Southern Religion (Football)

It’s that time of year again, ladies and gentlemen! Football has graced us with its phoenix-like rebirth from the ashes of summer, and it did not disappoint. There were upsets and triumphant returns, former juggernauts seemed weak, while whipping boys showed they had grown stronger, and a grand time was had by all. Well, most had a good time. Someone had to lose after all.

When you think of the South, football is synonymous with life. We eat, sleep, and breathe it. During the offseason, we talk about previous games and hope next year is even better. Once the season begins, we find out if our dreams will come true or turn to nightmares before our eyes. 

The Yankees play football, and some are passionate about it, but not to the extent that we are. Out west, it is merely a social gathering. But, as some are wont to say, “Football is religion down here.”

“Football is religion down here.” I have never felt right about this. It is very important to the majority of Southerners, but I do not look at it as seriously as a religion. I have a religion: Christianity. I worship my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. I try to mold my life around His and His teachings. 

Now, football is extremely important to me, but not more important than my immortal soul. Christ is the only way that I can get into Heaven. Nick Saban can’t help me. Neither can (dare I say) Bear Bryant. *GASP* I’m sure at least one of you just gasped because SEC fans, even if you don’t like Alabama, respect Coach Bryant as one of the greatest who ever lived. He was a good man, but he should not be worshiped. Nor should General Neyland, Shug Jordan, or Steve Spurrier. 

Please do not misunderstand me. I am not saying that football should not be enjoyed. I am not saying that football is evil. I am not saying that it is wrong to talk about football to your friends and family. What I am saying is that we should remember who is the way, truth, and life. 

What if we talked about Christ as much or as fervently as we discuss football? What if there were as many discussion boards and threads about right living as there are about recruiting? What would life be like?

People have shown that they are willing to fight, die, and even kill others for their favorite team. People have destroyed private property, vandalized houses and cars, and even poisoned trees over this game. That, my friends, is the definition of passion. Webster defines it as “an intense desire or enthusiasm for something” and gives synonyms as zeal, vigor, and obsession. Could we have these same feelings about God?

Again, I am not promoting killing or beating others over differing opinions on Christianity. Christ did not preach violence, but why can we not be as on fire for God as we are for a group of young men playing with pigskin?

I admit that I am guilty of this and am in need of revival in my own life; however, I am not alone. Ask yourselves: Am I a bigger Vol or Gator fan than I am a Christian?

Notice that I did not say “fan of Jesus”. Christ does not want nor does He need fans. Fans are fickle, to which any Titans player or coach can attest. Fans are on fire one day and disappointed the next, screaming for a change in leadership, wanting the team to be run their way. Jesus wants us to be followers and disciples.

A disciple is not just a supporter; a disciple is devoted to the teachings of his or her leader. Disciples are not easily swayed. Disciples are not fickle. Disciples welcome suffering and hard times as testaments to the glory of God. Fans desert at the first sign of loss. Fans try to change the leadership into what they think is right. Disciples know that their leader is the only one who knows what is best.

 So, are you a disciple of Christ, or just a fan? Can you love God with the same passion as you do your favorite football team? It basically boils down to the question George Thorogood once asked: “Who do you love?”

Peace. Love. Roll Tide.

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Southern Forgiveness

It was late at night on December 8, 2012. My grandmother says that nothing good happens after midnight, and on this night, she was right. Josh Brent and Jerry Brown, Jr., both of the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys, were headed home after a night of partying. Brent, a 320-pound defensive tackle, was driving at speeds of around 110 miles per hour with a blood alcohol content of 0.18, which is more than twice the legal limit. For a man of that size to have a BAC that high, he was really trying to get drunk.

Brown, a linebacker on the Cowboys practice squad, was sitting in the passenger seat of his close friend’s Mercedes. The 25-year-old was due to become a father in less than two months. That sweet little girl will never know her father because Brent’s car hit a curb and spun out of control. When officers first arrived at the scene, they found Brent trying desperately to pull his friend and teammate’s body from the wreckage.

Brent was convicted of intoxication manslaughter and sentenced to 180 days in jail and 10 years’ probation. He was released this past June and spent the final 45 days of his sentence in rehab. Yesterday, the 26-year-old was reinstated to his team and is being given a second chance. He will have to serve a ten-game suspension, making his approximate return this November.

Jerry Jones, the Cowboys owner, is giving the fourth-year man out of the University of Illinois a second chance; however, the part of the story that got to me was the victim’s mother, Stacey Jackson.

If my child was taken from me for reasons outside of his control, I would be bitter. I admit it. I would be angry and probably hold a grudge, but that is not what Jackson did.

“I’m very happy Josh has been reinstated with the Dallas Cowboys!” Jackson said. “My beautiful son is in Heaven now, and Josh has to be given a chance to live his life and do something for someone else! We all make mistakes, and we all have an entrance date and an exit day. Although I miss Jerry every day, I know he would be very happy that Josh has another chance to play football!”

Wow. I was stunned. This woman showed the attitude of Christ better than any sermon I have ever heard, and I’ve heard some good ones (Hello to all the preachers out there). Christ taught us to turn the other cheek and to forgive those who wrong us not seven times, but seventy times seven. We know this, and when people commit minor offenses against us, it is easy to forgive them. We can forgive someone lying to us, yelling at us, or even cheating on us. How many of us would forgive the one who killed a child of ours?

When asked about her forgiveness, Jackson replied: “Josh doesn’t have to answer to you or me. He has to answer to God, about what he has done with his second chance. Who has he helped with this opportunity that he has been given! I have to answer to why I didn’t forgive him and live out my life with taking care of my family.” This is a woman who has what my preacher refers to as “Kingdom vision”. She has her eyes on the Kingdom of God and lives her life in that Kingdom. The Kingdom of God is not just some place that we hope to go to when we die. The Kingdom of God is here and now.

The next time someone wrongs you, even if it is a serious wrong, remember the words of Christ. If that does not help you to forgive and live your life free from the pain of vengeance, remember the example of Stacey Jackson. She is a living sermon. Are you listening?

Peace. Love. Roll Tide.