All eyes will be on Tiger Woods at The Masters this weekend. Huge galleries will root for him. A few folks won’t, however. Ever wonder why?
Most of us know Woods’ story. He was 20 years old when he turned professional at the end of the summer in 1996. Woods had already won two PGA Tour events when he arrived at The Masters in April 1997. He shot a 40 (+4) on the first nine but a 30 (-6) on the back nine. Then he pulled away from the field, winning the event by 12 strokes.
For 14 years, Woods was ascendant: 79 wins on the PGA tour, 14 major championships. Then he crashed and burned. In their new book Tiger Woods, Jeff Benedict and Armen Keteyian write that Woods’ “unapologetically self-centered attitude” was critical to his golf success but destructive in his personal life. He was rude, boorish, and unable to sustain long relationships. Woods traded his humanity for money, fame, and power.
Today Woods seems to be more human, happier. The change appears to be genuine, which is why it’s dismaying when I hear folks say they hope Woods doesn’t win. Many are Christians. They don’t like that Woods cheated on his wife. He’s an adulterer. They don’t root for adulterers.
This is either/or, dualistic thinking. For Christians, it’s an example of having not made it out of the “first half of life,” writes Walter Brueggemann, an esteemed Old Testament scholar. He sees life featuring two halves. They follow the trajectory of the Hebrew Scriptures: the Torah, the Prophets, and the Wisdom literature.
The Torah corresponds to the good and necessary “first half of life.” This is when the people of Israel discover their identity through being chosen. They learn the law, tradition, rituals and structure. The aim is clarity and certitude. It’s how children learn. You’re special, you’re made to feel “safe,” the faith provides protective boundaries.
The Prophets introduce you to the second half of life. It’s disruptive, with suffering, “stumbling stones,” and failures. Prophets deepen our capacity for healthy self-criticism. Without them, people of faith never move beyond infancy and “safe” religion. We never get past either/or thinking and realize all things are both good and bad, including us.
Richard Rohr thinks most Christians are stuck in infancy. He attributes it to the fact that “prophets have never been much sought after by most Christian groups.” So Christians don’t know God’s growth pattern: order-disorder-reorder. They think maturity is simple steps—come to Christ, grow in your faith, go to heaven. No disruptions.
“There is no nonstop flight from order to reorder,” Rohr writes. “We have to go through a period of disruption and disordering” to get to the second half of life. For people of faith, prophets light the path.
Once you arrive in the second half, you hold together contradictions in yourself and others. And you do so with compassion, forgiveness, and patience. You realize that, while Woods is an adulterer, so is every Christian. Jesus said if you lust after someone you’re not married to, you’re an adulterer. James defines adultery as indulging your pleasures (James 4:3-4). I’m an adulterer. We all are, which is why Jesus invited anyone who wasn’t to throw the first stone at the adulterous woman. No one did.
You’re stuck in the first half of life if you believe you’ve never committed adultery, or been as “bad” as, say, Tiger Woods. The disciples were stuck for a while. They struggled when Jesus praised two people as having the greatest faith—the Samaritan woman and Roman centurion, both non-Jews and “bad” people. The disciples had not yet learned that the qualities we hate in others are actually within us. We’re not so moral after all.
It’s the height of hypocrisy to root against Woods while ignoring our adulteries. Tiger was arrogant, no doubt about it. But you have imagined doing “bad” things; and if you could get away with it, you’d probably do it. If you say Not me! you’re in the first half of life. You’d never had a layover in an airport called failure, or humiliation. On the other hand, if you see Woods and think, there but for the grace of God go I, you’re in the second half. You’ll root for the most deserving Masters winner, even if it’s Tiger Woods.
 Walter Brueggemann and Tod Linafelt, An Introduction to the Old Testament: The Canon and Christian Imagination, 2nd ed. (Westminster John Knox Press: 2012)