The NFL. . . Thoughts Today. . .

First off. . . four things. . .

  1. I love football. I’m a life-long die-hard Philadelphia Eagles fan. . . which means I’ve been dying-hard once a year for my entire life.
  2. Our culture is spiraling around in a head-spinning mess that reeks of disunity more-and-more every day. Things are changing and they are changing fast. We seek to co-exist on multiple ethical/moral foundations, and it’s just getting harder and harder as time goes on.
  3. What’s been happening in the NFL for a much-longer time than this past weekend or this past year both mirrors and maps larger cultural trends.
  4. Beyond what I just stated, I have absolutely no idea how to articulate the spinning mess in my head that just keeps going faster-and-faster the more I try to understand and categorize the back-and-forth that filled the airwaves in multiple ways over the course of the last weekend. I increasingly believe that the glut of cliches, postures, and platitudes we hear from every side are insufficient to bring clarity, resolution, or unity.

That said. . . some more thoughts (non-exhaustive and somewhat random. . . but helpful to me. . . )

First, while I have been trying to deny it to myself, I have found my interest in football waning. The college game has become a fashion-show, a business venture, and a stage for entitled posturing that once used to be limited to the professional ranks. I’m not watching college football much at all any more. The professional game is off-the-charts in terms of a swing towards ego-trumpeting, arrogant swagger, and privilege. (Odell Beckham’s end-zone canine impersonation is just one example from yesterday). Yes, there are many men playing the game who are playing it with humility. But their efforts, sadly, are being eclipsed by those who are full of themselves. I’m getting frustrated and worn out by it all. And for me, the mounting body of research regarding brain injuries in sport (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy) doesn’t bode well for football at all levels. Still, as a fan, I hold out hope!

Second, someone asked me this morning what I thought the “Christian response” is to the events of the weekend. I found myself responding with one word: “silence.” What I was referring to is a verbal silence that disciplines itself into not making noise simply to add noise to the conversation. Whether we are on the sidelines or on social media, the fact is that all of us have been given a platform to steward well. Typically, we do the opposite. I’m afraid that our default position is increasingly to jockey for attention, likes, and the building of our own personal “brand.” As I’ve told youth workers for years, “You are not a brand. Don’t live like one.”  Instead, I would advocate for a voice that humbly and quietly pursues Christ-like grace, mercy, holiness, and justice,  wherever one happens to be and without desire to draw attention to one’s self. I’m afraid that both in and outside of the Body of Christ we are living lives that seek out opportunities to make boatloads of noise with less-and-less to back it up. Remember what Isaiah said about Jesus. . . “He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.” Perhaps the best “Christian response” is to do like Jesus. . . curate your own life and actions for the audience of One.

Finally, I take great comfort in these words from the Psalmist as he asks the question, “When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do?” The answer doesn’t come in a how-to, but in a statement of fact: “The Lord is in His holy temple; the Lord is on His heavenly throne.”

5 thoughts on “The NFL. . . Thoughts Today. . .

  1. As a high school teacher of students 16-18, this weekend’s latest issue is one we will explore tomorrow in our Worldview class just as we did when Colin Kapernick first sat out the National Anthem. What we speak of all the time is the ought-is-can-will framework for how we see God’s presence and his desire to extend his kingdom with us as his co-laborers. That said, Walt, I am where you are. Perplexed. Yet, at some point, this becomes the conversation among many. The one thing I do know is that “freedom of speech” is a right I and many of my friends served to preserve. We also served to be thankful for our freedoms that seems a right and good thing to do. What we see is people like me offended by disrespect for perhaps the nation or perhaps those who served. What we also see is people offended by injustice in our system of justice. Each offends the other in the bargain. It seems to me Christians can seek first to understand–be willing to listen. Then, maybe in living faithful lives as you suggest, we can try to be peacemakers, encouraging dialogue and helping find common ground for such conversations. The very difficulty of that often leads people to see that heart changes are needed, not just kumbaya moments. We’ve got to engage this culture is what I tell these young people. It seems to me the absence of Christians in encouraging peaceful conversation may be one place we can make a difference and such national disunity and anger a symptom of our lack of impact for the kingdom. Perhaps.

    1. I’m with you on this Ray. So good to have teachers like you engaging this in constructive ways. And the call to listen in order to understand. . . so necessary. I had an interesting conversation with a young veteran last evening who says he believes the NFL is culpable through their displays of patriotism that might be a marketing ploy meant to show “cheap grace” as some have said. He resents the displays for that reason.

  2. Major League Baseball does some similar things. In part, they seek to honor the vets for their service. But, cynically, it is more likely a marketing ploy as well, a tried and true wrap-in-the-flag approach to legitimizing high ticket prices and $8 hot dogs. Still, the sin underneath all sins, idolatry, lurks within if we dig deeply enough. How Christ redeems even this keeps us praying, Walt.

  3. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. So many times I open my mouth and close it and open my mouth and close it, (literally and metaphorically) and I wondered what to say or if saying something would do good? Then I stay quiet and still wonder if I should say something. I will take comfort in the words of the Psalmist also.

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