all the reports carefully, and speaking as someone who’s made a bit of a study of probability, eyewitness testimony and the like, I have to admit honestly that there’s just way too much circumstantial evidence there. So many little incidental details, so much variety in the stories and the players in them—if this is all one big conspiracy, it must have been years in the plotting. And even the less graphic cases reveal the type of person he is. His wife has admitted that he was a philanderer long before these accusations of assault came out. One of the women didn’t have anything worse to report than that he grabbed and kissed her roughly at a party (which you’d expect her to embellish if she were lying), but even that one incident tells us something. All this is tough to admit, but true.

      1. Sherrill Woconish

        For some reason ( and I read your posts!) , I missed your reply. Well said. I am so sad, he was such a good role model .

  2. Lydia

    Yeah, I definitely don’t agree that “innocent until proven guilty” means that we ordinary folks can’t have an intelligent and informed opinion on something unless the person has been found guilty by a court. The principle of innocent until proven guilty is a _legal_ principle, not an epistemic principle (a principle about our knowledge). There are definitely cases where one can tell with reasonable certainty that justice was not done in the sense that the person was acquitted for biased reasons by the jury and that unreasonable doubts were being elevated to the status of reasonable doubts. The OJ verdict comes to mind as one example! Our legal system requires that the accused be regarded by the jury as innocent until proven guilty for procedural reasons, so that the jury will make its verdict based only upon the evidence actually presented to them in the trial, but that doesn’t mean that outside of a court of law it isn’t possible to read witness testimony and come to one’s own conclusion. In fact, that’s very close to what a jury would be doing (hearing witness testimony) if something went to a criminal trial. That he paid off the one woman is, in addition to everything else, rather telling. He has bulldog lawyers and could certainly have turned around and counter-sued her for defamation. He could have well afforded it financially, and for an innocent man with that kind of money it would have been well worth it to clear his name. But he didn’t. Truth is a defense to defamation charges, so…

    Anyway, I agree that the media has been odious in its gloating over his downfall. Even the comedian that made the “joke” (which wasn’t much of a joke) was basically just doing mean-spirited political commentary against Cosby’s pro-responsibility message. You can look up the context. So that’s a shame. But the truth is what it is, and I’m afraid the case against him is very strong.

    1. Sherrill Woconish

      Well said both of you . Darn it , really liked Bill Cosby. But like Yankee Girl said , does not negate the wise words he spoke. Just so very sad.

      1. Yeah, I think that’s how a lot of people feel right now. BTW, I did go find some more quotes from him that leaned toward a Christian worldview. He actually said some positive things about Tim Tebow, and made some general comments to the effect that a biblical foundation seemed healthy and made sense. However, I’m not sure that qualifies as professing Christianity, and of course his actions are now speaking much louder than his words.

      2. “….does not negate the wise words he spoke.”

        This quote could apply directly to gospel music artists who have since been recognized as less-than-Christian in their daily lives….

      3. Right—or pastors. For example, imagine a pastor who spoke out against homosexuality but turned out to be using p–rn, or homosexual himself. Some people act like this somehow makes everything he said against sexual sin worthless or meaningless. It’s not meaningless, it’s still true. We just recognize the irony and the sadness in the fact that the guy who said them was being hypocritical.

  3. Bernie Madoff, Lance Armstrong and Bill Cosby. All highly respected “winners”. I need to be more careful in the people I admire. I prefer a man like Charlie Sheen over Bill Cosby. At least Sheen is honest with regards to his behavior and morals. The Lord said “Love your enemies. Pray for those persecute you,” Mt 5:44 This is a hard command to obey. Maybe the Lord can use their disgrace to bring them to Himself. We should pray for them.

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