Have you heard about Carson King?
What a roller coaster ride he’s been on in the last few weeks. The casino worker attended the biggest event of the year in Iowa, the Cy-Hawk game, in which the good guys from Iowa City prevailed over the evil pretenders from Ames (Iowa beat Iowa State on a weird muffed punt play, 18-17). Carson got tickets to the game and carried with him a hand-painted sign begging for donations that would warm the cockles of the hearts of many of you Reformed guys. He said he needed beer money.
Somehow, his sign got on ESPN’s “College Gameday” show and what happened next got Carson his 15 minutes of fame. Donations began pouring in and when it reached $600 he decided to donate the money to the University of Iowa’s Stead Children’s Hospital instead of drink it. This news went viral and before long the fund was over a million dollars.
NOTE: If you haven’t watched an Iowa game, the children’s hospital is right next to Kinnick Stadium and at the end of the first quarter, everyone waves to the kids at the hospital. Kinda nice.
For a few hours, Carson King was the toast of the state. Even Hawkeye fans were loving this Cyclone! Beer is very popular. The song sung at the end of every Iowa victory is the Beer Barrel Polka. “In heaven, there ain’t no beer. That’s why we drink it here.” This young man’s bit of comedy went viral and suddenly he was a media darling, a star, a philanthropist.
It all went south when Aaron Calvin of the Des Moines Register wrote an article about Carson King and his donation. For reasons that baffle a lot of people, in the midst of this feel-good Mr. Calvin decide to do a deep dive into King’ Twitter feed and found two racist tweets from when he was 16 years old. The content of the tweets is pretty horrible but I will not repeat them here.
Carson King handled this well, as well. He apologized profusely for the tweets, deleted them, even thanked the Register for pointing them out to him. The now 24-year-old King said he is now embarrassed at what he thought was funny 8 years ago when he was 16. I have no reason to believe he is “one of us” but his apology is a model for how to express remorse in a moment like this. No deflection or justification. No passing the buck. He stepped up.
The ire has been directed at the Des Moines Register and their decision to expose two racist tweets by this young man in the middle of feel-good human interest story. The odd twist is that some folks did a similar deep dive on Aaron Calvin’s social media feeds and found a vast volume of totally depraved racist material. He was going through his Twitter feed scrubbing it while people were also going through it getting screenshots of his awful tweets.
The end result of all of this is that Anheuser Busch has cut ties with Carson King. As I understand it, they’d gotten in the spirit of generosity and offered to match donations. Calvin is facing the irresistible force of anger for his hypocrisy. It seems justified to a degree, though of course, the Twittiots have gone nuts in threatening him. His chances of atoning for this mistake and retaining his job are limited. He has been unconditionally designated as a hypocrite across the state.
The question everyone is asking is this: why did Aaron Calvin feel the need to expose tweets from long ago in a story about a man with a sign donating his viral beer money to a children’s hospital? Does the media feel that destroying someone is part of their job?
1. I am thankful that I grew up before the social media age. I was nearing 50 years old when I began to comment on blogs and I still regret many of the things I have over the years.
I can say truthfully that my children never heard me use the “n-word” except to explain the word to them and tell them why they should not use it, but if everything I was saying was recorded for posterity in my teens, I am not sure how I would fare today. If I’d had Twitter when I was 16, I shudder to think what might have appeared in my feed.
What I thought funny then might not look too good today, and I wasn’t gifted with great self-control or the sense to shut up and not talk.
2. It seems clear that the press views it as part of their job to tear down anyone our culture builds up. The Register offered a self-justification for including the tweets in their story and that drew more ire than the original article. While Carson King was genuine in his remorse, the Register tap-danced and justified and tried to put lipstick on the pig they’d created.
3. The inclusion of the tweets in the Register story is baffling. It would only have been relevant if the story was about race, if King’s character was somehow an issue, if he was standing for office, or if some other such criteria existed. He was just a young guy who painted a sign and raised some money. Instead of keeping the money for himself, which he could have done, he donated it to a children’s hospital. How do his tweets at age 16 affect that story?
4. The tweets by Aaron Calvin seem far more relevant. His hypocrisy is stunning. He chose to expose Clayton King while his own house was certainly not in order.
5. Where does grace come into all of this? What if we found that one of the current advocates for racial reconciliation said something racist 15 or 20 years ago? Or even 5 years ago? Can people not change and grow? I have never considered myself racist, but over the past decade, my views on some things have certainly shifted. If I’d accurately expressed my views on race 20 years ago, I would disagree with some of them today. (Go ahead, call me woke!)
I am not saying that we should just put the past in the past, but as Christians, we cannot discount the power of God’s transformative grace.
Did you hear that a certain so-called discernment blog has uncovered some old tweets by the Apostle Paul that prove that he should not be trusted? He was, evidently, strongly anti-Christian at one time, undercutting his right to lead the church. They’ve published those tweets and called Paul unredeemed, suggesting that all of Paul’s writings be rejected.
Absurd? Of course. But considering that the core of Christianity is that we are sinners saved by Christ’s undeserved work and transformed by the Spirit’s power, our attitude toward past sins is often absurd.
6. For the love of all that is holy, people, realize that while God forgives, social media doesn’t! Think before you tweet. Pray. Realize that even if you delete it, it isn’t completely gone. I love social media but it is a dangerous game we play every time we hit the send button.
I think Carson is going to be okay. Not sure about the reporter, Aaron Calvin, whether he can persevere to the end in his job.
Of course, the thing to be remembered in all this is that Iowa beat Iowa State. Go Hawkeyes.