Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Spectator Sport

Here's essentially what it boils down to, I think, and why it's so easy to lose sight of actual human beings in the world: we've made life into a spectator sport.

We've made life an event, instead of a journey. We watch it as though it were a game, not a drama. We choreograph a series of strategic movements, rather than purposeful motions. In sports terms, we call this a "play." And somewhere, we got the idea that this is all a game.

We're encouraged to have opinions on everything, whether it has any real impact on our life or not. Whether we have any real impact on it or not. Whether we're even close enough to the situation for it to be meaningful, were it not for the opinions. Whether we're even close enough to the persons involved for it to be personal. 

All you have to do is watch the news to see how this works. How many of these stories do you rightfully need to know about? Recently, there was the child pornography investigation of a pseudo-celebrity. On one hand, there is something to be said for the communal nature of justice. But on the other hand, there weren't a lot of people talking about justice. They were gawking. They were poring over the gruesome details. They were coming up with their own opinions about everything from how closely connected to his sponsoring company this individual truly was to whether or not he can be "cured." There were discussions not just of what the courts should do with him, but what his fellow prisoners should do to him. Somewhere, the lines got blurred between administering justice and passing judgment, and we're far too happy to pass judgment. 

But this story doesn't really impact the vast, vast majority of us. It shouldn't even be on our radar, except to know perhaps the way that justice was carried out. A man is supposed to be held accountable by his community, but we parade the evidences against him in front of the whole world. We're not his community, not in the sense that any of us have a real, personal connection to him. It's just spectator sport.

Or how about this one? A couple of weeks ago, a pastor's wife was murdered in Indianapolis. Since that time, I've seen people all over the country, and even in some cases, the world, speaking "authoritatively" about the case. They all seemed to know that the pastor was clearly guilty. There weren't a lot of discussions of the case itself, but there were a lot of character assassinations of the pastor. Even though there have been 2-3 other men now tied to the crime with DNA and other evidence, people continue to run the pastor through the mill. He could still be connected to it, they argue, and they're fairly convinced of this. 

On top of his grief, this pastor is now subject to avid "fans" of this sport of life who refuse to look at the replay and re-assess the facts. They saw it the way they saw it, and now, they're screaming from the stands. Booing. Calling for him to be pulled from the game. Because that's what fans do. They create their allegiances, and they stick to them. And when life is a spectator sport, the players get lost in the game.

We can keep going with these examples. There's a business establishment in some obscure town in Ohio that you've never heard of before it was plastered all over the Internet. They recently posted a sign about how "politically incorrect" their business is, and the media jumped all over it. Everyone's encouraging everyone to have an opinion about it. As if 1) you have the right to have an opinion, when this is not your community and 2) your opinion in some way matters. 

You don't. And it doesn't. 

Yeah, I said it. There are some things in this world, this postmodern, highly-subjective, individualistic world that you don't have a right to have an opinion about. And the truth is, these things are most things. Here's a good general rule: if the event is one you have to watch on the jumbo-tron, you're not close enough to it to have an opinion. Plain and simple. If the event is on that you have to stream from the comforts of your living room, you aren't close enough to it to have an opinion. If you're not close enough that the persons on the field could hear your voice if you spoke, you're not close enough to have an opinion. 

And if you're not close enough that the persons could hear you if you whispered, your opinion doesn't matter.

Life is not a spectator sport. It wasn't meant to be lived out in stadiums; it was designed for the streets. It's designed for communities of real persons, drawn together not by the opinions they have but by the stories their writing. Together. 

Don't get drawn in. It's tempting to look at this world and think you're supposed to form an opinion, that that's just what you're supposed to do. But that was never what you were supposed to do. Never. 

You were made to form community. Real relationships. Meaningful covenants. Not based on opinion, but rooted firmly in love. So love somebody already. Get close enough that if you whispered, they'd hear you. Then spend your life whispering.

Because the shouting is getting us nowhere. 

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