Watching the college football championship game being played in Arizona last night, felt strange to me, sort of like returning to the scene of the crime to throw a party. There was nothing to be done–or I haven’t thought of it. We needed a good game, but why did it have to be in Arizona? It was almost as if the Fates had conspired to make us endure the tragic comedy in which old people and a little girl are shot down in cold blood and football players proudly cant their praise to the god of football. Who can blame those who curse this god and any and all faith? What kind of universe would this be if it were true that God was too busy deciding football games to bother with saving little girls from crazed gunmen?
This world is a sad enough place, a place where little girls die every day, killed by crazed gunmen, by abuse, famine, and disease. The football god could care less about them, frail and weak as they are. He, and the football god is definitely male, favors the powerful, the swift, and the highly skilled. As one who has held the dying, I want nothing to do with this god, the god of the victors, this god who intervenes to determine the outcome of games. Damn these games and their god. I have wished with everything in me that this god would save the little one clinging to life, would rescue the innocent, would bring back my dear little one, but this god does not live beyond the football field. No matter how much I may wish He did.
Instead we are left to the devices of a very different God, a God who is the god of losers, who indeed is a loser. This God did not save Mary’s son from the cross. Many are quick to point to the resurrection of Jesus as a sign of God’s victory, and I don’t disagree, but in doing so we must take care not to confine the cross to ancient Judea. No, the cross reveals the strange wisdom of God–a wisdom that the Apostle Paul says suffers crucifixion. History if full of crosses as again and again the innocent are crucified at the hands of the powerful, the powerful who are sure they are right in what they do.
In the face of such power, God is revealed as the One who suffers defeat and in so doing is the greatest of kings, the king of hearts. This God calls us–on every good Friday–to take up the cause of the defeated and look for God’s redemptive hand, not in triumph but in and through loss, bringing about new possibilities for life, even in the shadow of darkness. Who can say what this will be right now? It may mean sensible gun control, or cooler rhetoric, but whatever else it may mean it will surely mean living into peace. This, and not football championships, is the work of the Lord who suffers to bear with us every step of the way.
David True, Ph.D., is Associate Professor of Religion at Wilson College, Chambersburg, Pa. [email protected]