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By TED SILLANPAA

It doesn’t concern me at all that Ravens star Ray Lewis seems to be a vocal and devout Christian. In fact, his relationship with his god is between him and his god. When CBS cameras showed him tearfully praising God on the sideline during the national anthem prior to the AFC Championship game, it didn’t bother me at all. And, I didn’t question his faith and gripe that he was putting on a show. I … just … didn’t … care.

Why does it so bother non-Christians when athletes mention or thank God, or praise Him in an interview? How does their expressing their faith prompt so many of us to become outraged that athletes are trying shove God down our throats? I can’t be the only fan on the planet who just lets it go in one ear and out the other.

Admittedly, I believe what Lewis believes. However, I’ve never been prone to public professions and displays of faith. I don’t believe for a moment that God has a rooting interest in the Super Bowl or in any other game. God, literally, knows that it’s not my job to use this space to explain my beliefs. I don’t want you to waste my time telling me I should believe what you believe either. So, I tend to ignore the post-game prayer circles and players who thank God for helping them win.

Why does it bother you?

Seriously. Why? Why do you, or your neighbor, hear some guy offer some form of praise to his or her god, and get angry. Are you that fan who smirks, “Ya’ never hear ‘em thank God after they lose,” or do you manage to just let them talk? (You realize, of course, that the thanks after a loss might come in more private moments.)

Even as I’m trying to avoid any Super Bowl hype, and it’s all hype because there is no news being made right now, I’m hearing a lot about Lewis and his faith-based histrionics. I know of Lewis and his troubled background, his brushes with the law. But, I don’t feel compelled at all to make his show of faith anything but legitimate and his own, his very own.

We’re all free to believe what we believe. I wouldn’t judge somebody who believes very publicly,  No need, either, to judge somebody with no belief at all. Free country. I wouldn’t judge somebody who feels like Lewis and other athletes are trying to force God on them.

I just don’t understand why their expressions of faith so anger so many fans.

 

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Comments

33 Comments

  1. KB

    I always get a chuckle when both teams pray for a victory.

    January 29th, 2013 1:29 pm

  2. overtime

    KB….If I was playing in the NFL today…I’d be praying I left each game and, maybe, got through every play, with my senses and body in tact. Ted

    January 29th, 2013 1:41 pm

  3. John

    Exactly who is this directed to? I personally haven’t seen any notable number of people complain. As far as I can tell no one really cares about this, so without examples this article seems like a strike at a straw man.

    January 29th, 2013 2:29 pm

  4. EspinoMaximo

    It bothers them Ted because it runs a grain to Marxist ideology.

    January 29th, 2013 2:39 pm

  5. overtime

    Espino…Thanks for reading. I appreciate you sharing a thought. TED

    January 29th, 2013 2:40 pm

  6. overtime

    John…Thanks for reading. I appreciate it. It’s written as I listen to the TV sports hosts…radio sports callers…those types of folks questioning whether or not Lewis was really crying in praise before the AFC title game. It’s a pretty common beef among fans who don’t like to hear expressions of faith from athletes or, really, from anyone else. Ted

    January 29th, 2013 2:42 pm

  7. cara

    I would hope that I would live my life in such a way to let others know where I stood and not need a bumper sticker proclaiming anything.
    Jesus said to pray quietly and humbly (basically ‘Don’t make show of your religion’). (Matthew 6:5 and 6)
    To those of us who simply believe what we believe and think it’s really nobody’s business what we believe, all this shrill posturing smells mighty like self-deception. I immediately suspect anyone I see making public displays. I think they’re trying to convince themselves, more than all of us, that their feelings are sincere. A take on the ‘thou hast protest too much’ theme.
    That being said, slow Ray Lewis is going to need divine intervention trying to cover Walker and Vernon Davis.

    January 29th, 2013 4:51 pm

  8. overtime

    Cara..Thanks for reading. I’m not going to engage in a battle of Bible verses, but the Bible seems to include encouragement to share your faith publicly. Why would an athlete’s perceived self-perception bother anybody? That’s, exactly, my question. We don’t know if an athlete’s making a “show” or sincerely expressing faith. Absent knowing, why is a bother at all? Ted

    January 29th, 2013 4:58 pm

  9. David

    It seems to me that you are the only sane person writing for the PD these days. Lowell Cohn ranted endlessly about the wooden cross that Mike Singletary wore around his neck. Some people feel the need to share their faith with the world and some don’t, to each his own. Too many people think that freedom OF religion means freedom FROM religion.

