repentance isn’t funny

I watched David Letterman a lot in the early 90’s when I was working third shift to put myself through seminary. I have only caught snippets of his show since then, and usually I was disappointed in what I saw. It seemed like Dave had stopped trying, and was content to make fun of how unfunny he had become. But what I saw last night was much worse.

It is obvious that Dave used his position of power to receive sexual favors from some of his female employees. Obviously they are not pure either, but Dave is more culpable because he held by far the most power in their relationship. If I was the father of one of those girls, I would drive to New York and punch Dave in the face (and then I would stand ready to forgive him, because I’m a Christian).

A couple of times last night Dave acknowledged the pain he had caused his wife and his staff and even implied that he had wronged them. But most of the time he cracked jokes about his sexual indiscretions. I realize that Dave is a comedian, but someone who is genuinely sorry for what they have done does not joke about it. Dave abused younger and vulnerable women, and he doesn’t get a free pass because they may have been willing accomplices who offered sex to get ahead.

Dave preyed on people, and there is nothing funny about that. The sooner he realizes that, the sooner he can genuinely repent and perhaps receive forgiveness. I’m tired of hearing about men who use their power to abuse women (I’m looking at you, Roman Polanski), and I’m more weary of how they and their friends attempt to shrug it off (thanks for weighing in, Woody Allen).






18 responses to “repentance isn’t funny”

  1. Amen! After posting my note I read yours. Repentance is the only pathway to forgiveness. A mere apology falls far short of the goal of reconciliation and humor, by no means, is a means to anything good when sin is involved. As Erwin Lutzer once said “we should never be entertained by that which is evil.”

  2. Justin

    Two things strike me about this. First, I am not convinced he is sorry for what happened. It seems to me that Dave, like everyone else caught in the spotlight, is far more grieved that he got caught than that he did it. Second, the only thing more sad than his apology is that, on the whole, most people aren’t going to care. Dave Letterman is an entertainer, and that is what people care about. No one is mourning for his wife or young child, because in the end, no one cares. They just want to be amused.

    Repentance isn’t funny. But as long as enough people think Dave is, it doesn’t matter.

    And in two or three weeks, another “scandal” will come along, and we will forget all about it.

    Though I am sure Michael Jackson is grateful for the break.

  3. Jonathan Shelley


    You seem to be operating under the assumption that there are right and wrong behaviors and that what happens in private between consenting adults is somehow our concern. If we learned nothing else from the Clintons, we should remember that all men cheat, sexual harassment is only committed by Republicans, and one can still be a role model for young people even if s/he is morally bankrupt. Let’s also not forget that Dave saw a sharp spike in viewership when he admitted to the … (is “affair” the right word here, or is there something else that captures the ickiness of this whole scenario better?)

    Regardless, your response clearly shows more about your own prudishness and inconsistancy. Doesn’t the Bible say “judge not lest ye be judged,” and “turn the other cheek,” and “to err is human, to forgive divine” (that one’s for you, Zach) and a bunch of other stuff that can be taken out of context to protect sinful people from being confronted with their sinfulness?


    By the way, are we still doing the whole [Pete Rollins bracket thing] to denote sarcasm?

  4. Jonathan Shelley:
    First, I am a man married for 28 years and have never cheated on my wife. So all men do not cheat. Second, the passage about judging that you refer to in Matthew 7:1-5 does not teach that all judging is wrong (see my post) in which I say “Jesus was not intending to lay down a blanket precept never to judge under any circumstances. If he did, then by calling someone a “hypocrite” (Matthew 7:5) would make him guilty of the very thing he was cautioning against! …Only when you’ve dealt with your own sins can you ‘see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.’”

  5. Adam F.

    It’s true that Letterman seems far less repentent than disappointed that he got outed by a blackmailer. Regarding how his wife was “horribly hurt,” he gives an understatement: “I’ve got my work cut out for me.”

    Did you notice his tactic of trying to switch peoples’ attention during his apology? I’ll quote verbatim [my own transcript]:

    “But through all of this, you have you ask yourself what really happened, and what happened was you can’t be victimized by criminals. So you have to push back, and through all of the heartache and the attention and the embarrasment, I still feel like I did the right thing.”

    All of that stuff above is pretty hinky. (Is “hinky” the word of 2009?) So just a little pushback to you, Dr. Wittmer: how do you know that Letterman used power as leverage in these relationships? How are these women who used sex exploitatively more vulnerable than men?

    PS – The weird thing is that I already mostly agree with your judgments, but I can’t connect all the dots between our facts, conjectures and judgments. Anybody got a pencil?

  6. Adam: I’m glad you asked that question. Maybe another perspective will help:

  7. Adam F.

    Pam, really excellent post. Even though you linked to it, I will to:

  8. Thanks, Adam. I appreciate your feedback, and I’m glad you didn’t take offense that I singled you out.

  9. Ray

    Jonathan, for Paul’s benefit you better use the bracket system.

  10. Oops…apologies to any/everyone if I missed some protocol here re: bracketing certain tones.

  11. mike


    I can’t access Pam’s link from home (or I’m not patient enough to wait for dial up), but I would say that as the boss Dave automatically had more power than the women he slept with. I’m also guessing, as even he would gladly tell you, they weren’t sleeping with him because he is so irresistibly hot.

  12. Adam F.

    Re: Mike

    In my experience, fame is an aphrodisiac. Otherwise I wouldn’t have a man-crush on Bob Dylan.

    Or on Seth Rogen. (Funny=sexy?)

  13. Jonathan Shelley


    Yes, there is a running gag on the use of [brackets] to denote things we say that we may not necessarily mean. See Mike’s post “Bracketology” for the background. But I greatly appreciate that you did take offense to my misuse of Scripture and my assertions about male faithfulness. If more people were willing to speak up against such behavior, this world would be a much better place. Sorry you got punked, but at least you got punked standing up for biblical truth.

  14. Jonathan,
    Thanks for the clarification. I do recall seeing something about “bracketology” a while ago but did not read that post. Silly me!


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  16. Paul

    Letterman is fine; he never was the “Family Values” type. Yes, he probably cheated on his girlfriend now wife. But at least he does go around claiming he is Mr. “Family Values” like some of our politicians (can you just see the grin on all “Fake News” reporters/ commentators and the Palin fringe). This has been a tough summer, for Dave, for our economy but at least he did not end up on the “Republican 2009 Summer of Love” list: Assemblyman, Michael D. Duvall (CA), Senator John Ensign (NV), Senator Paul Stanley (TN), Governor Mark Sanford (SC), Board of Ed Chair, and Kristin Maguire AKA Bridget Keeney (SC).

  17. […] Repentance isn’t funny […]

  18. […] your blog do this? Three years ago a student of mine, Adam Forrest, was commenting on a post I made about David Letterman’s affair with his staffer. His comments caught the attention of Rachel Watson, who emailed him to discuss […]

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