Religion as Team Fandom

Coble and I were talking a little bit on twitter about this last night and I still don’t have my ideas fully formed. But I do think that there’s a large segment of our population for whom being a Christian is like being the fan of a sports team. You just wear the right things and know the in catch-phrases and spend part of your Sunday really paying attention to it and just like “We are Marshall!” you are a Christian.

I’ve been thinking about that since I read this story of a woman who refused to give her raped daughter Plan B. You know, I actually have great sympathy for the person caught at the intersection of “here’s what I think would be the right thing to do” and “here’s what my religion says is the right thing to do.” But I think what’s catching me up is that this woman doesn’t seem to actually be at that intersection. It’s not just that some of the details are strange–what women’s shelter does sexual assault exams? It’s not just that this seems like an incredibly difficult thing for her daughter to go through, regardless of the outcome, and putting your name to her story–in other words, identifying her–without her consent is really problematic. It’s not just the judgmental tone that the woman takes about her daughter’s birth mother (a story that I, sorry after knowing what my cousin went through with the dishonesty of her Christian adoption service, would not put full faith in, if I were that mother.

It’s that, if you really felt caught at the intersection between “here’s what I think would be the right thing to do” and “here’s what my faith tells me is the right thing to do,” you would be grieving your difficult choice. You’d be questioning whether you made the right decision.

I believe, truly, that God calls on people to do difficult and counter-intuitive things.

But I know that, when called to do that, it can be very isolating and lonely.

Faith isn’t always a firm bridge over a calm stream, you know? Mostly it’s a tightrope walk over a raging gully.

If you can brag on the internet about how easy it was for you to make it from one side of your problem to the other, I have to think that’s more about reaffirming your Jesus-fandom with other Jesus fans than it is about your faith.

15 thoughts on “Religion as Team Fandom

  1. B., before you can even get to the rest of her decision-making, you have to acknowledge that her ‘moral dilemma’ begins with a flat-out lie:

    The nurse told me the antibiotics she’d administered, that we’d need to wait some time for HIV testing, and then handed me a box – Plan B, and told me we had 24 hours to use it.

    So there it was. The whole moral conundrum of abortion in a little green box in my hand.

    Plan B is NOT an ‘abortion pill.’

    This story, to me, rings more about the fundamental dishonesty at the heart of the anti-woman, anti-choice agenda. It doesn’t matter if the woman bragging is stupid enough to believe all the lies, or if she’s just lying because she wants to show her team pride (at which point I defer to your point); the dishonesty is no less reprehensible.

    But to your point about what ‘God’ wants of people: if your god wants you to put your own child in a world of hurt based on some easily disprovable lies, then your god is a piece of shit and you’d probably better go shopping for another one.

  2. I have thoughts on this. I have *lots* of thoughts on this–none of which are really appropriate for the permanency of teh interwebs, but remind me next time I see you.

    Because. . . yeah.

    Oh, but here’s something I will say: this reminds me tangentially of Tebow’s mom’s “decision.” Not her DECISION, per se, since she didn’t have one due to the law of the land where she was, but how discussing that “decision” was supposed to be some kind of flag to wave. Some kind of signal. Go team!

    Calling stuff like that “religion” is pretty disingenuous.

  3. I dunno. I do see the team-flag-waving, signifying aspects of this story in particular, and of the kind of behavior B and Sam are talking about in general. But it seems to me (maybe incorrectly) that there is in this sort of “religious”-speak the unstated goal of ultimately forcing everyone to be on the same team. Which is different than supporting a team which is going to lose some games along with winning some. I mean, if Marshall is the only team, it can’t win anything — but these stories so often feel to me like something tending towards “and someday there will be only our team.” Which is scary. but I think that if we say “oh, these folks use their religion as a bumper sticker” we elide the danger of the harm they can do. (Although the bumper sticker part is true as well.)

  4. The problem with the TeamThink (and this is what I couldn’t go into on Twitter with its handcuffs of brevity) is that it comes with Zero-SumThink.

    I am a devout Christian. The lion’s share of that is a calling to love and serve _everyone_ you encounter in whatever way possible. (Unless of course I have misunderstood Jesus in some way and “Love your neighbour”; “He that loveth not knoweth not God for God is love” and “do unto others” and “do unto the least of these” mean something different than I think.)