    January 29th, 2013 5:04 pm

  10. Loneraider78

    If not opportunistic, what is the media?

    Since the Ravens made this deep playoff run a lot of people–talk show hosts and writers mostly–have really zeroed-in on Ray Lewis, his persona, and what he was involved in 13 years ago.

    I’m not, and never have been, a Ray Lewis fan because I’m not a Ravens fan. I think he’s a great player–a HOF player–but I don’t care for his over-the-top style.

    However, I’m an even bigger non-fan of the opportunistic media, who has obviously deliberately targeted Lewis as a way to ratchet up the drama and sell some more newspapers.

    All the sudden EVERYONE wants to talk about Lewis’ involvement in the stabbing deaths of two men 13 years ago, which he was aquitted for, BTW. Doesn’t that mean anything? The justice system in Georgia concluded he was not guilty of killing anyone.

    I might have missed it, but I don’t remember anyone making a big deal out of this until now.

    Was it less important when the Ravens failed to reach the Super Bowl? Why is it the first thing everyone wants to ask questions about now?

    As far as his God, Ray Lewis is way too intense to be faking it. If that’s what helps him get through life that’s his business. Do I want it in my face? Not really, but it’s only a minor annoyance, just like those people that stop by my house every couple weeks trying to give me religious brochures. I deal with it kindly, and move on.

    January 29th, 2013 6:25 pm

  11. Toc

    I think it’s only displays of Christian faith that get some people out of joint. I doubt there would be one word in print about any non-Western display of faith–say, a Native American ritual or New Age incantation. It’s only anything to do with Jesus that will set leftists off their equilibrium.

    January 29th, 2013 7:07 pm

  12. overtime

    Toc…Thanks for reading and giving what, certainly, reads as an honest response. I’m not sure it’s a left v. right thing so much as a response based on whether somebody has faith of some sort. I’ve heard conservative-minded sports folks grind on about athletes expressing their faith. But, you’re point is still well taken. TED

    January 29th, 2013 7:40 pm

  13. overtime

    Loneraider…Thanks. Really appreciate your thoughts.

    Is the media opportunistic or is the media providing what the market demands? I’m in the business and the feeling has always seemed to be that fans in these 2, 3, 4 weeks want focus on the NFL, the NFL and nothing but the NFL. That requires the media to find people and personalities to feed fans’ insatiable hunger that I can’t begin to understand. The belief that fans can’t get enough Super Bowl stuff gets us people complaining about too much being made of brothers coaching in the Super Bowl … as they’re on TV or radio talking about brothers coaching in the Super Bowl. Today it got us … Randy Moss being interviewed by the national media that somehow got from him the proclamation that he, Moss, believes he’s the greatest receiver in NFL history. That became news. So … could the media be giving fans what they want? Or, could the media be misunderstanding the level of pre-Super Bowl interest based on the extreme interest in the game itself? TED

    January 29th, 2013 7:48 pm

  14. overtime

    David…In the event representation will somehow enhance what’s left of my career … can I give you a call? I appreciate the high praise that, maybe, I have a “sane” view of an increasingly insane world of sports. … I get into the debate about freedom from religion fairly often, unrelated to sports. Good point. Ted

    January 29th, 2013 7:52 pm

  15. Patrick O'Leary

    I guess I care about this because I question the sincerity of anyone’s public expression of faith, especially when they have been in legal trouble. My cousin Sam Toth recently wrote an article on his blog Ten Cent Beers. Here’s the link:

    http://tencentbeers.com/2013/01/27/ray-lewis-a-first-ballot-asshole/

    January 30th, 2013 9:04 am

  16. The Bat

    I agree with Cara; the constant proclamation of belief and faith smack of self-deception. I think the pre and post game prayer between players on the field is the most honest, unobtrusive act of religious belief in professional sports. Those men are truly praying for their continued health and safety -sometimes decided by inches and pure fate- and the health and safety of their peers and teammates. Both teams take part, and it shows both a dedication to the game and to each other in a positive and honorable fashion. I’m not bothered by expressions or vows of one’s religious beliefs, but I do roll my eyes a bit when I hear the phrase “God gave me the strength to…yada yada yada.” That proclamation seems to remove the human effort and fortitude from the equation. No, God did not give you the strength to do this. YOU did it, with your own strength, knowledge and determination. Perhaps your belief and faith in God helped you find the fuel within you, but that was still you. Not God.

