There was a day when American football was a man’s sport. Men yelled and snorted and belched during a game while the women of the house dutifully keep the food and drinks flowing. In spite of the occasional male glare, the women would also carry on lively—and distracting—conversations about virtually every facet of life.
When it comes to professional sports, men have always had their priorities clear. They want players to perform well on the field so that their team can win games. What an athlete does off of the field is pretty much his own business as long as it doesn’t hinder his on-field performance.
In a perceived moment of brilliance, the NFL realized that women could also be fans (meaning that they too could purchase jerseys, pay to attend games, etc). In their ever-present quest for the almighty dollar, NFL strategists began to widen the scope of their marketing efforts toward the female gender. After all, a woman’s money is just as green as a man’s. The NFL plan worked beautifully—until it backfired.
Professional football has always had an unpleasant underbelly; drug abuse and domestic violence are not new issues. Unlike men, however, women care about more than what happens on the field—especially when it involves a 210 lb muscle-bound male mercilessly punching his girlfriend. The NFL’s new audience has not taken kindly to such off-the-field behavior.
There is nothing pleasant about domestic violence, but my facetious comments do help to illustrate an important point: Our attitudes and our actions are always based upon what we value. Traditionally—yes, I am making a sweeping generalization—men value dominance and glory. More than once, I’ve heard a male verbalize his hope that an opposing player would suffer an injury severe enough to be knocked out of a game.
My goal is not to bash men—I happen to be one—but to focus on the issue of value, and to ask a poignant question: What are conservative values? Or better still, what do conservatives value? Through the last several posts, I’ve highlighted areas in which I believe conservative Christian values have become misguided. Why has the Western church lost significant influence in our culture? I think it’s because we have unwittingly ceased to value what Jesus values.
Jesus, when He walked this earth in flesh and blood, valued one thing above all others—people. And, not only did Jesus value people, but He also valued them equally. In the eyes of Jesus, a king was no more significant than a fisherman. A prostitute would be given the same measure of respect as a priest. The Son of God suffered and died for the crooked tax collector every bit as much as He did for the honest laborer.
The Pharisees had a zeal for God, but they, too, made an unwitting mistake. Failing to understand God’s passion for the human race, they began to value purity above people. In doing so, they fell into the common trap of equating value with approval.
God values the poor as much as He does the rich, the black as much as the white, the Muslim as much as the Jew, and the female as much as the male. Each is valued because each was created in God’s very own image. Accordingly, regardless of actions or beliefs, we can value every human as an image-bearer of God.
If conservative Christians truly want to honor God, they will learn to value most what He values most—people of all sorts.