Beliefnet
The Bible and Culture

It is not unusual to hear super star athletes give their testimony of how they have given their lives over to Jesus. But few of them have come immediately after pleading guilty to federal crimes. Today at his post plea agreement news conference Michael Vick stood up and took responsibility for all that went down, and said that during this time he had sought forgiveness from Jesus and turned his life over to God. Here is the link to the video highlights—

http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/news/story?id=2992890

Michael said that going forward the focus would be on Michael Vick the man, not the football player. He apologized to all the kids he had let down, and told them to learn a lesson from his immaturity and bad judgment. He denied nothing, and accepted responsibility for everything, casting no aspersions on his fellow defendants.

Watch the video, and see what you think. Should we believe the man who lied to everyone that matter until his co-defendants decided to rat him out? Is this the new contrite Michael Vick, on his way to prison and an orange jump suit instead of an Armani 3 piece suit? We must hope so. And what exactly went wrong? Why did a million turn to dog fighting when he had plenty of thrillers and spills on the gridiron? Where did he go wrong? There are a lot of contributing factors, of which I will list just some:

1) money is power, and it also is intoxicating, especially a lot of money. People begin to believe that they can do anything, buy anything, get away with anything because they have the money. They begin to believe they are not like the average person, are immune to tarnish or harm, or can pay lawyers to get them out of tight scraps. They think they can ‘afford’ to be reckless, feckless, and just plain immoral and will not have to pay the price. The Michael Vick story tells us otherwise– it tells us as Numbers 32.23 once said “be sure your sins will find you out.” Or as Paul was to put it in Galatians “whatsover a person sows, that shall they reap”. Sooner or later, sin comes a cropper.

2) A second problem here is the cult of personality, and the idolizing of sport’s stars, putting them up on pedestals as if they were role models. For the most part they are not and shouldn’t be viewed that way. But with sports omni-present on TV and sports stars making huge money, sports stars become vicarious heroes of the wanna bes. If your favorite player does this or that, then you think, ‘well if its alright for him, it bound to be alright.’ This is the logic of teenagers and young adults looking for approval, a sense of self worth, even a measure of premature fame.
3) And unlike Biblical culture, our culture is fixated on youth. ‘Youth must be served’ is our motto. So we watch endless programs with the young and the restless– swimsuit models with barely any swimsuit and barely old enough to be beyond being called ‘jail bait’, young athletes, young this and young that. We even made up a phrase for it— ‘the Pepsi generation’. How very different this is from the culture of the Bible where it was the oldest and wisest who were most revered in society, and youth was deemed to be wasted on the young, who were too immature to appreciate such life and vitality. And here is an important Biblical point— the person to be admired is the one smart enough to realize that youth and beauty are fleeting and vain, and cannot be recaptured once gone, but eternal life, is forever. Life is not too short when its eternal, and you have the gift of eternal life.

4) A fourth problem, and it really is a problem is ‘gangsta culture’ where we idolize and emulate the bad boys and bad girls of society. Youth think that this makes them macho or tough, when all it really does is make them jaded and used up and abused before they are even old enough to vote. It hardens them against all the possible good influences out there in the world. Rap culture is of course wrapped up in ‘gangsta culture’ but it does not have to be. I have met Christian rappers who are more like beat poets or even prophetic voices without the usual expletives and some of what they do is positively interesting and creative. Of course much of this culture has grown out of the inner city problems in the ‘hood, but surprisingly enough it has been embraced by suburban and urban kids who have not had it rough growing up, but rather embrace the culture as they think it makes them cool, or tough, or more likely to be looked up to by their version of the in crowd.

All of this was in play in Michael Vick’s case, and it produced a not unexpected tragedy. Here is a young man tremendously athletically gifted who let all those who love him down, and most of all let himself down by allowing himself to be swept up by the siren song of trying something ‘bad’ and ‘dangerous’, and ‘on the edge’. Not to mention involving cruel, and wicked abuse of animals.

I do not know what will transpire with Michael Vick, but I do know we should pray for him. I do know that I hope he has embraced the Lord and truly sought forgiveness. I do hope his momma is right about him.

In the meantime, it is not enough to sigh a sigh of relief and say “there but for the grace of God go I.” In the meantime, we should look in the mirror and ask how we have been enablers of such dark and dangerous behavior, by financing such stuff. And this of course involves our stopping from supporting such stuff with our entertainment dollars, or even our regular dollars.