Renounce Your Fandom

I love sports (just ask my wife). But over the past year, I have grown increasingly frustrated with fandom. So frustrated in fact, I am about do something about it. I, Justin Camblin, hereby renounce my fandom. What do I mean by fandom? Fandom is the realm within sports were ordinary, seemingly respectable people wear the colors of their favorite team and root them onto victory. At least, that’s what fandom used to be about. Now those ordinary, seemingly respectable people have turned in to pugnacious pooh-bahs pontificating on things they know relatively nothing about. I can take no more of it.

The epicenter of my disgust is found in the Pharisaical moralism that has been revealed in the fan psyche. It is no longer possible to simply follow a certain team. You must also assail the moral integrity of all those associated with the rivals of your team. You are not a real fan of Team X unless you hate Team Y with every fiber of your being and point out how they are all moral reprobates. A majority of the time the hate directed at your team’s rival is based on factors that have absolutely nothing to do with the play on the field or court. They are moral factors or ethical factors. Allow me to expand upon what I mean with a few anecdotal tails from the Land of Fandom.

Here in the Bluegrass State, the University of Kentucky Basketball team is king. Fandom here is intense. And if you’re going to be properly initiated into the Fandom of UK basketball, here are two rivals you must hate: the University of Louisville and the University of Tennessee. Benign indifference will not cut it. You must hate these two teams. Yet, your hate and bile will always come from the moral and ethical failings of those rivals. This past summer, fan websites here in Kentucky reported, with glee, the sordid details of a tryst between University of Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino and some woman (not his wife) he met in a bar. This woman had attempted to extort Coach Pitino and in the course of the trial, the details of that unfortunate night were made public. This was fodder for weeks on the blogs and fan sites. It had absolutely nothing to do with the game played on the court. It had everything to do with trumpeting the moral failings of our rival in order that we might look better. It doesn’t end there. This past year has also seen several players from both the football and basketball teams of the University of Tennessee get into legal trouble for a sundry of reasons. In the build up to this past week’s UK/UT football game, those legal troubles were again trumpeted on the blogs and fan sites, complete with mug shots. You see, UT is nothing but morally deficient thugs. And don’t get them started on their fans. Rednecks and mullets…and you’d never see that in Kentucky. Us Kentucky fans are morally and culturally superior. Ethically superior as well; at least we think so.

Outside the UK realm of Fandom, we are not viewed as pure as we see ourselves. Exhibit A is John Calipari, our beloved basketball coach. Ever since Coach Cal (as he is affectionately known in the UK realm) came to Kentucky, a lot of hate and vitriol has been directed towards UK fans (some reporter said that UK fans would accept Hitler as coach, as long as he was winning, thus implying UK fans would trade the slaughter of 6 million Jews for a winning program). You see, apparently Coach Cal is a cheater. He is the only coach to have the distinction of having two Final Four appearances vacated from the NCAA record books. The first happened while he was at the University of Massachusetts. One of his players accepted money from an agent, which made him a professional and thus ineligible. The second happened at the University of Memphis. Apparently, one of his star players cheated on his SAT back while he was in high school, so he too, was ineligible. There it is folks, proof positive that Coach Cal is a dirty, rotten scoundrel and enough of a reason to shower the UK program and it’s fans with hate. If Coach Cal wasn’t reason enough, Kentucky’s basketball program does have a checkered past. They have cheated in the past and been caught (In fact, it was Rick Pitino, the man UK fans love to hate, that saved the program and brought it back to national prominence, but that isn’t mentioned too much anymore…softens the hate too much). So we’re not as pure as we’d like to think…bummer.

Perhaps this moralistic fandom is localized in collegiate athletics. Surely professional sport fandom would be far more civilized. Unfortunately, this realm of fandom is also polluted. For example, my favorite baseball team is the Boston Red Sox (followed closely by the Atlanta Braves). If you know anything about baseball, you know exactly who I am supposed to hate. The Yankees. Ever since the Red Sox sold Babe Ruth to the Yankees in 1919 and the Yankees became one of the greatest franchises in professional sports, Red Sox fans have hated the Yankees and their fans with an everlasting hate. While this rivalry is rooted a little more in the play on the field, the moralistic hearts have been revealed again; especially in the modern era. One such example of that moralism is Alex Rodriguez. Initially, he was hated because of his greed. Rodriguez currently has the richest contract in all of Major League Baseball. And Red Sox fans loved to point out his greed. They loved to point out how he wasn’t worth the money, that he couldn’t deliver when it counted. Not only did we hate Rodriguez for his greed, but the Yankee’s owner who gave it to him. George Steinbrenner was ruining baseball. He bought his championships, we said. He didn’t develop talent like the rest of the teams. Not only that, but he was a jerk. Tails of his rants and tirades can be quickly found. In fact, he was so dictatorial in his control over the Yankees, he once paid a man to dig up some dirt on one of his own players that he could use as leverage in negotiating a new contract. That got him suspended from baseball. Ole George was a real winner and Red Sox fans love to hate him for it. Back to Alex…he’s also hated because he is an admitted cheater. Ignore the fact that his talent is matchless in this generation, Red Sox fans (and others) love to talk about how Rodriguez used steroids. How anyone with any moral scruples could root for the Yankees is beyond comprehension for the average Red Sox fan.

