Thursday, September 24, 2015

Divine attention…

An interesting theological debate occurred this weekend between two NFL quarterbacks. We knew they were divine at passing. But their spiritual depth is a revelation.

Puns aside, here’s the scoop. Apparently, several months ago, Russell Wilson of the Seattle Seahawks defeated Aaron Rodgers’ Green Bay Packers. Mr. Wilson praised God for the achievement. Mr. Rodgers later responded, “I don't think God cares a whole lot about the outcome. He cares about the people involved, but I don't think he's a big football fan." Wilson disagreed, claiming, “I think God cares about football. I think God cares about everything he created."

(Pastor’s note: God isn’t male. Anyway…)

Then, last weekend, Green Bay defeated Seattle (cheering Tom Jarvi’s heart). At the post-game press conference, Rodgers responded to a question about the game, how victory was achieved. He said, “…And then getting help from God. I think God was a Packers fan tonight, so he was taking care of us."

The biting dig at Wilson was subtle, but present. I haven’t yet heard a snappy retort from Wilson. But I don’t care. The debate is back on! Which world-class athlete is right about God?!

Now, it’s familiar for a professional athlete (or actress, or doctor…) to thank God for her/his natural abilities. That’s fair. I don’t mind. Unless said athlete patrons a strip club that night, amen?! Some go further and, like Mr. Wilson, suggest that God’s actively involved in a particular moment or game. As if the Spirit helps guide footballs (or scalpels?). I’m more dubious of that claim.

Thus, my pleasant surprise at Rodgers offering an alternative take. Namely, he thinks that God’s is solely for the people involved in a sporting contest, not the result. That’s good theology. Although, I do agree with part of Wilson’s reply, that Rodger’s went too far by saying, “I don’t think (God)’s a big football fan.” Maybe God is. Why not? Besides brain disfigurement the sport has caused…

Moving on…the mistake the Seahawks’ slinger makes is assuming that because something exists, God created it. He says God cares about football because “God cares about everything (God) created.” That’s a common theological claim. But I don’t think it’s true. After all, if it was, it would mean we do nothing independently. That whomever first conceived of football was just fooling himself. God was doing it, in the background, or something.

The problem with that notion is it seriously devalues humanity. If we’re so incapable of independent action, why would God love us as much as God does?! What would sin mean? Answer: nothing! Therefore, God’s intention in creating us wasn’t for us to be puppets, but rather Co-Creators with God. That’s right, God’s given you the tools, imagination, insight and ability to make something new that God didn’t do “in the beginning”! Why? Maybe it’s more fun that way. Maybe God sought to create that which God couldn’t control- humans- so even more good could emerge. Who knows?! Whatever the case, it’s beautiful.

At least, it can be, when we don’t mess up. Not only have we created football, but (much, much) more importantly, cures for diseases, sonorous symphonies, Sunday dinners that feed generations. God care about that stuff because God cares about us. Which is a subtle difference from Wilson’s claim, but that difference means something. After all, if you believe that it’ really God doing everything, you won’t feel the same responsibility and empowerment to invent something new, rectify some social injustice, mentor a kid and change her future. But all that’s stuff Christians should do, and God created us to do it well. Thank God, then, that Scripture teaches that the Creator created us in the Creator’s image.

So in this epic theological battle, I’ll take Rodgers over Wilson. Although, I wish Rodgers had decided not to use God as prop in belittling someone else publicly. Rather, I wish both of those gifted, famous and well-paid men had decided to honor God together by caring as much for their fellow humans- co-creators!- as God does, especially the poor. I mean, they and their even better-paid bosses/owners could co-create a lot goodness if they walked their talk, amen?!

Grace and Peace,

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