This is not an article about politics.
This is not an article about sports.
This is not an article about the media.
This is, however, an observation to take note of as these titans collide.
You likely heard the reports over the past few days of Fox News Host Laura Ingraham’s comments to NBA superstar LeBron James.
James has been actively critical of the president and has maintained a leading voice among athletes regarding social issues. After a recent video was posted in which James criticized President Trump, Ingraham took to her show urging (arguably) the world’s greatest athlete to simply, “Shut up and dribble.”
Here is why this is not an article about politics:
The politics of Ingraham’s retort have little to do with what was actually said (though we are discussing a Republican president being defended on Fox News), but the voice through which it came. This is personal, not political.
Here is why this is not an article about sports:
LeBron James is one of the best-known athletes in the world. Yet aside from a few tertiary stories, it is unlikely you will find James’ athletic accomplishments featured on CNN, Fox News, or any other political news outlet. However, this story has resonated with countless echoes because this is not a discussion about sports. To some it is a discussion about race. To some it is about wealth and privilege. Still to others, it is another brick in a wall of social discourse that threatens to tumble any day. LeBron may be the NBA All-Star Game’s MVP, but the headlines with his name are about much more. This is about society, not sport.
Here is why this is not an article about the media:
LeBron is a media mogul who knows how to market himself and his brand. This conversation (though posted to social media and carried through mainstream media) had nothing to do with marketing, however. LeBron wasn’t holding a Sprite or finding deals on car insurance in this video. He was speaking as a father, a citizen, a leader in an arena whose shadow stretches far beyond the hardwood and stadium rafters. This is about mindset, not media.
Regardless of whether you agree with James or Ingraham in this discussion, a much greater social reality has been revealed in this debate. The line James allegedly crossed was not in sport, politics or media. The line James crossed, and Ingraham opposed, was the act of crossing the line itself.
What is being revealed is something we have all sensed, but is important we, as Christians, understand. This is about social compartmentalization.
Society likes boxes. We have created a society in which compartmentalization is key to mentally digesting and understanding others. We watch and listen for immediate clues or words to indicate what box someone belongs in – whether they are left wing, right wing, feminist, bigot, millennial, racist, religious, phobic or any one of a number of titles. We then believe we know how to deal with that person – with what weapons of verbal warfare we will either guard or attack them.
But what if someone tries to climb out of his or her box?
There are many discussions to be had in this arena as evidenced by a growing sentiment of both vitriol and celebration regarding those who refuse their boxes in the public sphere (see Ben Shapiro, Jordan Peterson and Dave Rubin).
As this conversation unfolds and these questions collide, we must consider what this means for the Christian.
A frustrating reality for many Christians of late has been the labels (fair or unfair) attached to the terms evangelical, Christian and religious. Depending on an individual’s worldview, these terms will evoke immediate trust or repulsion.
However, for those of us in biblical evangelicalism, we recognize much of what truly needs to be heard and discussed is not in the headline, but in the subtexts.
The growing trend toward the necessity for conversation and a multi-layered approach to seeing individuals is hopefully leading to a moment in which conversation and multi-faceted understanding of a person is required before judgment is made.
Consider the following: your atheist co-worker may be more willing to ask what you mean when you engage them with a question about God than previously when they just knew you were “religious.” We may even quit referring to them as “your atheist coworker.”
Your neighbor may not care as much about what you do for a living as what your worldview is and how you arrived at it. Your church may contain those who are seeking to follow Christ together, yet have a variety of social and political viewpoints – and it may be okay.
Is the decompartmentalization of LeBron James and the subsequent pushback against it a watershed moment for American society? Probably not. But it may be an indicator that people may be open to discussing what you believe more than simply what position in society you hold.
May we see these opportunities to champion Christ, explore His Word and see others not in their labeled social boxes, but as fellow brothers and sisters sojourning in a dark world seeking the light of a Savior.
So Christian, if you’re a teacher, don’t just shut up and teach.
If you’re a student, don’t just shut up and listen.
If you’re a barista, don’t just shut up and pour a latte.
Engage. Speak. Tell. The walls of the box where you must keep your Christianity may not be as strong as they want you to believe.
These walls may be crumbling down.