The current kerfuffle over Jeremy Lin’s religious beliefs offers a wonderful opportunity for imbeciles of all stripes to flash their ignorance and/or their fear all over the blogosphere, including this site. Many object to Lin’s public professions of belief, which, we think, is understandable, but often these objections indicate more about the complainers than they might wish.
We have no quarrel with those who simply say that Lin should keep his beliefs to himself. We do not agree, because we think he has — actually, we know he has — a right to express himself. When the late Christopher Hitchens published “God Is Not Great,” did these same people leap to their keyboards to object? No, they properly accepted Hitchens’ freedom of speech as a given. Others objected, of course, disputing his message or expressing dismay at his purpose, but we heard very few calls for Hitchens to be silenced. (More important, Hitchens was paid to have an opinion, and Lin is paid to shoot basketballs.)
Not so with Lin. Here we have a positive clamor for him to shut up where religion is concerned. Not that he says all that much, but any mention at all suffices to bring out the bizarre gallery of hooters that seem to lie in wait for just such moments.
What do they find so threatening in Lin’s comments? What is it they fear so much that they cannot even abide a mention of a deity?
Some say “It’s really silly for them to think that God cares who wins a basketball game.” When and where did Lin say that? Nowhere. They hear him thank God for his success, and misconstrue his meaning, either out of ignorance or pure simple-minded reflexivity. I, at least, do not believe that Lin sees his God thinking “Gotta drop down tonight and give the Knicks a few ‘invisible tip-ins’ ” In this manner, people accuse Lin of stupidity by putting their own stupid construction in Lin’s mouth.
Well, what about Tebow? He kneels after he scores a touchdown! Wow. You mean that the bizarre histrionics of other end zone celebrations, many of which are insulting and most of which are in essence displays of poor sportsmanship — chest-thumping disrespect for the opponent — these are all just fine, but Tebow kneeling quietly is somehow in questionable taste? How?
But our athletes are gods themselves, these days. We expect much more from them than we do from others. Even presidents are held to a lower standard. The media writes glowing tributes to a tell-all book about JFK, whose indiscretions are easily passed over as some kind of understandable robust and healthy appetite — but Tiger Woods is pilloried daily for weeks when he is “caught” behaving precisely the same. But gods such as these, so much more fallible, are far less threatening to us than the biblical god of wrath, whom we would prefer to have no reminder of, in these perilous times.
Still, we have more than a little sympathy for those who genuinely fear religious zealotry, because, in times ancient and recent, it has been the cause of more pain and suffering than all the armies of the world combined. We therefore rightly are on guard against those who claim to know the mind of God, and assert license to go about whatever nastiness they care to in the name of their particular deity.
But we see none of this in Lin, or in Tebow, or in the many, many other athletes who have from time to time made mention of the unfashionably unmentionable. And I’d still rather see Tebow kneeling in an end zone than the insulting stylings of the standard NFL showboat. One of these days, some 350 pound lineman is going to beat the piss out of one of these guys. I’ll be cheering.