In my last post I mentioned Rick Reilly's conversation with Isaac Bruce about his accident. I found the book and the exchange. In two days both Isaac Bruce and Derrick Thomas were in car accidents - Isaac Bruce came out fine but Thomas was paralyzed. Here's an exchange between Reilly and Bruce.
"Do you ever thinkg about Derrick Thomas and say 'that could be me?'"
"Oh, no, not at all," Bruce says.
"Why not?" I ask.
"Because as I was flipping I threw my hands off the wheel and called Jesus' name."
"Does that mean God doesn't love Derrick Thomas?" I ask.
"Oh, no," Bruce says. "I don't know what Derrick said as his car was flipping."
"What about Payne Stewart? He was a Christian man. Does that mean that God didn't love Payne Stewart?"
"I have no idea what Payne Steward said in that plane that day."
"Well, are you saying if Payne Steward had invoked the name of Jesus Christ, he'd be alive today?"
"What about the Columbine High student who was asked by one of the killers if she believed in God? She said yes, and he blew her away. How can that be?"
"You don't know what she said, do you?"
"There were witnesses."
"But you weren't there, right?"
Then, Reilly closes his column with this line:
Two men. Pray for them both.
I'm not griping at Bruce because I think he should have some kind of survivors guilt. In fact, I would be willing to praise God with him for letting him survive this accident so unscathed. I also won't buy it if some well-meaning Christian accuses Rick Reilly of baiting him in order to mock Christians. The fact is that Isaac Bruce has bought into the Gospel of the American Dream. Missiologists warn us of the dangers of syncretism - going to foreign countries and "sync-ing" the religions and cultures of foreign lands with Christianity. But, here in America we have synced Christianity and the American dream. We believe in the gospel of personal peace and affluence (as Francis Schaeffer described the dominant worldview) which says that God's favor is shown by showering his children with peace and affluence. Bruce has bought into this hook line and sinker. I'm not asking that Bruce become a theologian or Bible scholar, just that, if he speaks for Christ, he be more circumspect in his speech.
This is a good reminder to us in the Christian community to be very careful about idolizing these "Christian" athletes. I am thrilled for everyone who becomes a Christian, athletes included. The problem is that, at best, their fame and wealth usually stunts their growth in the faith, and at worst, it exposes them to unusual temptations that can bring shame on them and the Christian community (a' la Eugene Robinson and his little fling with a prostitute the night before the Super Bowl). The problem is that the breadth of their public platform is usually far greater than the depth of their spiritual maturity. Nuff said.