The night is waxing in cold, as the winter wind brings the baring of February's oft-forgotten teeth, at least for now. The living room still hangs with the haze of jambalaya that I slow-cooked yesterday, in honor of Tuesday the Fat. Andrew Osenga's throaty tenor warbles in harmonious cadence with my shivering as I warm up from coming in the door. It's still football weather. I think it will always be football weather in These United States. And yet, it is sometimes with a treacherous spirit that we compete. This past Saturday, the better part of the afternoon was engaged in the pitting of two church youth groups against one another in the friendly competition of flag football. And while the leaders got along well with the knowledge of the day's innocence, the students were admonishing their teammates in praise of mangling the members of the opposing team. To my knowledge, and to quote my wise fiancee, "The afternoon could have been better spent." While there are greater tragedies in the world by far, the division of the Body of Christ to whore ourselves out to idolatry of a game has the potential to rank well among crusades and inquisitions, at least in the eyes of our Lord, who gave us "a new command: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another." (John 13:34) Few things are more tragic than the hopelessness of the One Body which is meant to give Hope to the world. And still, just today, I listened and watched as a good friend of mine cast himself into disappointment and bitterness because of the loss of a basketball team. I approached him about it and was told that I don't understand. I've seen people who I know to be loving - in any other context - shout hateful things at television screens and become irate with strangers that they've never had the chance to meet, let alone know. I understand being a fan of something, even though I'm not a fan of sports on television (I like playing them with friends). And I also understand being so overcome by something that you feel indignation and rage toward those you love most when they disagree with you (even though it's not sports that I get hung up on). But I really don't want to be involved in something that is always on the verge of breaking out into a raging malice.
Maybe it's not completely mob mentality. I remember sitting in a wonderful BBQ joint called Sticky Fingers in Irmo, South Carolina, watching calmly and dispassionately as our air force induced "Shock and Awe" in downtown Bagdhad. I sat and consumed spare ribs at my leisure and watched on live television as people were incinerated as they slept. Maybe it's something more which has made us devalue life. Maybe we forget that we are real people who bleed as red as the next man. Maybe I forget to step back and see my brothers and sisters. Maybe I rest in the comfort of my delusion of irresponsibility to all of humankind to be loving as Jesus was loving. But I also know that the last time I was at my friends' house, their youngest son, Jonathan, played with me by taking my hat off and putting it back on my head. Jonathan has Downs Syndrome, but I've learned more of love and mortality from this 'broken' child than from many wise men put together.