Friday, March 23, 2007

The Other Side of Dungy

Tony Dungy, head coach the Super Bowl champion Indianapolis Colts, recently spoke at a meeting of the conservative Indiana Family Insitute, a group which endorses a constitutional ammendment banning gay marriage. In his comments, Dungy spoke in favor of the group's endorsement. "I appreciate the stance they're taking, and I embrace that stance," Dungy said. "We're not trying to downgrade anyone else. But we're trying to promote the family - family values the Lord's way."

His comments reminded me of his words immediately following his team's victory in January's Super Bowl. He spoke of how the credit for the victory should go to God and that he was proud to show that people could win doing things the Lord's way.

No doubt his comments in January took courage. Jim Nantz and others certainly did not ask him such questions as "Tony, what divine being, if any, should receive the glory for the Colts victory?" It took an act of intention to mention God in the postgame interview. It always takes intention to mention God's name these days, as the easier, safer, and completely acceptable path is to avoid all mention of the divine.

However, Dungy's post-Super Bowl remarks met with great laud from the media. Using tone and diction only reserved for the death of someone linked to football, Chris Berman and Tom Jackson spoke of how happy they were to see a man of integrity finally win the big one. Everyone was happy for Dungy and spoke well of him. Regardless of their religious affiliation, they respected his faith - or at least the socially acceptable way of doing things to which he subscribed.

The things of Christ do often find favor in the eye of a secular world. Very few have a beef with the goals of the Christ-motivated organization World Vision which labors to alleviate child poverty in numerous countries all over the world. When the joy that Christ gives to his followers spills over into moments of laughter with those around them, the world is eager to share, even if they do not recognize the work behind the joy. Our society founds itself on submission to judicial law (except in the instance of bookstore shoplifting where vigilante justice is necessary), and the Christian worldview encourages following these laws.

Thus, Dungy found praise from the masses after the Super Bowl for doing things the Lord's way (or "the right way," as the pundits said). This was right and good. Praise God.

Fastforward to this week where Dungy's comments showed the other reality of the Christian life. Regardless of our opinions on the proposed amendment, we must agree that one finds very little favor when speaking out against it. Dungy is a smart man. He knew, and knows, this. The easy way out would have been to avoid the situation or, at the very least, give lipservice to the safe opinion, the one that would land him in the least amount of trouble with the people with microphones.

But this is not the reality of the Christian life.

The point here is not the opinion Christians "should" have on this issue. I have my opinion, but minds much greater than mine disagree. The point here is that Dungy's conviction moved him to say something unpopular, and he refused to rationalize that away. I have not had the privelege (ha!) of watching hours of ESPN this week, so I do not know how this is currently playing out in the media. Given the respect Dungy commands and the humility with which he speaks, I do not know if people are castigating him. I imagine no one is supporting his comments though (see the Colt's organzational comments, complete with impotence, within the above article). Except for maybe Tim Hardaway. But when has that ever helped someone's image?

While the message of Christ is beautiful and attractive, it also separates us from the world. The Bible is full of identities for the followers of Christ - aliens, strangers, foreigners - which we have daily opportunities to experience. Eating lunch with someone who is alone, losing the validation, acceptance, and "friendship" of mean girls. Speaking a worldview of sin into an educational system founded upon the shifting sands of humanism. Proclaiming the Gospel to those who find it the scent of death.

I do not know Tony Dungy, but from what I see, I love the man. I said as much in my blog post after the Super Bowl. I loved him then because he spoke in a manner that represented my religion in a positive light to the world, communicating many of the things for which my Savior stood and died. I love him even more today, not because of the debatable political position he took, but because his example reminded me to stand firm for our God.

Even when he knew there would be no applause.

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