True religion is real living; living with all one’s soul, with all one’s goodness and righteousness. – Albert Einstein
Now I admit I am not a sports fan. I don’t dislike sports, but I have never understood the obsession with any ‘game’. I played soccer growing up and was competitive on the field, did whatever I felt I needed to do to win (bending the rules some, I admit), tried my best to improve my skills and benefit to the team, but, at least for me, the win/loss record wasn’t all that important. I played it because I enjoyed it. I even announced football games for several years. I appreciate the effort and skill required to play at any level in the sports arena. In my current profession, I am a ‘coach’ of a group that competes (Theatre) and we’ve done fairly well over the years. I’m proud of that. I know what the elation of winning feels like, as well as the agony of defeat (cue skier crash). But, at least in my (apparently skewed) view of things, isn’t the point of competition to prod us to try harder? To extend ourselves past the comfort zone of our abilities and strive to reach new heights of performance, both individually and as a team. Not to beat someone else, but to challenge each other and ourselves, ultimately helping each other to greater successes. Not to win, but to improve. Perhaps this is part of the reason I do not understand the Tebow craze. But I realize ‘Tebowing’ is not just about sports. It is also about religion.
I do have very strong beliefs and use those to guide myself in my life and all that I do. But I hate being labeled and stereotyped into a category (particularly a religious one) and then someone only seeing that as who I am. I feel it is denigrating me as a human. Go ahead. Try to sum yourself up as just one word or label. Then live just like that one word/idea/image. Or better yet, treat a friend or loved one as only one thing, one aspect of who they are, no matter how positive that thing may appear. Then tell me how long you last. When we allow any one thing, belief, idea, activity, sport, religion, whatever supersede all other things in our lives (addictions?), we are committing an egregious error in living. When we live to the exclusion of all things but one, we unduly limit ourselves and end up stifling even that one ‘Truth’ that we live by.
With such fanaticism (that is where the word ‘fan’ comes from, by the way) we begin to expect others to follow us because we have become blinded to anything else. It becomes a competition with others, overt demonstrations of “I’m so __________ and I will bludgeon you over the head with how ___________ I am.” With all due respect to Christians, Muslims, Jews, Wiccans, Pagans, atheists, Krishnas, Cowboy fans, Sooner fans, Tebow idolators, Soccer hooligans, drunks, Rock groupies, Gamers, Cos-players, drug addicts, Twi-hards, Potter-heads, haters, daters, playas, ad nasueum, give it a break. Enjoy what you enjoy, but in moderation. (Am I being excessive in my moderation request, disparaging others for not holding with my belief of moderation? Nice paradox. But at least I can see it.) As we allow these fanaticism’s of the ‘game’ to take hold, we begin to belittle and disparage how others think, feel, behave because they don’t agree with us.
It becomes the classic battle of Us and Them. Believers of any stripe align themselves together for self-gratification and support. This is not a bad thing until it becomes the exclusion of all other things (people). Perhaps I’m just being cynical, but it seems that we are progressively being ‘forced’ to chose sides (Presidential elections anyone?) and then we conveniently label others as anti-us, socialists, communists, Republicans, Democrats, as blasphemers, infidels, Arkansas Fans. They become the dreaded others, the them and, ultimately inhuman. Pick your favorite dichotomy. Just ask a Sooner what he/she thinks of Texas and their fans, or look at the recent OSU – Stanford commentary on the social media sites during and after the game. Or watch some good old Looney Tunes from World War II. It is not an accident that we turn our perceived enemies into bestial caricatures. The world is not and has never been made of only one thing, school, idea, belief. There have been thousands upon thousands. And while the competition of these ideas can be mind-blowing, it is through these competitions that our current ideas have taken shape. Not a survival of the fittest, but a growth, a deeper understanding through the exchange of ideas and defense of what we think and believe.
