Thursday, December 13, 2012

My Life is Private!!!

In the last two weeks two NFL players lost their lives in tragic circumstances. First, Kansas City Chiefs player Jovan Belcher shot his girlfriend after and argument then went to the team facility and took his own life. Then, two players from the Dallas Cowboys were involved in a single car accident as a result of drunk driving. Jerry Brown died in the accident, while Josh Brent, the driver, survived and has been arrested and charged with intoxication manslaughter.

After the tragedy in Kansas City Jason Whitlock commented in his regular column, and Bob Costas spoke during half time of Sunday Night Football on NBC how events like this build a case for stronger gun control laws in the United States. Gun control polarises this nation so much that Twitter instantly exploded. Although many people disagreed with the content of Costas' comments, many people also protested the use of the Sunday Night Football as a forum for his comments.  

I heard comments from radio callers along these lines all day. "How dare a football broadcast include social commentary?!?! The tragic events of Saturday should be quarantined from the entertainment schedule of Sunday. NBC should allow us to compartmentalise our lives, and when we want gun control commentary we'll go watch the FOX big boy channel."

Should the NFL have special rules about guns? Should NFL teams provide life coaching sessions about how to handle conflicts? Should the NFL intrude into players private lives and dictate policy about firearms? Or is all of that private and none of the NFL's or the teams' concern? Should the League use a tragedy like this as an educational opportunity, or should it just get on with paying entertainment and let the players be grown men on their own?

The following week after the drunk driving death the calls to sports radio shows were a little more subdued. But again the question arose about the role of the NFL should play in the private lives of the players. Currently, teams and the NFL Players Association have a system of free car services that will get players who've been drinking home without danger to themselves or, more importantly, to anyone else. This is a terrific service, but apparently many players don't use it. How infuriating that a simple phone call could have saved Jerry Browns life and spared his family the grief they're experiencing right now.

Jarrett Bell in a recent USA Today column, highlights the weakness of the NFL's penalties for drink-driving offenses. The penalty for driving drunk which could result in the loss of life, are less than the suspensions for getting caught with performance enhancing drugs in your system.

The dilemma the NFL faces is that so much of its revenue comes from alcohol. Alcohol sales at games provide significant income in addition to the fees the teams charge to give particular companies access to their stadiums. The alcohol industry purchases significant amounts advertising throughout the football season and particularly during the Super Bowl. Many fans tailgate before games in stadium car parks and are blotto before the game even begins. Alcohol drenches all aspects of NFL culture, so to what extent is player drink driving a player, League, or social issue?

Certainly, there's a societal aspect in player attitudes toward drink-driving. As an Aussie living in the US the difference is stark. In Australia, road deaths provide a significant part of the measure of the police force's effectiveness. As a result a lot of energy is put into reducing speed and drink driving. Random Breath Tests were introduced in 1982. The police can block a road and test everyone traveling down it. In the US I've only ever been pulled over once and never even seen another road block with random breath tests. US society just doesn't make road safety a priority compared to their concerns over privacy. There is more concern about preventing police pulling over whoever they like, than there is saving the lives of people killed in alcohol related accidents.

Of course, this is still a major societal issue in Australia also. In 2005 the Transport Accident Commission that runs campaigns for road safety in Victoria cancelled its sponsorship of the Richmond football club after 2 players were caught drink-driving during the season. That's an expensive lesson for the club!

I usually try and bring my posts back to a spiritual perspective, so here I go... I believe that church's encounter similar issues to the NFL. How involved can a church be in the lives of its members before it gets labeled a cult? Society feeds us the message that our private lives take priority over all other values and the church should just butt out! So issues like spousal abuse, child discipline, alcohol use, workplace integrity are all on a list of private topics which the church may talk about generally, but does not have permission to ask specific questions.

Then there are the issues that at one time were Biblical, but now have become societal, or political issues and the church better not express an opinion on them. For example: abortion, homosexuality, gay marriage, euthanasia, topics related to poverty - eg. health care, and social services. I was recently told not to speak on Mormonism during the election season because a presidential candidate was a Mormon. I understand how the timing could cause division. On the other hand, there's a tension because it seems to make sense to talk about a mainstream false religion masquerading as Christianity at a time when people are interested in learning about the subject.

Our church culture of primarily spending time with our spiritual family on Sunday mornings makes it easy to compartmentalise our lives in these ways. Calvinism is a church issue. My marriage is a personal issue. Abortion is a political issue.

I've recently been thinking about all the "one another" passages in the NT. The main content of these passages is that Christians should "love one another". (1 John 4:7-12) Even without looking at all the other references, think about that one. Can we really love one another on Sunday morning? I believe that command requires us to involve ourselves in each others lives. We'll see, hear, and experience things that make us uncomfortable, but it's the only way we can LOVE each other. Loving each other means breaking down the walls of privacy and letting us speak God's heart into each others' lives.

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