|HE RECENT WORLD Cup soccer tournament was a cause for celebration among the sport's faithful. It was also a delicious target for those who don't understand the game.|
I know several people who not only don't like soccer, but hate it.
I've read of several sports writers who, at the very least, don't find it remotely entertaining. A typically American reaction, yes, but it also reveals much about the human condition.
We mock what we do not understand. That's why most Americans find soccer boring and/or pointless. They certainly won't make the effort to learn about the game and its rich cultural underpinnings. Soccer is more than just a game, but Americans are mostly blind to that. I do not exaggerate when I say that soccer is an expression of particular cultures -- Brazilians live and play with flair; Germans live and play with stoic determination; Angolans live and play with hopeful desperation.
Right or wrong, soccer is a defining element of many cultures. These people find a hidden beauty in what seems to be a slow-moving pinball game occasionally tilted by a brief, but usually unproductive, rise in tempo and intensity. These people understand the struggles and joys and wildly undulating fortunes so unique to soccer.
I hope this apologia has not over-romanticized the sport. It is just a game, after all. But to mock something that someone else holds dear is rather insensitive; nevertheless, we do it often.
Martin Luther King, Jr. and his fellow civil rights activists were mocked -- and more -- because certain people didn't understand blacks and their culture. Ignorance breeds disdain, even hate. Were people to scrutinize and educate themselves about what it is they mock -- be it a person, a game, or a religion -- they would then have to a) admit their error, and b) make the effort to form a more proper opinion of what they once ridiculed.
Unfortunately, some see knowledge as a license to mock, because they feel they can adequately refute any argument legitimizing the object of their ire. This is just as wrong.
Religion is often a magnet for mockers. Christianity has been so since Jesus began his Earthly ministry. He was a tough cat to figure out; one moment He's telling inscrutable parables, the next He's telling Pharisees that they don't recognize the Son of God though he is speaking to them. You bet He was misunderstood, and therefore mocked by those who eventually murdered Him.
Am I reaching too far with this soccer/Christianity parallel? No, because mocking, no matter its victim or intent, always bubbles up from the cauldron of hate that simmers deep inside each of us (it's there even in me, even in you; its intensity is a matter of degrees).
When we mock, we reveal a deep insecurity about what we're mocking. In some way, this thing makes us uncomfortable, maybe even scared.
One thing Christianity can do is scare you. Accepting Christ's words as truth means one must admit to the innate, epidemic and incurable sinfulness of each human. It means emptying oneself of pride, selfishness, callousness and all the other human properties the fall introduced. That's a daily struggle for me, and it's terrifying at times. It means letting go of control, thus letting go of my desires and my perceptions of how reality ought to be.
Many who oppose Christian ideas mock for two reasons: 1) They don't understand the Gospel message, or 2) they understand it well and hate its implications. In doing so, they're revealing true human nature.
When confronted with people or events or ideas that challenge my worldview, I have learned that to mock is a fruitless endeavor. For example, though I believe homosexuality is wrong, I have no right to verbally attack those who hold opposing views. What I've tried to do over the years is learn why some people become homosexual, and why they have no moral qualms about it. This doesn't mean I've accepted the lifestyle as a healthy one -- my conviction there is as strong as ever -- but I've learned that I can dialogue respectfully with those who disagree with me.
It's not easy to step out of the mocking throng, because the crowd may turn on you for not joining them. If you mock in return, then you're no better than them, even if you know the truth.
Brad Locke (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a sports journalist in Tupelo, Mississippi.
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