I was the sports editor of my college newspaper, St. Olaf’s Manitou Messenger. If you start reading this and don’t like sports, you’ll find that football is only the theme that gets into the topic. I offer up this piece because sometimes you hear a media story that makes you wonder, what do people think of this?
When someone goes on Twitter to blame God for dropping a football, surely there must be something going on worth considering.
Stevie Johnson, a rookie wide receiver for the Buffalo Bills could smell victory. His team is in the midst of a miserable year, but a few weeks ago they won their 2nd game of the season after Johnson scored 3 touchdowns.
The following game went to overtime and Johnson got open. The ball was thrown beautifully and he had it in his hands. The offensive lineman ran over to hug the quarterback because they had won the game. But the quarterback, Ryan Fitzpatrick—with his Ivy League education from Harvard, knew that the game wasn’t over. Johnson dropped it. Pittsburgh would get the ball and kick a field goal to win. Victory was snatched out of the Bills’ hands—literally.
Johnson was pretty emotional afterward. In fact, he turned his attention to God in the following tweet:
"I PRAISE YOU 24/7!!!!!! AND THIS HOW YOU DO ME!!!!! YOU EXPECT ME TO LEARN FROM THIS??? HOW???!!! ILL NEVER FORGET THIS!! EVER!!! THX THO..."
As Chris Stedman wrote in his JIRD post “Making the Internet Moral”, he says “the
Internet, like religion, can also be a tool for transformation, if we wield it responsibly.”
What happens when the Internet and religion are used simultaneously? Is Johnson calling upon God irresponsibly or stating an opinion, a lament, a cry out to God that is appropriate to his faith.
I wonder if Stevie Johnson would’ve been comfortable blaming God if just speaking to a reporter? Would Johnson have been praising God more if he would’ve caught the ball?
Have social networking sites like Twitter, Facebook, and Ning created a safe place to air out our dirty laundry or has it increased our scrutiny of thoughts or ideas that are negative?
But part of why I was so drawn to what Johnson tweeted was the logic behind it. This sounds like a Psalm to me. Look at Psalm 5, for instance, Johnson very well could’ve been inspired by the words of David.
The first two verses are “Listen to my words, LORD, consider my lament. Hear my cry for help, my King and my God, for to you I pray.”
The Bible has demonstrated, clearly, that not everything goes right. God is often lifted up in praise, but grumbled upon when things don’t go as planned. What Johnson writes may be a bit discomforting to those who worry that our use of God language in society puts too much credit or blame on God.
I assume God doesn’t care about a meaningless football game in the midst of economic strife, war, bullying, or fear-mongering radio hosts. Language is a way for us to express ourselves to God. Certainly I don’t expect God to intervene when Johnson plays next by giving him super-human speed and the ability to catch any pass that he touches. God doesn’t work that way, and I would guess that Johnson knows that.
But his words are out there. Often times, I feel like I hear people use religion through the media or internet in ways that make me cringe. Have you ever been with someone who said something and used “we” or “The Bible” says and it didn’t add up to the way you felt or believed?
Within the Christian hermeneutic that I write from, I often feel like it is my responsibility to stand up to fellow Christians who use their religion in ways that may be taken as representing all, or some, other Christians. In the same way that most Christians were appalled by what Pastor Terry Jones threatened to do with burning Qurans, I cringe when I see people like Stevie Johnson that put God in position to bestow good or bad like a puppet master.
Theologically, my lens of God is that of love and grace. God for me is one who can be blamed and cursed, but also loved and thanked. God is not someone who I feel intervenes in my life in matters such as catching or dropping a ball. I have no problem with Johnson being upset with God, but if Johnson truly believes that it was God’s intervention that caused it, this is where I take issue.
Social networking sites are great. In matters such as this, however, a proper response from Johnson may have been to center his frustration in contemplative prayer and to focus on how he can improve as a player through practice and concentration. Leave the blaming out of it and just play the game. If God is watching our games and reading our Tweets, then he might Tweet back: “I created your hands, use them next time, but stop blaming me.”