Redeeming Michael Vick

"Two things you need to understand about WASP's: They love animals but they hate people."

- Gordon Gekko from the movie Wall Street

Initially I greeted the news about Michael Vick becoming a Philadelphia Eagle with a measure of cynicism. Certainly his participation in dogfighting was wrong, foolish, and, as he found out, illegal. Vick went from being the highest paid player in the NFL to being a resident in a federal prison after being convicted of conspiracy and running a dogfighting operation. That's enough for even PETA to seriously consider capital punishment.

But should his behavior, bad as it was, be the final chapter on Michael Vick? Should it disqualify him from ever again playing football professionally? Some reply with an unqualified "yes!" I agreed at one time. Now however I have had to reconsider my position. It's not that I don't think his crime should be without consequences. Indeed, Michael Vick has paid a steep price for what he did. When he steps out onto the field and is greeted by booing Philly fans he will be reminded that when he left the federal prison the consequences of his behavior did not come to a close.

The question for those of us who call ourselves Christians is whether or not we believe that someone who has offended our sensibilities so deeply can be redeemed. Do we believe that Michael Vick can be redeemed to the extent that he is allowed to return to that which he does so well? Make no mistake. Even if his talents are resurrected and he becomes once again a great football player he will for the rest of his career be known as the guy who killed dogs.

What I hope does not happen is for his first season with the Eagles to turn into the Michael Vick 'I Love Animals' Tour. I don't want him to wear 'I (heart) Puppies' t-shirts. He has done his time. His name is permanently tarnished. His redemption, if it is to occur, will not consist of words designed to assure us of how miserable he feels. The reality of his redemption will be revealed over time by the quality of his life. We ought to give him the time, and yes, our prayers toward that end.