I’ve recently had a conversion experience that I simply must tell you about! All of my life, I have been diametrically opposed to a particular group and their followers. This group’s elite are often treated like kings, gods even. Many of their followers are quick to confront others confident that their special brand of enlightenment is far superior to everyone else’s. However, it was the kindness of a few followers who didn’t try to correct the error of my ways but who accepted me as I am that swayed me. Today I want to, for the first time, publicly announce that I have become a Steelers fan!
Yes it’s true. I’ve hated football all of my life. I considered myself above such juvenile barbarism and laughed at those who were taken in by its overpriced hype. I saw no intelligence or reason in the cult-like hold it has on its fans or in the bizarre superstitions that control their lives during the season. Nothing could be a bigger waste of time. I was sure that someday, scientist would prove that every game watched kills thousands of brain cells. I did however enjoy Super bowl Sunday because I knew that all the football fans would be glued to a TV set near them and I would have no problem finding a parking space at the mall or a great seat at the theater.
So, as hard as it is to imagine, especially here in the capital of Steeler nation, I’ve made it into my forties with only an infantile understanding of the game. This past Sunday, as I sat glued to my own TV set, I found most of what I was seeing and hearing confusing. When it comes to football, I have no frame of reference to comprehend what’s going on. Players were penalized for things I didn’t understand. There were numbers all over the screen and I can only guess at their significance, and for the most part, the announcers seemed to be speaking a foreign language. Still, I was drawn to continue watching. I cheered when my team scored and screamed at my TV when the other team intercepted the ball. I guess I’m going to have to rely on my fellow Steeler fans to learn what I don’t know about football. I’m going to have to ask a lot of “dumb” questions and I hope that they remember that they are dealing with a baby Steeler fan when they answer.
So what does this have to do with faith? Over the last fifty years society has systematically removed Christianity from everyday life and relegated God into the more convenient and manageable Sunday morning box. We have effectively produced a social environment where one in three Americans are unchurched and the average person doesn’t know Jesus. They may have heard of him, they may have even dabble in the occasional church service, but they look at Christianity in much the same way that I viewed the football phenomenon – with hatred or with no concept of its value. Some Christians feel compelled to win the God argument among the skeptical, to explain exactly how wrong the non-Christian is and how right they are. Instead of accepting the individual as they are and tearing down those walls, these misguided God-arguers build up even higher the walls that separate them. Yes, we are to reach out to the lost - in love.
Also, as Christians, we have the joy and responsibility of discipling our less experienced brothers and sisters in Christ. As we learn from those who are more mature in their faith, so we are to guide others. No matter how long we’ve been a Christian, every day presents us with new challenges, new questions. Whether you’ve never been in a church service before or you’ve been attending Sunday school longer than your pastor has been alive, there is much to learn and we are called to learn and grow together in love and in the Lord.
About the pictures:
Marshall Island, North Park (August 2009)