While in Nashville for a meeting of the Nashville Youth Ministry Coaching Program I had a short discussion with my friend Paul Martin about football. Paul is a brilliant guy and the kind of person you like to listen to. He’s always thinking about ways to improve youth ministry and has insights that are above my head and at the same time make me wonder why I didn’t think of it before. I highly recommend following his blog here.
Ok, so back to the discussion. We were talking about football (my favorite sport) and he said he’s not a big fan of something that inspires a person to poison 200 year old trees on a college campus. If you haven’t heard before, some guy decided that a way to show his love (or hate, who knows?) for his team was to poison a bunch of 200+ year old trees on the University of Alabama campus. At the time, I said something to the effect of: “That’s an extreme case and it’s not how most (normal) people react or express their fandom.”
This short conversation has actually stuck with me for a week now, because it made me think beyond football. One of Paul’s reasons (and I’m assuming here based on our very short conversation) for disliking football is how “fans” express themselves in stupid and destructive ways. I’m ok with that, because in the end it’s just football and doesn’t really have any eternal significance.
The sad reality is that those kinds of stories tend tend to shape thinking about many different subjects. Overzealous and obsessive fans act in ways that turn us off to sports, technology (I used to hate Apple “fanboys), politics and even faith. I get so frustrated when I see people I know or strangers dismissing the gospel because of something an individual or a small group of people have done that doesn’t sit well with them. In most cases they have allowed an isolated incident to shape their thinking about a much larger group. The KKK is not indicative of Christianity. The crazy guy in Alabama is not indicative of all college football fans.
Generalizations are easy, but most of the time they are born from laziness and ignorance. It’s like looking at a single pine tree in the middle of a forest of oaks and deciding the forest is all evergreen.
At the same time, we bear some responsibility. Is the faith that the 99% of the Christians in the world so lifeless and and unremarkable that we cannot overwhelm the misguided actions of the 1%. It saddens me to think that this might be so. How incredible would it be if people responded to those kinds of events with “That’s not the church I know!” because they’ve already been impacted in a positive way by Christians?