The Fallacies of Fans
Yesterday, I had the privilege of going to a Cleveland Cavaliers basketball game with my son, Matthew. It was a good time and the Cavs looked great in their win over the Charlotte Bobcats. What has stuck with me however, is not the game, or the phenomenal abilities of Lebron James, or even atmosphere of the arena. What struck me was the discussions that I over heard while sitting at the game. My conclusion is that most fans are blind, and pride ourselves because of the blinders. The bigger the blinders, the better.
At one point, the Charlotte Bobcats began to put together a few successful plays and began to chip away at the sizeable lead. A gentleman behind me stated "The only way that they are scoring is because they are using our plays". Another responded after Lebron James was fouled "They have a plan to hurt him and make us look bad. That's why I hope we slaughter them tonight". The reality of the situation was that basketball plays, when effective, look a whole lot alike (as any player will tell you) and that when you play basketball, you will foul and get fouled.
However, the point was that somewhere along the line we lose objective judgement when viewing something we are passionate about. That loss of objective judgement tends to lead towards the objectification of those who oppose our heroes, or our favorite teams. Notice that Charlotte became the object of the fan's wrath because of the conspiracy that he envisioned. He did not know their intent and probably has never spoken to Charlotte's coach, players, or even a well respected journalist who covers them. We simply make judgements based upon our passionate biases.
So what? Well, if I get one more "Obama is a muslim", "Obama wants radical Islamic enemies running down American Streets", "Obama is a ist", etc. forwarded emails from well intentioned fans of John McCain/Republican Politics, I think I will scream. Just like Cleveland Cavs, Cleveland Browns, Cleveland Indians fans who can not imagine that they are biased in their analysis of reality, these fans continue to distort truth as if it is fact. What is more interesting is that there is an unwillingness, or even more disturbing, and inability to reassess issues regarding this election. Now, I do not believe for a second that Obama Fans are not caught up on their own version of rose colored glasses, but I must receive ten emails from McCain Fans over the Obama Fans.
What is distressful is that these judgments make up the foundation for further judgements. Let me give you an example. Suppose that whoever wins the presidency does the right thing for a change and deals with debt: both national debt and consumer debt. Lets say that he focuses a good deal of national income towards lowering debt, which means that he must lower spending to do so. Lets say that he changes tax strategies to encourage saving and wipes out loopholes favoring reckless spending. The result would be a short term tightening of finances, but with long term opportunities for expansion. However, in the short term, loans would be more difficult to get, programs that take a majority of our national income would need to be adjusted (by the way, that is not welfare, but that would mean the military and social security). During that short term, those who opposed the president in the election would rally around the insecurities of those who feel the pinch of the sacrifice needed. They would use the short term problems as vindication of their opinions and begin to rally people to oppose the changes. The effect would be that 4-8 years later, we will be reversing the changes and be in the same place.
Can we recognize ourselves as fans, or fanatics. Can we take a moment to attempt to humanize the opposition. Can we recognize that both candidates have some good ideas and that there is always "more than one way to skin a cat" without resorting to labeling, belittling, or blaming. I hope so. I hope that we can get beyond being fans in the game of politics and graduate into becoming players that actually make a difference.
As a pastor, can we also realize that God is not for Obama or McCain. God is for His Kingdom and that kingdom, according to scripture, is not aligned with politic parties, ethnic identities, or socioeconomic classes. It is above and through all of them. As you size up candidates for voting, you are in great error if you think God is with either of the candidates. The better question is: Which one of them is most with God? If we ask that question, we will find that the answer is neither, sometimes one, and sometimes both. Lets take off our politically colored lenses, and see the election for what it is and begin to go from being in the stands (fans) to effecting change (players)