Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Church, the NFL and the Ultimate Battle for Good and Evil.

“I hate sports” - Disciple Howry, the Edge Church Sunday Sept. 19th

While I cannot agree more, it was a brave statement for a man who resides in Oklahoma. It isn't so much that I hate sports, which as anyone who has studied anything about relationship knows, would actually show that I am passionate about them, and therefore some part of me must love them. I, am completely apathetic to sports. Don't care who wins, don't care who loses and never have. I realize this is a sacrilege to many of you. Let me explain.

As a young man I played sports. I played baseball, basketball and soccer in team athletics and was okay, not the best by far, but not a complete loser either, but it just didn't appeal to me. The contemplative type of thinking that I thrive at is completely unwelcome in any team sport. I would be the guy who had to admit that the other team flat outplayed us, or that I had indeed committed the foul. If I was gonna play, I would give my best, but to me it was a game and nothing more.

You see, I have always looked at it like this: team sports are an archaic hold over from our days of tribal warfare. In this sociological ritual, we assign ourselves allegiance to a group of people that we may, or may not, be loosely geographically connected to. They in turn go out and do battle with a neighboring tribe. Now, in the old days, this would all end with the spoils of the defeated tribe leaving with the victors, including the chiefs daughter who would be wed to the opposing leaders off spring to forge an alliance. Today, we just trade trophies and “bragging” rights. I, would rather watch a good movie.

Now, granted the old way, was not very efficient, seeing as how the decimated enemy would hardly make an adequate rival for the next outing, since what players had not been made permanently “ineligible” due to fatal injuries were “drafted” to play for the opposing team. But the stakes of these conflicts would have at least made some of the absurd salaries being handed out today make a little sense. Can you imagine if the winning team got to pick the best players up and carry them off the field from the defeated team, talk about building dynasties.

While I certainly do not begrudge anyone the right to laze around on a weekend afternoon watching guys beat each other senseless, it seems to be an opiate of sorts. We attach so much meaning to the rise and fall of our favorite teams and many fans which, by way is short for fanatic, more on that in a minute, will set aside a huge portion of their income to spend on tickets, pay per view, team paraphernalia and other expenses, such as mass quantities of food and alcohol related to being a follower of a sporting franchise.

The word fan is interesting. Its root, fanatic is defined thus, by Encarta: 1.extremist: a holder of extreme or irrational enthusiasms or beliefs, especially in religion or politics. I think this fairly describes most serious sports enthusiasts that I have met in my lifetime. It seems that we are much more passionate about our vicarious living than our actual life at times. We would think nothing of publicly expressing an opinion of another's allegiance, as advertised by a T-shirt or cap. In fact I saw two guys, one in red and crimson, one in orange and black about to throw down, just inside the gates of a local theme park, based on a snide comment one made in passing.

My wife and I are part of what is known as a “neighbor group” at the Edge Church where we attend. Currently the group we are part of is reading Donald Miller's book “A Million Miles in a Thousand Years”. In the book Miller outlines what happened to him after his successful memoir, Blue Like Jazz became a sensation of sorts, but was followed by near failures, leading him to believe that he was a failure. Through the course of events he stumbled upon a concept. What makes a good story makes a good life. That may sound a little simplistic on its face, and it is. What he explains is this, when a character in a story wants something badly enough to give up everything to get it, and when that quest also includes a sense of the importance of others as equal to oneself, it leads to a life that is well lived. It creates an individual who will be actively missed when he is gone.

Back to sports. We have all heard it said, by some well meaning evangelist, that we should be just as excited about worship as watching our favorite sport, or in my case a really good movie. I agree with this, but maybe not in the way they were using it to drum up emotion for the meeting at hand. On a deeper level we should be seeking out a connection with the ultimate conflict between good and evil.

Now, before you rush out to buy the latest Christian T-shirt, album, bumper sticker or tickets to the hippest gospel concert or conference, hear me out. As my friend Mannaseh over at Soulmannah.com said, “Corny, done in the name of Christ, is still corny.” I'm talking about the real deal.We are being actively recruited to be a part of the team. We don't just sit back and cheer God on and booh the Devil, we get to suit up and play. But, unfortunately most of us are on the bench. On this team, unlike the Santa Fe Wolves, under the leadership of a team of men including my good friend Andy Rasmussen, we decide when we play.

That's right my friend, while God may occasionally put you aside to rest, it is you who makes the decision whether to engage or not, and there is room on the field for everyone. Many of my friends have expressed disappointment with Churches that don't give them opportunity to serve. Don't make the mistake of confusing what the institution you call church will allow you to do, for what God has called you to. Unfortunately they can frequently act more like a traditional sports team, where the coach chooses his top players and it is a cold day in hell before some guys see even one second of game play, and that is wrong.

It is my opinion that this type of “coaching” is what is killing the Church of America. We have elevated these men to positions God never intended, then given them the authority to keep us from our God ordained destinies. Rather than pitch a fit, find what you want to do, whether it has the name church on it or not, remind yourself that you are the church and get off the bench. While watching a game may be exciting and is certainly one way to relax, any real sports fan will tell you that playing is where its really at. I, for one, am aiming to collect the spiritual equivalent of an NFL all star salary in changed lives, and I am willing to bring anybody with me who wants to go.

I would finish this off with a cheesy sports idiom, but that's not my style. So, from a director friend of mine, Chad Anderson, here is his encouragement to actors going out to face an audience. “Let's get out there and melt some faces!”

1 comment:

Chad said...

Haha! Great post. I'm afraid I can't take credit for the idiom; it's basically a quote from "The School of Rock." :)