    January 30th, 2013 9:21 am

  17. Huzhumuh

    I don’t really mind it, but sometimes it’s kind of annoying when a reporter asks them a simple question, such as, “Were they in man to man or zone?” and the athlete comes back with, “Well, first I just want to thank my Lord and savior, Jesus Christ, for all His blessings….” I don’t know what it is; it’s just, like I say, annoying. Kurt Warner was the worst.

    January 30th, 2013 12:12 pm

  18. overtime

    Huz…Thanks for reading and responding. If you give it more thought and a reason a sentence mentioning the athlete’s god bothers you, holler. I get what you mean, generally. TED

    January 30th, 2013 12:28 pm

  19. overtime

    The Bat…You’ve never heard Tim Tebow, arguably the mosted noted Christian athlete who professes his faith publicly, say he prays for victory. So, you and others are starting your theorizing from the false premise that athletes all pray for victory. The assumption is, I believe, that since they thank their god for all things (including a win) that they’re praying for a win in advance. I don’t believe that to be the case given my experience with athletes who pray before games. … If an athlete believes God gave him or her the strength, dedication, etc. to succeed — again, why is that of any concern to anyone else? I read your belief here and … it doesn’t bother me. I’m not upset that you took a moment to share your views. But … going back to Tebow … every time he mentioned his faith it really riled folks up.

    Why?

    Tebow never mentioned praying for a win or anything beyondthat he believes God gave him strength. I never heard him insist WE believe the same thing. Confusing issues. TED

    January 30th, 2013 12:34 pm

  20. overtime

    Patrick…Thanks for reading. Are we in a position to be judging why anybody expresses whatever their faith is? Someone else mentioned being bothered by expressions of faith being an act of self-deception. You question a public expression of faith for another reason. Seems like we could just ignore it, rather than questions very personal feels that briefly become public. Good thoughs…thanks very much. TED

    January 30th, 2013 12:37 pm

  21. Damone

    Ray needs to answer some questions instead of hiding behind god all the time.

    January 30th, 2013 12:59 pm

  22. overtime

    Damone…Thanks for reading. Are you suggesting that the judicial/legal system didn’t ask and get answers to enough questions about Lewis’s brush with the law? Or, do you think he should say more than that he didn’t use deer antler spray and get the benefits of HGH. I wonder why nobody’s asking how the 49ers’ Justin Smith came back even faster from a reportedly severe triceps injury? Athletes only answer questions they feel like answering…as you’ve gathered. TED

    January 30th, 2013 1:11 pm

  23. Frank P

    Most who followed the Ray Lewis case where members of his entourage murdered two guys outside an Atlanta strip club know that his well greased lawyers and his celebrity bamboozled local law enforcement.
    I wouldn’t call it a “brush with the law”. His pals stabbed and mutilated two men while Lewis stood there. Lewis then fled, destroyed his clothes (could they have had blood on them? we will never know) then got only one year probation for ostruction of justice after testifying against his friends. Except, even with his testimony the jury acquitted both guys. No one ever did time for those two murders.
    This article came out recently, for those unfamiliar with the Lewis saga, and who might think it was just “a brush with the law”, I suggest you read it.

    http://www.nypost.com/p/news/national/the_tarnish_on_ray_halo_YRCbY3bSvvbhKA5AvqpmbM

    January 30th, 2013 3:23 pm

  24. The Bat

    I think the widely held belief about Tebow not being NFL material, but suddenly gaining instant fame after coming off the bench and winning a few games in the way he did (not much differently than a couple runners/throwers we know) riled up NFL fans, and then his symbolic pose going viral (like another QB we know) seemed to pour a little lemon juice in their wide eyes. As for others, I don’t really know. People need something to get mad at, I suppose. And as for the praying for victory before games; I always got the impression that they, being the players who kneel in a group before and after games were praying less for victory, but more so for the health and safety of themselves and their peers as they go out and play a violent game. Maybe that’s my pollyanna attitude. As for me, I’m not overtly religious, but players proclaiming their faith doesn’t bother me. They are their beliefs, and in this country we’re entitled to the faith we follow.

