Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Conversation Changes Everything

I don't like athletes who try to gain a competitive advantage by using drugs. When I'm feeling grumpy I say "Kick them out of the game and never let them back in." I hold a grudge against baseball's all time home run leader, Barry Bonds, and think his record should be removed from the books. I view Alex Rodriguez as a cheat and wouldn't cry if his career was now over. I don't feel sorry for Lance Armstrong, although I respect the work his charity does.

In the recent Australian scandal where AFL team Essendon was accused of systematically giving their players illegal performance enhancing substances, I would not have thought any penalty was too harsh. Ultimately, the evidence didn't quite support the allegations, but it was still pretty rotten.

I don't like PED's because they unfairly skew the field of competition (as if natural selection doesn't already skew it enough!). They often have nasty side effects. The nasty side effects not only impact the star performers, but the desperate younger athletes who try to imitate the stars as they try to make their own way in the sport. Often the drugs used are simply illegal.

BUT then MY baseball team signs a confessed drug cheat. Jhonny Peralta was suspended 50 games in 2013 for using PED's. I laughed in his face (not literally). And now the Cardinals have signed him! For the good of the team, I'll have to cheer for him each time he comes up to bat.

Peralta didn't even attend the press conference to announce his signing. At that press conference the Cardinals GM had to defend the signing of a drug cheat. All he could say is that if MLB only suspends the player for 50 games, why shouldn't the team sign him once the 50 games are up. The club shouldn't be expected to impose its own ban beyond that the league imposes.

Of course, the Cardinals have already been through all this with Mark McGuire. But here's the point. "Getting to know people makes all the difference." One of the first steps toward hating someone is to dehumanize them. Forget they have a family and feelings. Label them drug cheat/black/gay/some other sin, then call down fire from heaven upon them. It's much easier if you've never shared a coffee with them.

Here's a couple of articles from other spheres of life that make a similiar point:
  • When a black man sits down with KKK members remarkable things happen. HERE
  • This article makes the point that society's view of homosexuality is rapidly changing because "It's difficult to believe that gay people are bad when you know one."
Isn't this kind of what happened in John 8:1-11 when the woman caught in adultery was brought to Jesus. Of course adultery is still a sin. But suddenly this wasn't an abstract question about adultery. This was a specific circumstance about a very real woman who was right there in their presence. Expecting to be stoned she was probably crying and wailing and begging for mercy. No this wasn't hypothetical any more. In this context the evil of the religious leaders in exploiting this woman (and not her lover) as a tool to trip up Jesus changed the emphasis of the moment.

So before you go on facebook, or vent to your friends about "those people" (whoever they are) make the effort to get to know one, or some, of them. You don't have to agree, but God does call us to love them. Unless they're an extremely unpleasant person, it's usually much easier to love someone once you know them.

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