Idol Chatter

I read Kris Rasmussen’s blog piece as well as the rest of Elton John’s religion-bashing interview, which has been all over the media the past couple of days, and I was stunned at what he doesn’t realize about, well, himself.

I’ve loved much of his music, especially the old stuff he resurrected for the Australia live concerts. But on this topic, E.J. doesn’t realize how his hatred of religion is not only as deep as the hatred of some religious people towards gays, but that his hatred is actually even the same kind of hatred. It is judgmental; it’s biased based on his own beliefs; and it’s largely uninformed.

“I think religion has always tried to turn hatred toward gay people,” he says. “Religion promotes the hatred and spite against gays.”

Now hear the same phrase as if posed from the other side:

“I think gays have always tried to turn hatred towards religious people; the gay agenda promotes hatred and spite towards the religious.”

Sounds like the same hatred to me.

Perhaps we need Bernie Taupin to save him and write a smoother way for E.J.’s compassion to shine forth… and perhaps he could also pen something for the churches who say they hate the sin but love the sinner. It’s a nuanced thought that goes beyond cliché for most, but the sentiment doesn’t seem to make it past the church walls.

Until we all–even Sir Elton–can disagree without demonizing the other “side” of any spiritually-driven debate, we’ll never have meaningful dialogue, or the potential agreement and healing that comes after.

According to Sir Elton John, the world could be a more compassionate place free of “hateful lemmings” if only all religion was banned. In an interview with Observer Music Monthly magazine, Sir Elton says that while he loves “the idea of the teachings of Christ,” he still believes that, as a whole, “organized religion doesn’t seem to work.”

With only a fleeting acknowledgment of the relief work being done in Africa with the help of many religious organizations, and with no recognition of the recent changes in the American Episcopal church regarding gays, the aging musician dedicated most of the interview to criticizing religous leaders and those who follow them.

As can be expected, John’s more flamboyant comments have been quickly picked up by conservative media outlets like The Drudge Report, leaving out the very few intelligent things John said toward the end of the interview. In the midst of his intolerant rant about the intolerance of religion, John does make a few coherent comments about the importance of citizens becoming more active in protesting social causes in the streets as opposed to online, and he articulates the need for more religious leaders to meet together to discuss world issues.

But for the most part, John sounds less like an informed activist and more like an aging Baby Booomer still stuck in the ’60s–someone who is more a part of the dreaded Establishment than he wants to acknowledge.

“Saturday Night Live” opened with this Nancy Pelosi impersonation–in which Kristen Wiig, playing the Speaker-elect, gives voice to every conservative caricature of (and fear about) Democrats, including the notion that liberals are anti-faith. “And whatever you might have heard,” Wiig says in a deadpan voice, looking directly into the camera, “the Democratic party is not anti-religion. Whether you’re a Wiccan priestess, a Druid, tantric Buddhist, servant of Moloch Lord of Fire, Presbyterian, or member of the cult of Kali, your faith will be respected, so long as no animals are harmed during your ceremonies….” Watch it here:

What’s the deal with the networks not wanting to show prayers on sports television? What is so bad about athletes trusting in–or at least pursuing–God?

After each game, when the fans are filing out of the stadium and the networks are switching to other games, players and coaches from both teams gather near midfield to pray together. Many of these players participate quietly in pre-game chapel services and the teams also have chaplains sponsored by local churches or Athletes in Action, a highly regarded national sports ministry.

The player-initiated tradition after the game is a wonderful sign of unity and faith, and it’s a reminder every Sunday that there are human beings and spiritual seekers underneath all those helmets and pads.

It’s really quite a sight, and if you don’t go to football games live at the stadium you’ll never even know what you’re missing. Why? Because the networks don’t show it. In fact, they go to great pains not to show it. Often, the cameramen will stand almost back-to-back against the circle of prayer in order to hide the group from the background of an on-field interview. Last night, the cameraman angled and zoomed in on Thomas Jones’ (Bears’ running back) head so that the prayer circle several yards behind him was hidden.

For years we’ve seen players acknowledging God after they score a touchdown or make a great play. According to the Christian Science Monitor, former Philadelphia Eagle Herb Lusk is believed to have been the first to kneel on the field after a touchdown. He did it in 1977. There are skeptics though, too. I’ve talked to several ex-NFL players who think a lot of the post-TD prayers are as much superstition as anything else. “Doug, you gotta understand,” one of them told me, “players will try anything if they think it’ll give them an edge in the game.”

But the post-game prayer is more than just a superstitious gesture after a touchdown–it’s an authentic attempt by players to reflect spiritually after having worked physically, mentally and emotionally all week long.

I guess the only real positive about the lack of coverage is that we know that the players aren’t doing it for show. But it’s a great tradition and a good piece of role modeling for kids and young athletes who watch the game, and I wish they’d show it more on TV.