    January 30th, 2013 3:55 pm

  25. overtime

    Bat…You got right what they’re praying about. … coaching and playing myself, I never heard anybody pray for a win. And, most every Christian athlete I’ve been around thanks God in victory and in defeat, they just don’t get interviewed on TV or radio after a loss. … Tebow’s expressions of faith have always been backed by his deeds so, again, why did they bother people? He didn’t MAKE fans video themselves in his prayerful pose … and if we’re talking about athletes bothering fans with symbolic acts, let’s not forget that Kaepernicking has gone viral and kissing his biceps isn’t an expression of anything beyond a desire to get max attention when he scores a touchdown. TED

    January 30th, 2013 4:29 pm

  26. overtime

    Frank…Thanks for reading. I know about the Lewis case. How did you get the impression that I didn’t follow it? I wasn’t going to tell the story here and it was a brush with the law … in this spot I wasn’t going to serve readers by describing it as you did, right? Thanks for the link. I’m sure folks will check it. He’s given heroic status despite all those things that you mentioned … yet fans and the media worry more about whether he’s faking faith in God. Interesting. TED

    January 30th, 2013 4:31 pm

  27. The Bat

    Yeah, Tebowing is now Kaepernicking; the irony is thicker than nineteenth century teapot, I know. You have my theories already; sometimes people just need a place to point their frustrations. Things get said, and in this age of everything from a TD pose to your eight-year old’s tantrum going viral in nanoseconds, we seem to know a lot more (maybe more than we should) about EVERYONE’S personal grievances, adorations, condemnations, etc. Hard not to come away from a discussion of this nature with an overall impression that we all, society at large, need to calm the heck down.

    January 30th, 2013 5:16 pm

  28. Huzhumuh

    “If you give it more thought and a reason a sentence mentioning the athlete’s god bothers you, holler. TED”

    Okay. It’s not really the mentioning of his (or her) god that bugs me so much as the answering of a question that nobody asked. Imagine if you answered the same question (man to man or zone) by saying, “Well, first let me just say I love the Beatles. They were the greatest band ever and their music has given me great joy and comfort over the years. But to answer your question, I’m pretty sure they were in a cover two.” People would think you were daft.

    P.S. For what it’s worth, I consider myself a Christian (as long as going to church isn’t required).

    January 31st, 2013 7:22 am

  29. overtime

    Huz…I get it, but I don’t understand it to the extent that if someone did answer a question as you described… most of us would ignore the mention of The Beatles with, at most, “That’s odd.” Now, more than ever, if we really were just getting twisted about athletes specifically answering specfic questions … we’d all go crazy. There aren’t many specific questions (“Talk about the third quarter”) and fewer specific answers.

    Coincidentally,another reader just asked if I was stating that DB Chris Culliver shouldn’t have the right to express his anti-gay views in a free society. Culliver’s free to express himself and most all of us agree, whether we agree with the guy or not. Lots of us who agree that a guy can take an anti-gay stance in our free country get tweaked that an athlete thanks God without being prompted.
    TED

    January 31st, 2013 12:19 pm

  30. Daniel Frankel

    I basically have no problem if a player expresses their faith–although personally it really should be private. Yet Ray Lewis is a thug, and his expressions of faith run counter to his actions as a person. All one has to do is see his involvement in a murder.

    To me it seems very convenient for a person to become Christian and then all is forgiven, particularly when you committed a crime. Religion to me is because of our fear of death, guilt, and is basically a crutch–because as humans we are weak and need this.

    February 1st, 2013 9:27 am

  31. overtime

    Daniel…Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts. Your thoughts regarding YOUR feelings about religion are interesting … yet, I still don’t understand how an athlete’s expression of his faith is problematic to people. For example, I don’t agree with the well considered view in your last paragraph, but I didn’t feel the urge to question your wisdom, sincerity, etc. Your last graph gives folks reason to pause and think … even me as I disagree with it. So … anyway … thanks for explaining your feelings. I really appreciate it. We all need to try harder to understand each other. Ted

    February 1st, 2013 12:27 pm

  32. ron

    My problem with Ray Lewis and his god comments are related to his past and his present. He will have to answer for his life choices no matter how well he tackles. great player, yes. great human being…not so sure of that. Not charged with murder in court doesn’t mean innocent of all charges. We don’t know what happened that night but god does. Good luck with that Ray

    February 2nd, 2013 10:21 am

  33. overtime

    Ron…You got it. It’s not my place to judge Lewis or anybody else regarding their faith. It makes me laugh when folks say, “I hate to be cynical….but…” and then offer really cynical assessments of displays of faith. I’ve never had one athlete’s display of faith hurt me at all. TED

    February 2nd, 2013 1:49 pm

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