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~Rev. Bob, We Hardly Knew Ye!

Author: Stan Moody

November 16, 2011

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Sometime in the wee hours oI Sunday morning, November 13, 2011, a

desperate man threw himselI oII the Penobscot Narrows Bridge in Bucksport, ME
and drowned in the Penobscot River. Under ordinary circumstances, such an event
would merit a headline or two in the Bangor Daily News.
This was, however, no ordinary circumstance. This was a reIlection on the
actions and reactions oI an adoring community. By
crowning this man with glory, we leIt him with no
escape Irom what is alleged as a secret liIe buried
beneath the patina oI public service.
This man oI the cloth, who three-days
previously had been Ieted by the Katahdin Area Boy
Scouts Council with the Distinguished Citizen Award
and honored by three oI Maine`s Iour congressional
delegates, had reached the pinnacle oI human
achievement and therein Iound himselI undone.
BrIdgeL Brown ] BDN
89ngu8ed C9en Award:
There were Iive-hundred people in attendance at Rev. Bob Carlson`s Ieting
at the Bangor Civic Center. I was privileged to be a guest. Having been a chaplain
at Maine State Prison, I was intrigued by this pastor/chaplain/humanitarian so
beloved by many and, as with all oI us in the public eye, not-so-beloved by others,
I am told. The dinner was a Iundraiser, to the tune oI $100,000, Ior the Penobscot
County Health Care Center that he helped Iound and Ior which he tirelessly
Something was missing. When he rose to accept the award, this stranger to
me but apparently to Iew others in the Maine criminal justice world demonstrated
his skill as a giIted speaker and leader, every bit seemingly a worthy recipient oI
honor. Yet, there was an unsettling tone to his speech.
His demeanor suggested that the climb up Mt Olympus had more to do with
the journey than the arrival. Missing was the elation oI the runner crossing the
Iinish line. LeIt unanswered was the question hanging in the air, 'Where does this
guy go Irom here?
Compen8a9ng for H8 Human9y:
In hindsight, we are painIully reminded by the allegations that Rev. Bob was
human, a Ilawed state in which he spent a liIetime trying to compensate and that
his admirers seemed to resist. In hindsight, we recall that, guilty or innocent, he Iit
the classic proIile oI a sex oIIender prominence in church, police and youth
His death having arrived in the very week oI the Penn State Iootball scandal,
history might well be reminding us oI the perils oI believing in the inherent
goodness oI mankind, whether oI Rev. Bob or Joe Paterno. The old Yankee ethic
oI 'what you see is not always what you get seems to have been lost in our
scramble Ior heroes.
We are too eager to crown with glory that person or institution that Iits our
sense oI order, Iorgetting that the marvel oI human existence is its symmetry in the
Iace oI extreme dissonance.
The church, bestowal oI sacred trust on those oI us engaged as pastors and
chaplains, reels under the crumbling oI its gods. It is Iast losing its relevancy as a
saIe haven Ior those exiled Irom community liIe victims oI poverty, ignorance,
crime, racism, sexism and, yes, sex abuse.
Te Road Aead:
So where do we go Irom here?
We might begin by rejecting the notion that we can add the good things done
by Rev. Bob, subtract the alleged bad things and come to some kind oI redeeming
mathematical diIIerence. The God that Rev. Bob proIessed to serve is reported to
be beyond linear mathematics. Weighed on a scale oI divinity, we all come
woeIully short. Mathematics becomes our accuser; not our salvation.
From there, we might move on to recognize the humanity in our own lives,
discovering that the evil that may have been buried beneath Rev. Bob`s image was
not that Iar removed Irom the evil buried in our own histories. Sixteenth Century
British reIormer and martyr, John BradIord, once said so simply, 'There but Ior the
grace oI God go I.
Finally, we might restore to Rev. Bob his humanity, reaching out to his
Iamily and his alleged victims and their Iamilies, continuing with renewed spirit
the work into which he considered himselI called.
It is citizens like Rev. Bob who instill pride and progress within a
community. Yet, it is our responsibility to exercise discernment, allow room Ior
Iailure, learn Irom our mistakes and press Iorward.