Monday, July 1, 2013

The Curse of Sports

There a lot of curses in this world and I've decided that organized sports is a main one.  The curse of sports far outweighs the benefits. I'm not talking about the hellish aberrations that are often mentioned, such as the ridiculous amounts paid to professional athletes, or the drunken, destructive insanity that overtakes some fans when their teams win (or lose). I'm not even talking about the disturbing number of thugs that seem to populate too many professional teams.  I'm not talking about our ignorant deification of sports figures, including those thugs. To me, these are all symptoms of the root problem. 

The root problem is what might be called the Misplaced Team Loyalty Syndrome. From our earliest years, we are programmed to believe in and support "our team."  We ride the roller coaster of emotions with "our team."  When they win, we are filled with joy.  When they lose, we despair.  The players may be horrible, the coaching beyond stupid, but, no matter what, we must be faithful to "our team."  (Yes, I'm thinking of you Cubs fans.)  If we are disloyal, we are traitors.  We have been programmed to think this way since we were little children. 

Now as it relates to sports, all of this is may be blindly ignorant, but it's a relatively harmless blind ignorance.  Some dodo may waste his money on a cheesehead hat, but so what?  The problem (and the curse) is that this programmed syndrome doesn't stop with sports. It extends to almost every other area of life, from churches, to labor unions, to political parties, to businesses and on and on. It's the foundation of cults. We are programmed to be part of a team, to believe in our team, to be loyal to our team no matter what.  We NEED our team.  (My country, right or wrong, my country.)  Because we are programmed to blind loyalty, "our team" can do terrible things and we allow those things to continue. To stand against them makes us traitors. I've seen this in churches, in unions, in businesses, etc..  Team loyalty blinds us to the truth. We allow terrible things to continue and destructive people to remain in power because we refuse to accept the reality of what is right in front of us. We lie to ourselves about it.  We become slaves to "Team Think." By the time we do accept the truth, everything has gone to hell and many people have been hurt.

Now, our unwillingness to see and accept the truth is understandable, because there is always a price to be paid for what is considered disloyalty.  We're taught that from grade school. That price can be heavy.  At the very least, it is loneliness. If we are disloyal, we will be rejected by the team and then where will we be?  Alone, without a team. Sheep huddle with other sheep out of fear. Not being a "team player" is the ultimate condemnation in business.   It's almost as loathsome as stealing money. "Unless you start being a 'team player' you will lose your job."  Pure manipulation. At the most dangerous end of the spectrum is Edward Snowden. I'm sure there are many people in the NSA who believe just as he does.  But how many are willing to stand against the rejection of that "team?"  He's a brave man.

What's the ultimate result of the Misplaced Team Loyalty Syndrome?  Destruction of the team.  Those who speak truth that the team doesn't want to hear are isolated and silenced. When truth is rejected a terrible price is paid.  Ultimately, though it may take much time, any team that is founded on lies will cease to exist.  (When the teams get large enough, when they hate each other enough and when they gain resources enough, there is the penultimate team destruction, war.)

What are we to do about all of this?  First, be aware of the programming.  After that, no matter what "team" you have chosen, start questioning its truth claims. Ask the most radical questions and don't be afraid of the answers. Stop believing things just because everybody else does.  If the situation demands it, in the right spirit, in the right venue, at the right time, speak the truth in words of kindness.   And don't be afraid. You'll be surprised at how many people agree with you.  If you are the leader of a team, you'd better start listening to people who are saying things you don't want to hear.  Stop viewing them as traitors and impediments who disrespect you because they disagree and start viewing them as gifts that might just save your sorry butt.  If you reject truth, no matter where it comes from, eventually you will pay an awful price and others will pay it with you. As the leader, you will bear special responsibility for their suffering.    

Now, if you are a follower of Jesus, seeking and standing for truth wherever you find it, ought to be at the heart of your life. As for me, I have asked the toughest questions I could about faith in Jesus, the Messiah. I have tested His truth claims over many years and found them to be rock-solid. Because of Jesus and His sacrifice for our sins on the cross, His death to pay our penalty and make us right with God, we can be citizens of His Kingdom in Heaven forever. All we have to do is ask for His forgiveness to receive it.  The result of His forgiveness is freedom from fear.  That means freedom to be members of many different "teams," yet stand apart from them as well, willing to take the risk of speaking truth and living with their rejection. Whether that rejection comes from Republicans, Democrats, Hollywood, the NSA, a business, a church, no matter. Whether it costs our lives, no matter. God is control and He has a special love for truth and those who stand for it. 

In opposition to the Misplaced Team Loyalty Syndrome are the words of Jesus, the King, to every individual who believes in Him, "Fear not, for I am with you." 

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