I can’t really get Ray Lewis straight in my mind.
Is the Baltimore Ravens linebacker a man who got away with murder? Or is he a devout Christian who praises the Old Testament God with every bone-jarring tackle? Or is he both?
There would seem to be little common ground. Either you’re with him, or you’re against him.
Has he learned from his sins? Did some inner remorse, though unexpressed publicly (for legal reasons, perhaps), lead him to the straight and narrow? Forgiveness is central to Christianity.
I’m looking at the cover of Sports Illustrated. Lewis is standing in water up to his shoulders. He is posing prayerfully. The tipoff is his hands being held together in front of his chin. Several Twitter followers have already informed me that the image made them either sick or feeling like they wanted to do something common to the sick. But the cover story isn’t actually about Lewis’s religion. It’s about God’s fandom. Above the SI logo is:
DOES GOD CARE WHO WINS THE SUPER BOWL?
It’s an effective headline. It made me want to read more. God’s preference would invariably affect the outcome. It’s a tough call, though, even for the Almighty. The 49ers quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, has Psalms 27:3 tattooed on his left arm. Lewis himself wears a tee shirt under his uniform endorsing Psalms 91. If Lewis finds a more inspirational Bible passage, he can get another tee shirt. Kaepernick’s devotion isn’t so easily changed. Silk screens aren’t permanent, as anyone knows who has washed a tee shirt repeatedly.
I respect a person’s right to practice his religion in any way his God sees fit. I certainly don’t want to pass judgment on anyone’s right to judge God’s judgment. Tom T. Hall sang it best: Me and Jesus got our own thing going / Me and Jesus got it all worked out / Me and Jesus got our own thing going / We don’t need anybody to tell us what it’s all about.
I just don’t think God has a rooting interest. I think if the great warrior Ray Lewis goes out a Super Bowl winner, it’s because he played well and in concert with teammates, be they righteous or not. He may be energized by the Holy Spirit. Perhaps this provides him with serenity … uh, at some point … long after the final horn has sounded. I don’t think God pulled for Tim Tebow in 2011 or against him in 2012. I think it’s appropriate to pray for health, safety, protection, happiness, enlightenment and illumination … but not victory. Growing up I was taught not to pray for victory and to sing along with the national anthem. As anyone knows who has watched me warble pathetically in the grandstands before a ballgame, I still sing the anthem. I didn’t sing along with Beyonce while watching the inauguration on TV, but as it turns out, that was okay because Beyonce was singing along with herself.
It’s just my view, and it’s no better than Ray Lewis’s or Colin Kaepernick’s. Me, Jesus and Tom T. Hall may have our own thing going, but everyone else is free to get a thing going of his or her own.
I may be wrong. Lightning may strike shortly. I’m staking my hope on another passage from the works of Tom T. Hall:
I know there’s a lot of big preachers who know a lot more than I do / But it could be that the Good Lord likes a little pickin’ too.
If so, of course, the Good Lord can do a lot better than poor, poor, pitiful me. It’s likely Chet Atkins is conveniently nearby.