The Sins of our Past


The world has changed dramatically. Things that were once accepted will now ruin your life. I remember reading joke books that belonged to my dad. He had many “official” joke books, each making fun of a different group- Irish people, Italian people, black people, Jews, Mexicans and Poles. I read them all, some more than once. I laughed, blissfully unaware that the jokes would hurt anyone. (How could they? They were jokes.)

Thank God this was before the internet and social media. There is no doubt in my mind that if it had been possible, I would have posted some of the jokes online. The thought that this might later ruin my life would never have occurred to me. Even today, very few teens post with thoughts of the future.

Carson King definitely did not,

Carson King is a 24 year-old fan of the Iowa State Cyclones football team. After hearing that ESPN’s College Game Day show was going to be at the school for its weekly broadcast he decided to make a funny sign in the hope that he would be seen on TV. He chose his place behind the hosts well, and his sign, “Busch Light Supply Needs Replenished” with his Venmo account ID, was easily seen on the show.

To his surprise, people starting sending in money. Lots of money. When the amount reached $600 he concluded it was too much for him to keep and he decided to donate the money to the University of Iowa Children’s hospital. The money kept coming. Within days the story had gone viral, and thousands of dollars poured in. Anheiser-Busch got in on the action, offering to match every dollar donated, as well as putting Carson’s face on a line of beer cans, and giving him a year’s supply of beer. Venmo also offered to match the donations. Before long Carson had raised well over a million dollars.

Carson was soon a local hero, with many praising his kindness and generosity. He was universally hailed as a nice guy, online and on television. As his fame increased, the Des Moines register commissioned a reporter to write a story profiling Carson. As part of his “research” the reporter searched Carson’s Twitter feed, going back all the way to when he was 16 years old. Unremarkably, he found that teen Carson had made some inappropriate jokes. For some reason the paper decided these 8 year-old tweets were important enough to be included in the story about the good he had done.

The response was swift. Anheiser-Busch cut all ties. The special Carson King beer was pulled from production, and all promotions related to Carson were terminated. Carson’s humble apology was not enough to keep the beer company from running from potential controversy. They could not be “associated” with someone like him.

Fortunately, Carson’s story did not end there. A local beer company is producing an “Iowa Legend” beer, donating $1 per bottle to the hospital. Private donations have continued, totaling over $2 million dollars. Angry supporters of King delved into the reporter’s past social media posts. The reporter was fired after it was discovered that he had also posted offensive tweets when he was young.

The story is a reminder of an important truth- no one is perfect. We are all broken and sinful people; we all have done things that were ignorant and stupid. None of us wants to be defined by our past mistakes. With this in mind, we need to do everything we can to avoid defining others by their past.

It seems that many of the people in Iowa have embraced this. Carson was recently honored at a University of Iowa football game (the stadium is overlooked by the tower of the Children’s Hospital), the governor of Iowa declared a “Carson King Day”. Support for Carson has actually increased since the revelations of his past indiscretions.

I want to be that type of person, one who focuses on who a person is now more than who a person was before. I often tell people that one of the hallmarks of my faith is the truth that God is more interested in where I am and where I am going, not in where I have been. God forgave my past and redeemed my future. When I embrace this truth, I realize I cannot follow Him and focus on other people’s past failings. I must forgive.