Generous Orthodoxy  

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Ken Lay and the absence of repentance

The July 6 New York Times has a headline (Business section), "Even at the End, He Didn't Get It." The article by Joe Nocera goes on to say, "The tragedy of Ken Lay is not that his name will always be linked to the seminal business scandal of the era. Nor is it that his fall from grace was so precipitous...No, the tragedy of Ken Lay is that, right up until the end, he never fully understood what he'd done wrong..." The theme of the article is that Mr. Lay's propensity to see things as he wanted to see them, not as they really were, was his great and fatal flaw.

On NPR, a reporter mused that despite Mr. Lay's often-remarked Christian faith, there was no "come-to-Jesus moment" (that's an exact quote) after the scandal was made public, during the trial, or as he awaited his sentencing at a lavish Aspen ranch. On the contrary, after his death from a heart attack, the owner of the ranch came out to talk to reporters: "Ken Lay was a wonderful, kind-hearted, generous man."

One of Mr. Lay's Texas acquaintances, a lawyer named Bill Burton, said in an interview after the fall of Enron in 2002, "The Enron and Ken Lay stories are best told in an English literature class, or a classics class, where you are trying to explain what hubris is all about."

Yet Lay's pastor, Stephen P. Wende, of the First United Methodist Church in Houston, has been quoted over and over saying such things as "He seemed healthy, peaceful, with a good and positive perspective...He felt God could use him in prison." (NY Times 7/6/99) Isn't this a classic example of American theology today? Prosperity, positive thinking, and "God has a plan for your life," without a hint of judgment, repentance, corporate responsibility?

Wouldn't Psalm 51 have been a better accompaniment to this publicly-played-out drama?