Moreover, by his explanation, the whole thing makes a lot of sense, when you realize he’s from a particular ethnic group, Pacific islanders, or Polynesians, and he's probably accustomed to a very different culture at home than the sea of mainstream Americans around him at Notre Dame. Additionally, he was Mormon, so he wanted to socialize with a girl that shared his beliefs. I don't have to tell you, but there are probably not very many Mormons at a Catholic university such as Notre Dame. So, as you can imagine, he might have felt lonely or misunderstood and wanted to have an emotional connection with someone that understood his experience, someone who really "got him,” who could relate to his background. Having served with a Hawaiian unit while in Iraq, I can tell you that they sometimes have a very different way of approaching life -- not bad, just different from my own experience. I can remember a particularly ironic experience that illustrated the differences in cultures as I was out walking around our base in Iraq one night.
The base was an old Iraqi air force training base, so there were various buildings to accommodate a large group of people, including a stadium that could seat maybe a couple of thousand. As I walked around one end of the stadium, I suddenly noticed the dark shapes of a small cluster of people, congregated in one area of the stadium, sitting on the bench seats. Then I caught the first sounds of what I thought was music. As I got closer and confirmed that it was, indeed, music, I realized that they were all singing along with a ukelele player who was seated at the center of the group. I knew that the Hawaiian unit had recently arrived at the base replacing another unit, and I guessed by the style of the music that the group was from that unit. Of course, there was nothing wrong with what they were doing. Soldiers come up with all sorts of ingenious or unusual ways to pass the time while they are deployed. It was just very surprising to be walking in the middle of a base in a war zone with "full battle rattle" gear on and a loaded weapon on my side, in a country thousands of miles away from American culture, then to happen upon a group of people in a sing-along just like they were sitting on a beach.
Again, there was nothing wrong with what they were doing. So long as it makes them happy and helps them bear their combat tour a little better, I'm all for it. It was just so ironic and unexpected. In any case, it made me more aware of how our various cultures affect us, giving us different ways of approaching life and different ways of thinking. That said, I’m just so amazed at the arrogance of American people who rush to judgment against this young man, and apply their legalistic, arbitrary standards against another human being, “casting the first stone” without a second thought as if their lives are so perfect and without flaw that they now are free to try fixing everyone else’s lives. Of course, you know the answer to that one without even looking. These stone throwers are no better than anyone else. In fact, they might be attacking this young man in an attempt to divert anyone from noticing their flaws. Fox news contributor and psychiatrist Keith Ablow even sharply critiqued this poor young man on a recent Fox program. Normally Dr. Ablow seems to make a lot of sense in his analysis of human behavior, but he was way off the mark, overly harsh, in his criticism of Manti Te’o. I’m somewhat surprised that so many people are treating this like it is so unusual. Many people these days have on-line relationships of various levels with people whom they have never met in person.
Moreover, having a relationship with someone you’ve never met in person is not a new phenomenon. At one time, many people would have pen pals in other countries around the world, never having met these people, and developing emotional attachments to them as they shared deeply from their hearts over the course of years communicating with these people far away. So, I’m not so sure that this situation is all that abnormal. In any case, it’s a free country, as they say. Americans love their freedom, and it is your God-given right to be a crank or to “march to the beat of a different drummer” in the famous words of Henry David Thoreau from his book Walden. If you’ve read the book, you know that it is a report of his experiences living in solitude at Walden Pond over the course of a year during the 19th century, a lifestyle that some would have considered unusual. There are so many lines from this book that are famous. He even cites a case of civil disobedience in which he goes to jail because he objected to a tax and refused to pay it, subsequently causing his incarceration for his refusal. There's nothing more American than civil disobedience. So many of our black brothers and sisters used this form of free speech to fight for their rights during the Civil Rights Movement of the 50's and 60's.
So, Thoreau most certainly marched “to the beat of a different drummer.” But that is part of what America is about. We are fierce individualists and believe deeply in our right to “pursue happiness” in whatever unusual or quirky method we so choose, so long as it doesn’t bother anyone else. If you watch many reality tv shows, you see a veritable smorgasbord of individualists choosing some very unusual ways to live. But who's to say that they are wrong. That is your right as an American to choose your lifestyle. Of course, I would add that it should also be done in a way that is still pleasing to our God, but even He gives us much latitude to choose our life, so long as we live in the ways of love, serving all those who come into our path with humility. 1 Peter 2:16-17 tells us: "Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves. Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor."
I pray that you will enjoy the many freedoms of our wonderful country this day, but that you will do so in the center of His Will and His Pleasure, serving your fellow men and women, and serving and enjoying Him every day.