I love basketball. I love it. I get all giggly inside when I get the chance to run with the guys, talk smack, point fingers, and “oooh” and “ahhh” with the rest of them. I love that the game can grow with however many people are there and people of various skill/effort levels can participate. It’s just one of those games/sports you can invite people to join in, even right in the middle of the game. It’s a great game.
But I have to admit, I’m terrible at it. Don’t have a reliable jumper. Turn it over like pancakes. Can’t dribble. I just sweat a lot. Basically, I’m the equivalent of a human folding chair that players use to dribble around in practice. But what can I say, I love the game.
And now, though I’ve been watching him with hope and anticipation for some time now, Jeremy Lin has struck the NBA like lightning. And suddenly this game I love is now featuring this guy that could have been one of my youth kids, it could be one of my college friends, and in some fantasy world, it could have been me. He is the embodiment of many of us – those half moon eyes, the deference to the other players, his eye for technical detail, and the sweat of someone who kills you with consistency, not necessarily jaw-dropping athleticism. On top of all of this, Jeremy speaks the name of Jesus into the press microphones. He talks about being blessed and answered prayers. Wow. And an Econ degree from Harvard? If He Got Game, this is about the closest we get to Asian Jesus, ain’t it?
But I can see the signs of the vultures already. The barricades against his Christian witness are being laid out. The commoditization of Jeremy Lin has already begun, he is already moving from player to pawn in the schemes of the media and business. Why polarize him as a Christian? Because they’re still trying to figure out which market he will be more accessible to — especially if he can’t maintain the 25 point, 8 assist pace. But he’s Chinese American, so if he can keep up this level of play, there’s a nation of billions waiting to buy his image and jersey.
Color me a cynic, but it isn’t like we haven’t seen these methods employed before. Even those of us with the best of intentions and highest of hopes contribute to applying so much pressure, it will be amazing if Jeremy can make it out of this knot without coming undone himself.
So here’s some unsolicited advice from a fan, #17:
- Play your life like you play your game. In other words, don’t get flashy now. Keep your faith and your public witness minimal. Remember what you do in secret is where your reward comes from (Matthew 6), so don’t worry about the charities and the public relations yet. You’re saying all the right things now, just stick with them.
- Keep your game and your faith in different pockets. People will assume that “your God” is there to help you win and so they correlate your performance on the court to “your God.” Don’t let them. That’s cheap religion. Bless those who curse you. Pray for the other team if you have to, but don’t mix basketball and Christ. They will only see basketball. Let Christ speak through the whole of your life, not just your press conference.
- If you should decide to speak on matters of faith, I encourage you to put something out there that would subvert the impression of the masses that evangelical Christianity is a faith obsessed with behavior of the individual – people who ask you about your virginity, or if you pray before meals, or whatever. Not that personal piety isn’t important, but remember James 1:27 is about widows and orphans. That’s the religion our Father accepts – both personal purity and a keen awareness of those who have no home.
- And if I were you, I’d call out your Christian brothers to do more than buy tickets to your game. I’d also call out your Asian Christian brothers and sisters to address our issues. That’s just me, but I never had as much game as you, so take it for what it’s worth.
Oh snap, the game’s on. Peace.