I’m really bothered by our need to make decisions about our beliefs, values, and opinions of others based on highlights, soundbites, and OpEd summaries.
For example, Richard Sherman’s post game “rant” and the subsequent outpouring of negative response, probably by many who, like me, didn’t know his history and seldom watch football except in moments when we can’t avoid it. Initially, I had zero opinion on Sherman and his rant one way or the other. I happened to be with someone who was watching the game when the interview occurred and witnessed what took place. I can tell you what didn’t happen. He didn’t curse or use foul, vulgar language. He did thump his chest and announce his skill, talent, and accomplishment. He did call out an opposing player for having said something, those of us in the national audience had not been privy to. He did make one denigrating statement about that player, but he brought it back around to what he was able to do, not about what his opinion of that player was.
Here’s my conclusion: He is a young man who has a strong intellect and a strong drive and determination to succeed with the integrity and discipline to put in the necessary work and effort to make that success possible. He was blessed to grow up with both parents who taught, through example, determination, hard work, and civic responsiblity in an area typically equated with it’s high crime/gang/drug activity. Excitement, adrenaline, and the surge of fan support combined in the moment to override his rational mind to weigh and measure his response and, perhaps, his reaction was more intense than the reporter was expecting and not as polished and polite as many would like. So what? He was not abusive, vulgar, obscene, violent, or incorrectly vain in his assessment of his skill.
There are a lot of opinions as to why he’s being vilified. Opinions which may or may not have a basis in truth and may be illuminating the fact that we’re not too many steps away from where we once were as a country regarding racism and human rights.
While that may be part of it, I think there’s more to it than that.
We Americans value our comfort and convenience. We claim to be hard workers and get upset when jobs are shipped overseas to lower-wage workers. However, many of us also look down our noses at taking minimum wage jobs that are menial and dirty or jobs that tend to subject us to less than humane treatment by those to whom we are providing a service.
We want to cheer a team that makes us feel good about ourselves. I think that the soundbite of someone who was announcing his self-confidence and accomplishment while speaking against someone who had made a detracting comment or two, while being overcome with the emotion, made us uncomfortable because there is no way he was able to be where he was, having accomplished what he did, without doing the hard work and experiencing the inconvenience of having to choose the things that would support his successes over being comfortable in his life. Maybe I’m wrong.
Maybe we just like to have our opinions and judgments fed to us in the most digestible ways possible without having to study and learn for ourselves. For example, today I came across a post from The Naked Pastor. It isn’t the first time I’ve seen this image and it hasn’t sat well with me, not because I disagree with the sentiment, but because I think it is an oversimplification and can easily be used as a misrepresentation of the most important message in history.
There is actually a story in the New Testament where a man who has been identified as the “Rich, Young, Ruler” comes up to Jesus and asks what good must be done to inherit eternal life. Somebody thought the story was important enough that three different versions of it were included in three different places: Matthew 19, Mark 10, and Luke 18. Let’s set aside for a moment the fact that first century Jews did not believe in the concept of eternal life as it is taught by today’s evangelical church.
Here’s the conversation:
Rich Young Ruler: How do I live a fulfilling life?
Jesus: Follow the commandments: Don’t lie about other people, don’t cheat on your wife, don’t steal, don’t murder, and honor your parents.
Rich Young Ruler: I already follow those rules. What else?
Jesus: Sell your things and give to the poor, then come live the life of service I live, doing good for others, and trusting God to provide for your needs through the generosity of people who love Him.
Throughout the New Testament the message is that it is pretty impossible for us human beings to love ourselves and each other without truly understanding and receiving God’s love for us.
So, the above illustration could be captioned:
Man: Jesus, please . . . in layman’s terms?
Jesus: I love you man! Now, share that love with others.
“Don’t be a dick,” is a good start, but there’s more to it than that. Something I hope that more people will learn to apply when faced with the option and choice to publicly attack someone on the basis of a soundbite.