Monday, February 17, 2014


As the world watched, T.J. Oshie from small town Warroad, Minnesota, in a “sudden death” shootout led the U.S. ice hockey team to a victory over the Russian team Saturday in a preliminary round at the Olympics.  The shootout was necessary to break the 2-2 tie.  The verdict was finally in after an amazing game. The cheering was loud all over the United States.

Also on Saturday, the verdict came in on another shootout, the case of Michael Dunn, shooting at a carfull of African American teenagers playing loud music in a gas station lot in Jacksonville, Florida. Because the verdict was announced during Saturday night prime time coverage of the Olympics I, like many people, almost missed it. The judge thanked the jury for their hard work. They had tried, but even after hours of overtime could not reach a verdict on whether or not Dunn was guilty of first degree murder of 17-year-old  African American Jordon Davis.  Sudden death.  Justice delayed.

The jury, however, did convict Dunn on 4 charges, three of attempted 2nd degree murder of the three other teens in the car.  One could cheer, or at least be relieved. Or be simply saddened.

A different kind of shootout: one a game, with a puck, and referees.  A shootout on the ice, both sides having their turn to win. In the cases of Trayvon Martin and Jordon Davis, they had no guns. They were attacked by another who carried a gun because . . . well, why?  In case he would need it if he was grieved, annoyed, thought he was afraid? In case someone was making too much noise? In case he thought someone was in the wrong neighborhood, should not be there, should not be?

We understand the motives for competitive sports. Are we beginning to take for granted the motives for murder?  Fear begets fear and guns beget guns.  We want to cheer for the United State of America. We  cheer more loudly when we win games. We will cheer more clearly when we no longer fear African American  males, particularly young ones, believing that fear and anger  gives license to take a gun and shoot, and then to continue to shoot.  Life is precious, given by a Creator God. Christ died and rose that we might not take death into our own hands but live in reconciled relationships. The Spirit empowers us to work for justice in the midst of systemic sin.

Obviously, although the words are similar, there is no direct comparison between these two stories. So we compartmentalize.  Watching the Olympics becomes a communal activity. So, too, when there is yet not justice for Jordon Davis, we are all called to address the underlying issues.

Ron Davis, Jordon’s father, said he had waited 450 days for this moment. "The whole world is looking at all of us here in Jacksonville.”   I hope so.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Is Competition Part of Creation or Part of the Fall?

So, did God create us to be competitive or not? We are midway between the Dubuque Winter Iowa Games where 5K participants Sunday faced an icy cold road running advisory and the  2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, running February 7-23, followed by the Paralympics March 7-16, which face the dangers of terrorist threats. Competition with the weather, and worse yet, guns and bombs, were not the plan for either games. 

But what about competition itself? The world will focus on the Olympics. Many of us will watch. Why? It may be the thrill of speed, the grace on ice. For me it’s seeing the flags of all those nations, large and small, as athletes of the world come together peacefully. Peacefully, we pray!

Not that the wars of the world will stop. Not that terrorist threats will go away. Some people have already been killed. Clashes of ideology abound. Plots to disrupt the games challenge a ring of steel and 40,000 and more security officers and guards.

People are peacefully protesting Russia’s anti-gay law and taking a stand with LGBT athletes and LGBT Russian people.

From a faith point of view, there are theological issues.  Did God create us to compete? Some cite “survival of the fittest,” believing that winning is everything. Others respond that competition leads to harm, even death, and is part of the “Fall” of humankind.

I believe God intended human beings for life-giving interdependence. God created us to grow and designed us to develop, to use all of our talents to the fullest potential. Stretching our abilities through healthy, fair competition can be a means to that end. Watching the Olympics and Paralympics is exciting. But focusing only on the medal count of one nation over another misses the joy of full engagement by all.

Author Bill Diehl wrote, “Jesus lived and moved in a competitive society just as we do.  But he was not hooked by the powers of competition. He did not need to compete.

Did Christ engage in competition? If so, with whom or why? Jesus came not to overpower. He turned competition upside down, saying that whoever wants to be great must be servant of all. He was victorious, but not over human beings. He conquered death, but not for his own sake. For ours. The core of the resurrection life is not competition, but community.  May the Olympic Games be life-giving and community-building!

(first published by Norma Cook Everist, Dubuque Telegraph Herald, Feb. 1, 2014)