Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. -- Philippians 4:8
I learned that verse at church, when I was a little girl. It was part of Missionettes, the A/G girl's ministries organization. It was our theme verse, and we repeated it before every meeting each week. It was drilled into our head: think about these things, and not the opposites, because where your mind dwells, there you will walk with your life.
What if we did something crazy and just took the Bible at its word? What if we didn't think it was just a big mean bunch of no-fun requests and instead, tried it and got a taste for what life was like without all the mental and emotional trash that comes from dwelling on "gritty" entertainment and living out bad decisions that seem legit after eating a diet of garbage?
You'll probably laugh, but what got me thinking this was a discussion online regarding the behavior of Philadelphia Eagles fans towards Vikings fans when the Eagles defeated the Vikings to get to the Super Bowl.
Philadelphia, the city of Brotherly Love (ironically), has NFL fans known for being somewhat vile. Some revel in it, taking pride that they are known for being hard-core and brutish. When North Dakota native Carson Wentz became their quarterback, I was surprised to see so many Eagles fans talking about it online and all but threatening that they were "tough" and would let him know in no uncertain terms that he was garbage if he didn't perform.
As it turns out, Wentz is pretty good. But I'm still a Vikings fan, even though every store in the state now bizarrely has Eagles paraphernalia right next to the usual Vikings gear. I didn't buy Wentz's jersey because it isn't purple.
The 2017-18 NFL season was one I didn't watch, despite it being a glorious one for the Minnesota Vikings right up until that Eagles game. Week after week I heard of yet another Minnesota Miracle, but I stayed with my boycott of the NFL (no TV, no social media, no purchases of NFL products, didn't wear any Vikings clothes), and discovered that I actually felt less stress and rather didn't miss watching the games. Combine that with a decision to leave Twitter and some other things I was doing, and I was happily cutting some nasty stuff out of my life. I wanted to take Philippians 4:8 for a test drive, and it was working.
Then I saw articles that talked about how terrible Eagles fans behaved towards Vikings fans after the Vike's heartbreaking loss. Seriously--when I look at this photo I just feel sad, not so much about the loss, but about people taking such pleasure in the disappointment of other people. It sickens me.
I saw follow-up articles about how some folks from Philadelphia must have felt a bit bad after the fact, and donated to a Minnesota charity associated with the Vikings. But many of the articles that detailed what happened to Minnesota fans did so with a half-apology that was laced with a kind of suggestion that you should just expect that kind of behavior as normal, particularly when you play the Eagles.
No, you should not accept that as normal.
Screaming, abusive, and threatening behavior that makes some fans feel fear that they might not get out safely is not something we should accept.
I responded to someone who suggested that the Eagles fans behavior wasn't as bad as some European sports fans behavior so it really wasn't anything to fuss about:
"New goal this year: avoid the comparison trap. So there are worse fans -- that doesn't make this behavior acceptable. Eagles fans are *known* for being obnoxious and rather awful, and they revel in it. Read some of the articles about this--there is pride that they are this way. "You come to the Linc dressed in Vikings jerseys and you should expect this." Uh, no. People wear team gear at other stadiums all the time and you don't expect to be treated like this. It's disgusting behavior, even if there's worse behavior. Both times I went when the Bears played the Vikings in Minneapolis, afterwards I had my picture taken with some of them because their costumes/clothes were so great. People weren't jerks to each other. I boycotted the NFL this year so I didn't watch a single Vikes game despite their awesome season, and I know that people from Bismarck are all suddenly Eagles fans because Carson Wentz is from here, but I am not watching the Super Bowl. I'm tired of supporting boorish and disgusting behavior by watching it. It has an effect, you know, when I make the choice to allow some sewage in the water I'm about to drink. Clearly these Eagles fans have been slopping at the sewer far too long and seem to think this is acceptable and something to be proud of. It isn't."
1. No, this isn't really about the NFL and the Eagles and such things that don't really matter all that much in the scheme of life.
2. This is about something far more courageous: taking a leap and believing and living based on what the Bible says about what we let ourselves consume and think about. Even more, start praying for your tastes in entertainment to change (and sort of go away, because we're over-entertained in this country). Last year I started praying that God would make things that didn't fit into Philippians 4:8 unappealing. It would take a miracle, I figured, because I love movies and monster/scary shows. Guess what? I find myself bored with just about everything I see on TV/streaming, particularly when it's crude and disgusting. I've tried to watch the shows everyone is gushing about, and I have zero interest and mostly disgust for them. Almost everything seems stupid and pointless and uninteresting. It doesn't even appeal. I'm more often inclined to go to YouTube and watching Bible preaching than a movie! I'm bored with what I see on Facebook, I got so fed up with Twitter that I can't believe how great it is to be rid of it...this is not of my doing or natural inclination. These are things I used to love. Life is great without them.
3. Let's not justify horrible behavior by trying to show that it's not the worst there is out there. Bad is bad. Wrong is wrong. If we want to end this sewage pit of a culture in which everyone is apparently turned against everyone else for random reasons, we start drawing the line and calling ugly behavior what it is. We don't support it with money or eyeballs, not just to hurt the economics, but to keep our hearts from getting hard. It matters, just a handful of people not completely tuned into the ugly side of culture. They act as a damper on an otherwise unfettered vibrating cord of rage.
Side note: The Eagles have a lot of players who are Christians, including Carson Wentz, who is from Bismarck, where I live. I hope these Christian players step up to the microphone and, understanding they are about to receive some of that ugly fan abuse, speak out against it. Alas, you're not just a football player anymore, like it used to be. You're a spokesperson with a platform, and this is especially clear since so many football players decided that taking a knee and making social and political statements during the National Anthem--one of the few remaining unifying elements that was left in this country--was part of the game.