OU’s marching band & bravado
If you live anywhere close to “Sooner Nation,” you are likely to have heard about the controversy surrounding the new Pride of Oklahoma marching band director, Justin Stolarik.
Dr. Stolarik, who hails from out of state, made waves in August for changes to the longtime pre-game marching band routine, which includes fan-favorites such as the interlocking OU formation. While the University backed off of most of the changes after the public outcry, Stolarik’s woes continued as Pride alumni and others continue to criticize his work.
Some went so far as to distribute flyers prior to the OU-Tulsa football game, asking fans not to cheer for the Pride as a sign of protest. As a former Pride member, I wish to wade into the mix and address some comments specifically to Christians.
It’s only polyester
“Live on University,” the famous OU chant, brings rise to deep emotions within us. I admit that wearing the polyester uniform, memorizing the fight song and performing each week in front of thousands has its deep-seated imprint on my life. Indeed the combination of sports and the alma mater indeed take on a special place in life.
At the same time, there are things more important than sports and football traditions. As Christians, our highest loyalties belong to Christ. While Dr. Stolarik or someone else may be able to sweep away what people hold dear at the University of Oklahoma, no one can take away the Faith, given once and for all (Jude 1:3).
“Fiddler on the Roof,” the classic Broadway musical, opens with the popular song “Tradition,” in which the main character “Tevye” explains all of life in Jewish society through that one word. He is ferocious when his people’s traditions are challenged, and the same attitude is showing up in Oklahoma.
Now, I am as upset as the next person about the band traditions being changed. In fact, what this society needs as much as any time in history are positive traditions that can be passed on to future generations. We are in a crisis in America largely because we are rootless.
Be that as it may, Christians ought to beware of making too much of man-made traditions. Christ Himself warned of propping up man-made traditions (Mark 7:8), and Christians who are worked up about this should check our priorities.
Do unto others…
For those who do not have a Christian worldview, it is to be expected that a non-Christ-like attitude would emerge. As Christians, however, we are called to more. Disagree with Dr. Stolarik all you want, but do so with gentleness and respect.
To quote the Apostle Paul, “Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:5-7).
In the end, this controversy will pass. Meanwhile, we will all stand before God someday and give account as to how we responded to it, whether we were in the band or not.