Thursday, September 27, 2007

Jesus Christ Should Be Controversial

See also:
Jordi on Dan Snyder Should Be Controversial
The Pacifist Viking on NFL Coaches being Controversial
Leave the Man Alone on Who is Controversial

This week's situation with Jon Kitna claiming to be healed of a concussion nearly ruined my pick, but I'm sticking with Jesus as the controversial NFL figure no one's talking about. Christianity (or any faith, really) isn't controversial to many NFL fans or media members most of the time, and I wonder...why not?! Shouldn't it bother you that your favorite player cares more about the Good Book than his playbook?

See, here in America, we have made a deal with religion. You can believe whatever you want, and do whatever you want in your mosque, synagogue, temple, or church. That freedom comes at a price, however. You must not say that your religion is better than anyone else's. And you must not say that your religion is powerful in the real world. You can't upset the American status quo. Those are the rules in a free America, and most people are more than willing to play by them in return for complete freedom of religion.

Kitna broke a rule last week. By saying Jesus healed him of a concussion, he's admitting that he believes his faith has power in the real world, at his job. That statement provoked strong reaction. LZ Granderson had an interesting argument here. But I think in some ways LZ was being nice. Does what happened to Kitna, if it really happened, mean that if you're in competition with a job with a Christian, she could pray to God and get the position over you? Yes, it does. No wonder so many columnists reacted negatively. Who wants to compete against someone with God on their side if it really does make a difference?

But what if all NFL personalities, not just Kitna, decided to be truly radical in their Christian outlook? Let's take a look, based on what I know of the Bible. Now mind you, I'm not saying all of these actions would be accepted by all Christians. For example, many Christians would argue drinking is ok, just don't get drunk. I'm just saying, you could get to these decisions by reading the Bible.

Christian Players
What if an NFL player quit the league because he didn't want to play on the Christian worship day of Sunday?
What if a defensive player decided to quit because he didn't want to be responsible for causing lifelong injury to his fellow man, shortening their life and clouding their thoughts?
What if a player asked his coach to stop swearing around him because he didn't want to hear God's name taken in vain?
What if a player refuses to do commercials for a company because he thinks their product harms people's bodies or causes people to sin?
What if he dedicated himself to using his fame for preaching the gospel, and wouldn't give interviews unless he could preach during the interview?

Christian Owners
What if an owner turned down public money for his stadium and insisted it go to programs to help the poor, widowed, sick, and mentally/physically challenged?
What if he told fans to stay home sometimes from the games to make sure to spend time with their families?
What if he cut off the sale of beer at his stadium because too many fans get drunk and misbehave?
What if he got rid of his cheerleaders because he felt that they made women feel ugly and men feel horny and want to cheat on their wives?
What if she gave the team's RB a better contract than he deserved, just to make up for the years when his contract underpaid him?
What if he fired a successful coach because he was treating players badly or was cheating?

Christian Broadcasters and Media
What if a media member refused to go public with a spicy story about the QB's infidelity, but instead went to him and begged him to get pastoral/counseling help with his marriage?
What if the media would remind fans not to judge until the true facts were known, and to have more patience with their teams?
What if talk radio guys worked on discussing the truth about a team, instead of exaggerating points and mocking fans to make themselves look more manly?

Christian Fans
What if fans put their family and work before the NFL?
What if they did their best to behave appropriately, because they want to love their neighbor and not hinder their enjoyment of the game?
What if fans stopped questioning a referee's decisions because he is the authority over the game, and deserves respect?

Christian Coaches
What if a coach cared about his players not only for what they could do on the field, but for what they could do off?
What if the coach refused to cut marginal players because of injury, knowing they need the money even more when they can't work?
What if the coach admitted his faults freely when he messed up a game, instead of letting his players take the heat?

Now tell me Jesus Christ isn't the most underrated controversial figure in the NFL! (with apologies to Jordi, PV, and Leave the Man Alone's entries, of course, ha). True faith in anything is not passive. It is active, and it causes changes not only in you, but in the world around you. And that SHOULD create controversy.


  1. First, let me state that I am completely familiar with the notion of "bearing witness" as a tenet of the Christian faith. And, in general, I'm OK with it, as long as the witnessing is respectful of my right not to listen if I so choose.

    However, claiming that God put you back in the game after injury seems patently absurd to me, and even more so that God allowed you to win by his supreme grace. I do not believe, for one second, that God cares about sporting outcomes.

    Want to say "My faith inspired me to try harder" or "It's OK that we lost, because I have a deeper calling"? That I can hang with. But not "Jesus wanted me to beat Notre Dame".

  2. What Kitna suffered was a medical injury, and he was healed from that. Lots of people say that they were healed from some medical injury due to prayer, and there have been some science surveys with mixed results on this. What bothers you, and many others, is this idea that Kitna might have healed specifically so he could lead the Lions to victory.

    I would say that I do believe sometimes Jesus does allow teams to lose and win for his own reasons. But they have nearly nothing to do with a win-loss record. I hate to bring myself in here, but that's the only person whose inner life I know.

    For example, when I was a teenager, I was on an academic competition team. We thought we had a chance to win the championship, but then we flamed out in spectacular fashion, losing the last two games to the last-place and next-to-last place teams. We had worked all year for this competition. It hurt a lot at my age...but it taught me desperately needed lessons about how that success isn't just measured by outcomes and trophies, but by the work you put into something, and by conducting yourself honorably. So I look back, and wonder; did Jesus somehow let that happen, or cause it to happen, so I could learn those lessons? It's not that he cared whether we won or lost, per se. But I do believe that he cared about me getting my attitude in check and to stop being so focused on outer outcomes and approval. So he used the game itself as a tool to bring me to those lessons. You see what I'm saying?

    Then, to push things one more step...suppose there is some sort of god, or gods that exist. Further assume that such gods do care about what happens on this planet. Then yes, I would fully expect they would be biased toward those people on this planet who worship and serve them, and biased against those people on this planet who do not. Now the question is, if this is so, why do good things EVER happen to bad people, and vice versa? Ah, that is not going to be summed up in one blog comment.

  3. But, generally speaking, each NFL team has several practicing Christians on it. So the whole notion of favoring one team over another based on piety seems silly. And let's not even get into how many players of whatever other religion might be excluded.

  4. True; when you have Christians on both sides (such as WWI), Christians get befuddled on whether God would favor anyone. My own opinion is that God may favor one group of Christians over another, but the actual reasons for doing so become very complex. Staying within the sport, it may be that the Christians on the losing team are able to use that to witness to their teammates as to how men should deal with disappointments, and the Christians on the winning team are able to witness to the community because they become sought-after dinner speakers. Or, it may be better seen in a long-term view. For example, I was reading an article about Ricky Byrdsong in Slam; he flamed out as a coach in the Big 10, but when he was fired, he became a force for good in his community. So in that case, the losing directly led to good in his community. (Then, he was shot and killed, sadly...but as a result, there now is a Race against hate in his honor, and other things have also happened).

    Sheesh, my logic is long-winded. Basically, my point is not that God will always intervene for his people, nor that he will always cause his people to benefit in the way they would prefer (i.e. winning the game). There's a sensible counter-argument that could say that God would want Christians to lose more often, since they may be better equipped to handle earthly frustration than their non-believing counterparts! But I definitely think that we can't just blindly assume that God never intervenes in sports, one way or another. To me, either God is interested in everything, or nothing. I'd be rather disappointed in a God who just flits around next to cathedrals/mosques/temples (depending on your faith) on holy days and never goes anywhere else.