I’m glad that Mr. Tebow is so staunch in his belief. It is a wonderful thing. I applaud his commitment to his belief. And his kneeling to thank God after an accomplishment doesn’t bother me in the least. It’s not disrupting anything and is a gracious display. What I do not understand (or condone) is the utter following he seems to have developed based solely on this one aspect of his life. And then the blind imitation (Students Suspended for “Tebowing”) of his actions. Not the approval of and using his actions as inspiration to further improve ourselves (that seems reasonable), but the wholesale mimicry of his faithful gestures. By aping his pious gesture instead of finding a personal way to demonstrate your own faith, you cheapen not only your own actions but his sincere ones. That is a horrid sham, a gross minimizing of something that should be holy, sacred. Do it because it has meaning to YOU not because you are idolizing/mimicking someone else.
Please feel free to share your enjoyment of your chosen ‘devotion’, but, again, in moderation. Anything else (again, my opinion) is, bare-minimum, annoying. And, when taken to extremes, boorish, rude, condescending and downright dangerous. Just because I don’t agree or find enjoyment or fulfillment in your activity of choice, it doesn’t make me ‘wrong’ or ‘sinful’ or ‘un-American/Christian/lovable/intelligent/cultured/believable’. It means, simply, thanks for sharing, I’m glad you enjoy ‘it’ (whatever it is) but, please, don’t try and shove it down my throat (a rather crude, but accurate, analogy I’ve seen mentions a forced viewing and/or partaking of certain genitalia). Take my subtle (or not so subtle) hints and agree to disagree with me. Hopefully we can learn an appreciation of each other’s opinion and ideas (read A House Divided for more on my opinion of destructive divisiveness in our culture). Perhaps we will even enjoy each others enjoyment. Personal Example: The Wife likes guacamole. I detest it. She ‘tricked’ me into eating it once. It was not a pleasant experience for either of us. I’m glad she likes it. I’ll even make it for her. But she’s stopped trying to get me to eat it. We joke about it, even tease each other, but respect the other’s opinion. Is this minimizing the real topic under discussion? Not really. Amplify it up a few notches if you need. In order to live together in harmony, we have to deal with the occasional dissonance our differing opinions create. And these moments of discord don’t harm our lives together. Rather, they enhance it and challenge us to understand not only ourselves better, but learn about each other, gaining a fuller understanding of each other and how we relate to the whole of our marriage.
Open your arms to change, but don’t let go of your values. – Dalai Lama
It frightens me when any one thing (or person or idea, real or imaginary) is followed without question or in the extreme, when otherwise rational people become lemmings and play follow the leader off a cliff (FYI: This analogy is, in itself, a fallacy. The popular conception of lemmings being mindless followers that are prone to mass suicides off of cliffs is grossly incorrect. By using it to illustrate a mindless following I have participated in a mindless following. The irony is not lost on me. But I hope this digression has also provoked a few of you to look it up yourselves. The part about Disney’s White Wilderness was especially disturbing). Having the ability to make up our own minds and have our own opinions on all things great and small is one of the wonderful things about being human. And when we find ourselves in agreement with others, it is a wonderful feeling, an elation of self-fulfillment that we are ‘right’ (or at least agreed with). But when we give up thinking in order to fit in and thinking that being ‘right’ (agreed with) is more important than developing our ideas from the challenges of those that hold different opinions, we stop growth in ourselves and the ideas we espouse.
The unexamining life is not worth living for a human being. – Socrates
A life of questioning, a life of exploration and discovery. When we exclude things from our world because we do not understand them, disagree with them, fear them, etc., we lose a chance to further define what we believe. It’s hard to study a mythology and belief without beginning to understand that even if you don’t believe it, someone did, and that it has power. Don’t be afraid to question and don’t be afraid to not ‘win’. I genuinely hope Mr. Tebow continues to kneel. I also hope that people find their own ways of making statements of faith instead of belittling his intentionally or unintentionally. Use those individuals who live lives extraordinarily as guides to other ways and places of discovery in your own life. Don’t mimic them. Let them inspire you to your own acts of greatness. And maybe, just maybe, you’ll challenge and inspire someone else to become greater as well.