I love sports movies. One of the recent ones I enjoyed was “When the Game Stands Tall.” It’s a story about De La Salle High School football team, the winningest football team of any level. The movie doesn’t only show when they won. It also shows what happened when that winning streak of 151 game came to a halt. The team that broke that winning streak was Bellevue High, a school my son may have to wrestle in upcoming seasons. Bellevue is also quite a powerhouse. Even today, Bellevue is still a sports powerhouse with a football ranking in the top ten nationally. I followed this movie because it includes teams I’ve known about first in my former home of the Bay Area (De La Salle) and my present home of the greater Seattle area (Bellevue). The movie gives a very good moral about what happens when the chips are down. The appeal of the movie isn’t when the team was winning. The appeal is when they have to bounce back from losing. After all, who likes to lose?
I think as Americans, we love to win, even sometimes at all costs. Christians are no exception. Recently, we first have the scandal of the boy who after all didn’t go to heaven. Before that, we have Mark Driscoll’s fall through a number of mishaps (e.g. plagiarism, abuse of authority etc.). Lest you think that I’m harping on conservatives only, I am not. The latest storm actually came out of the progressives, implicating some big-name leaders. There’s one thing in common with all these events: money is involved.
When stuff like this breaks, two reactions typically happen. One, someone will denounce the wrongdoing. Two, someone will defend the wrongdoer calling him a “good guy” etc. The troubling thing about the recent events is that there’s far less condemnation of the progressives both among its own ranks and from the opposition. I’m not sure why. I’m sure somewhere along the line, personal interest is involved. After all, this is a game of reciprocation, profits and gains.
One thing is for sure. Recent scandals show that Christianity in America isn’t only in decline. It’s rotten to the core from every side. I’m not saying individual Christians are rotten, but the system, whether conservative or progressive, is rotten. It’s a system that is immune from public scrutiny. It is a system that negates accountability. It’s a system that acts more like the Illuminati than the organic Body of Christ. Unlike sports where the rules (besides making money) matters, this system rises above its own rule (i.e. biblical principles on integrity and righteousness). It urinates on the rules. The problem is not merely money. The problem is not merely sin. Both money and sin have been around since humans existed. The problem right now is the marketing machine that is part of the system.
In the internet age, we have a greater temptation to market ourselves not as we are, but as the way people want us to be. If enough of this marketing goes around, we will have rampant hypocrisy. This hypocrisy goes unchecked because of Christian tendency to worship celebs, even the most dysfunctional celebs who may abuse their family members at home or others in the public place, take illegal drugs, drink excessively or commit martial infidelity. We want to see the marketing image instead of who we really are, a bunch of messed up folks who need healthy Christian relationships. This machine generates success or the appearance of it. We love it.
At the moment, the silence about the latest scandal only confirms one thing. We love success more than God. God forbid if anyone or anything interferes with our appearance of success. With failure, we can stand to lose tens of thousands of dollars and we’ll then look less successful being poor. Poverty is not sexy, though speaking about poverty is. What we have here is integrity in crisis. Integrity is the first thing on the alter in a sacrifice to success. The machine generates success. We mustn’t let the machine wind down into its rusty sinful reality.
Back to When the Game Stands Tall. I love the movie not because it’s a mega hit. I love it because it deals with failure. In failure, we learn about honesty and integrity. We learn about pain and grow. The machine we create forbids that. Unlike a football game, we don’t have score boards to give us black and white answers for our successes and failures. It’s easier to hide when there’re no scoreboards. Yet, we aren’t keeping score. We’re dealing with real lives and issues that are far more significant than a football game. Yet, we do so with much less seriousness and integrity. If there’s a movie to be made about this moment of American Christianity, it may be called “When the Game Stands Short.” We don’t know the score. Neither do we care.