LeBron James & Discipleship

As many of you know, LeBron James has been getting alot of attention these last several months (for those of you who don’t know who he is, click here).  A couple days ago he announced on a sports network where he was playing next season, which drew huge television ratings & generated much controversy. 

Being a sports nut, I have been been spending some time keeping up with the story, having the token water cooler conversations about it, etc.  In a recent convo over facebook I had a friend mention to me that he had seen this status posted by someone: “Brothers and sisters, remember that were were created to worship Jesus, not Lebron James.”  This apparently was meant to remind us to not care so much about sports, at least not more than God. 

While this seems like a fairly innocuous comment, it really strikes a nerve in me.  Beside the banality of the comment itself, and leaving aside some of the issues attendent with being a “social media prophet,” this comment frustrates me b/c it betrays what Stanley Hauerwas calls a sentimental understanding of Christian discipleship.  To get the essence of what he means by that term, check out this video (note: this is my 1st Hauerwas vid i’ve put on this blog.  If swearing offends you, proceed with caution b/c Hauerwas, who is a professor at Duke, does not share your conviction): Sentimentality from The Work Of The People on Vimeo.

Now obviously there is a lot jammed into 3 minutes there that is worthy of discussion in itself, but I want to focus on his main points of the accomodation of the church to culture & the sentimentality of its morality. To be blunt, the facebook prophet’s quote is paradigmatic of Hauerwas’ point. We will decry people spending several hours over 2-3 evenings discussing & analysing a pro basketball player’s decision regarding where he will play next year, but often when it comes to the pervasive ingrained sinful habits we all have, greed being an apt example, the facebook prophet falls silent because (a) s/he has capitulated to culture on this broader issue, and/or (b) doesn’t even possess a vocabulary for how critique it. We feel like we have some sort of moral compass b/c we see the “issue” with someone being temporarily being obsessed with a basketball player, all the while missing the real carrot that blindly leads us around daily & kills our souls.  Riffing on Chuck Klosterman, one could argue that the very reason we make critiques and judgments on these sort of matters is because it enables us to feel like we actually do possess some type of moral compass culturally and individually.  Christians are not immune to this reality, thus the appearance of the facebook prophet.  S/he gets to (a) feel better about themselves knowing they posess some type of moral instinct, (b) judge the world & “weak” Christians, & (c) not actually engage in the deep realities of discipleship. Cheap discipleship facebook prophet, much too cheap.

It would be easy at this point to dismiss my borderline rant by pointing out that I am too upset by this. This is entirely possible, but I don’t think so because if this type of interaction forms even a substantial part of our prophetic discourse then we, and here i refer to both churches and individuals, need to do a serious rethink. Is it possible that people being overly interested in LeBron James reveals the triviality of our culture? Absolutely, but until we are able to take out the deeper accomodating logs in our own eyes (can we even name them?), then we have already conceded the game. By centering much of our critique at the level of a temporary media frenzy we merely reveal how blinded we really are to the broader structural issues in society that Christians need to stand against, issues of real substance. At best, this quote reveals a misguided view of spiritual formation, & at worst is blatant hypocrisy.

Brothers & sisters, let’s care about stuff that really matters.

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