    Unfortunately by bringing politics–the original Zero-Sum game–into the Church we’ve turned much of the Church into a place where folks are actively rooting for the destruction of everyone who doesn’t accept Jesus and claim modern Evangelical Christianity (no Catholics or Lutherans or !God Forbid! Episcopalians need apply). I would link to quotes but Akismet would put me in an irreversible spam jail, because not a day goes by without one of the Christian blogs I read having at least one commentor advance the whole “won’t it be funny when these unbelievers are in HELL!!!!” POV.

    We are REJOICING at the assumed _eternal damnation_ of other people because those people have hurt our feelings in an internet argument or a talking head segment on O’Reilly Factor.

    I feel a lot like a kid whose parents left her and her brothers and sisters home alone for the weekend and the siblings are throwing a huge kegger because who cares what mom and dad wanted us to do while they were gone…this is fun and cool and we aren’t going to get punished because Mom and Dad love us. My siblings are trashing my Parents’ house.

  5. NM, no what I’m trying to get at is that there’s some way people have of relating to their religion that allows them, when they read a rule as straight-forward as “Thou shall not lie” to say things like “abortion causes breast cancer” or “Heterosexual people practically can’t get HIV.” Those aren’t non-harmful statements. Neither is relating to your religion in some way that allows you to publicly brag about how your daughter was raped, but you’ve decided that you won’t prevent her from getting pregnant from it.

    It’s literally fanaticism. But when we hear “fanaticism” I think we envision guys with bombs strapped to their chests, waving their machine guns in the air.

    What I’m thinking is that it’s important to see how fanaticism functions like fandom. Plus, if Marshall is the only team LEFT at the end of the game, they win by default. It’s not a coincidence that these are people who are trying to bring about the end of the world or believe it to be imminent.

  6. “It’s not a coincidence that these are people who are trying to bring about the end of the world or believe it to be imminent.”

    Very true–destroy the world to save souls, destroy your child’s future and privacy in order to win points with other heartless fanatics…it’s all part of the same pattern.

  7. B, I agree that it’s fanaticism. But fandom … OK, I’m a Cardinals fan. I grew up with them winning and winning, and I expect them to win more often than not, and there’s many a spring training when I (usually wrongly) expect them to win their division (at least) that year. But even when they win the division, and win the pennant, and win the World Series, that victory lasts only until the next year. Even the chest-thumping joy I sometimes feel about them always has that unspoken reservation as part of it. And I think that’s normal, isn’t it? So in that very important way, I think that the sort of misuse of religion, this flouting the guidelines of religion in the name of religious victory, is something completely different from fandom. You acknowledge that people who act this way are often apocalyptic; fans say “wait till next year.”

    So, yeah, it’s religion used as branding (“more people like Coke than Pepsi, so you should prefer Coke, too”). But to compare it to fandom trivializes it and takes away the urgency of it.

  8. Not to weigh in on the faith thing here, but actually I hadn’t read about the Plan B story so thanks for cluing me in on that one.

    That story just reeks of bullshit to me. It just screams “Bible camp theater project.” The whole “my daughter was brutally raped but I wouldn’t give her Plan B because she was adopted, and what if her mother had done that to HER?” So neat and tidy with its moralizing. Straight out of a Bible tract.

  9. I confess, B., that I occasionally don’t read the follow-links because they make me too irate (case in point, that Stacey Campbell thing last week.) I didn’t read the one here until my curiousity overcame my prudence.

    Now having read it, I am with Southern Beale. It feels too pat.

  10. Unless it’s a prank by a liberal trying to discredit anti-choicers (as if that would be necessary), then I think everyone’s points still stand. It would still be dishonesty in the name of piety (or whatever).

  11. Religous allegiance has always been a bat with which to hit someone over the head. And, in the case of the Inquisition and various and sundry pogroms, often a whole lot more. The basic problem with all of this stuff is, and has always been, humility.

    Basically, no one has any.

    And if there’s is anything that comes through the Gospel loud and clear, besides “Love God and love thy neighbor”, it is to be humble before God. Unfortunately, Christianity has always had something of a martial quality to it, and for that, I kinda blame St. Paul.

    Anyway, one of my favorite of Jesus’ admonitions is in Matthew 10:16, “Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.” We need a little more “harmless as doves” in the world, IMHO.

  12. I think the most important thing to me about all of this, is the disabled girl who was so brutally hurt. Everyone is debating the issue. What about the person who was actually hurt? Does religion, church, or theology do us any good, when a poor girl cries alone in the dark night after night because she is terrified of reliving her rape in dreams? Brutal rape usually causes PTSD and severe depression. This girl could end up killing herself. She’s been used already. Please, can we just stop using this issue like she has been used?

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