No fandom is exempt, sadly. Lebron James is hated for stabbing an entire city in the heart on national television. Tiger Woods is hated for destroying his family with multiple adulteries. Michael Vick is hated for running a dog fighting ring. What is really interesting is, this moralistic fandom doesn’t end at the borders of sports. Politics, religion, fraternities, sororities, clubs and cliques all suffer from the malady of moralism. It effects every institution known to man because man is a moralist. We desperately need and want to earn our own salvation. We desperately want to be apart of something bigger than ourselves. So we give ourselves to all this things, all these functional saviors. Is it any wonder that we must assail the other functional saviors that are competing with the one we’ve chosen for ourselves? Should I be surprised that sports have been overrun by these incessant, bloviating, empty-headed blowhards that fill the internet?

What should we do? Renounce your fandom! Lay down these functional saviors. We are not citizens of the Big Blue Nation or Red Sox Nation, but “our citizenship is in heaven and from it, we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20). You see, I need to have my mind reoriented. My world does not rise and fall on the latest sporting event. I have a feeling that many of my friends could use that same reorientation. It’s easy to lose our minds (and our souls) when it comes to sports. It’s easy because we are so prone to love ourselves. What we need to remember is the gospel. We need to remember that we are no better than anyone. In fact, we are wicked. And no association can make us better than anyone. Apart from the grace of God, there is no salvation, no matter how high we build that tower. And that’s all sports can ultimately become. Another attempt at the Tower of Babel. So, renounce that fandom, and let’s spend our time reflecting on the only citizenship that will matter in the end. It sure will make watching sports enjoyable again.

~sdg

Fruit and Salvation

There are seven guys in my life group. So we decided that each guy would have a day to share a devotion with the rest of the group. The following is my devotional. I hope that God might use it powerfully in your life.

7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. 9 And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. 10 Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. – Matthew 3:7-10

 

This passage was in my daily reading last week and I had planned to use it today for my devotional. I thought it was interesting that Johnny chose to talk about the well-watered tree from Psalm 1. Verse 3 of Psalm 1 says that the tree yields its fruit in season. Here we find a warning from John the Baptist to the “trees” of Jesus day regarding the fruit that they are yielding. 

As I read this I thought back to our conversation last Wednesday when we talked about how good fruit is something that comes out naturally. Good trees produce good fruit. Bad trees produce bad fruit. To remind ourselves what I mean by fruit, let’s look at Galatians 5:22-24:

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

 

So that leaves me with a question. How do fallen, depraved and sinful people produce good fruit? We know that our human nature is bad, it is for sin, according to Galatians 5:17.

17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.

 

Ephesians 2 is more explicit:

1 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.

 

So how do bad trees produce good fruit? They become good trees.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. – 2 Corinthians 5:17


and

3 Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 4 Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into hismother’s womb and be born?” 5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of theSpirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” – John 3:3-8

 

There is a fundamental change. The word Paul uses is Metmorphoo. Which is where we get the English word metamorphosis. We go from ground crawling worms to winged butterfly. We are completely changed.

I believe there are many implications behind this. The first being that the modern western church is in trouble. Many who attend it’s services on the weekend are not saved. They are churched, not changed (if I can quote Jon Weece). And church (used in its generic Sunday morning service sense) will not save you. If anything, it will make you a mean spirited, closed-minded fool who drags the name of Christ through the mud.

I think the second implication is that we need to watch ourselves very closely. If we do not see the fruit listed above in Galatians, we need to ask ourselves some serious, sobering questions. Daily, we should be examining ourselves, looking for fruit. Remember, the axe is laid to the root of the trees not bearing good fruit…fruit in accordance with repentance. Jesus’ words in Luke ring loud and clear:

34 “But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap. 35 For it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth. 36 But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.” – Luke 21:34-36

 

Praying that I stand with you all on the last day,

~sdg