Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Steve Johnson's Twitter Message--My Take

Last Sunday the lowly Buffalo Bills took the mighty Pittsburg Steelers to overtime in their football game. In pro football overtimes the first team to score wins the game (at least in the regular season). Early in the overtime the Bills quarterback threw a pass that landed perfectly in the hands of wide receiver Steve Johnson as he crossed into the end zone. Catch it and it’s game over. Bills win! But Johnson dropped the ball and the Steelers went on to win the game.

After the game Johnson was inconsolable. Within an hour or so after the game ended he posted this on Twitter: 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…

I guess Steve Johnson was pretty angry at God, felt He’d let him down. When I read about this on profootballtalk.com I scrolled down to read some of the comments. I find it interesting, amazing, and often horrifying to see what people write (anonymously, of course) in online forums. Not surprisingly, several would-be theologians had something to say to Steve Johnson.

One said: Steve—God puts the twigs on the trees but the Robin still has to make the nest. God gives you abilities—don’t question him if you fail to use them. God cares about you, but not football. Are you using what you have to honor God, or are you just questioning him when you fail?

End of sermon.

Another said: This just in from God . . .

Pray less . . . practice more.

Thank you.

And another: God doesn’t do anything, he empowers each person to make up their own mind. If they want to follow it or not is each person (sic) choice. If Johnson wants to blame God for his dropping the football that is his choice but before he blames God he needs to make sure he was prepared for the event.

So take that, Steve Johnson. You’ve been put in your place. But what I’d like to suggest is that Johnson’s Twitter message was much closer to what the Bible teaches about a life of faith than the theology lessons he got from the ones telling him to shut up, to not talk to God that way, to stop blaming God. What he said is about what you’ll find in about half the Psalms and other places in the Bible. Read Psalm 88 or Jeremiah 20 if you don’t believe me. What God seems to be saying, particularly in the Psalms, is that in a life of faith, of walking with God, you’re going to feel many emotions. Sometimes you’ll feel peaceful, happy, and secure in the feeling that God is right there beside you (see Psalm 18, for example). Other times you’ll feel let down, angry, like God has deserted you. Since the Psalter was Israel’s worship hymnal God seems to be saying that whatever we’re feeling he wants us to have a conversation with him about it. Many Bible scholars suggest that’s what made David “a man after God’s own heart.” It wasn’t the “exemplary” life he’d led. No, it was the pattern we see in the Psalms he wrote, that whatever was going on with him he talked to God about it. I think it’s possible that’s what Steve Johnson was trying to do, however inadvisable it is to do that in a public forum (though the Psalms are widely published). I’m not suggesting that our anger at God is right or justified. Was Johnson right to blame God? I don’t think so. Yet in that crushing moment he felt like God had let him down and he expressed that feeling to God. Don’t we all (or maybe it’s just me?) cry out to God, complain to him at times—on the job, in a relationship, at a hospital—and feel betrayed by Him? Yes. Is God a God who betrays? No. But he’d rather have us angry and talking to him than silent and proud and distant from him. Steve Johnson may in fact be closer to God than many of his critics. After all, one of the best ways to avoid a relationship with God is by being good, being religious, a “pull yourself up by the bootstraps” kind of person.

Yesterday Johnson posted a few more Tweets trying to explain himself. Among them were these: “I learned A lot Within 24hrs. Saw Both Sides.(Ups&Dwns) I AM HAPPY & THANKFUL 4 YESTERDAY! w/out Sunday iWldnt have grew closer w/The Lord!!” “And No I Did Not Blame God People! Seriously??!? Cmon! I Simply Cried Out And Asked Why? Jus Like yal did wen sumthin went wrong n ur life!”

I cannot possibly know what Steve Johnson’s relationship with God is really like. I hope he also publicly praises God when things go well for him. I hope I do to. After all, whether praising God or questioning him, it’s all right there in the Bible as an example of how to be truly close to God.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Choose Wisely

“. . . the people are responsible for the character of their Congress. If that body be ignorant, reckless and corrupt, it is because the people tolerate ignorance, recklessness and corruption. If it be intelligent, brave and pure, it is because the people demand these high qualities to represent them in the national legislature.” James Garfield, 20th President of the United States