By Rabbi Mark Borovitz
This Sunday is Super Bowl Sunday. I am struck by the attention given to God this past week in newspapers and media. It reminded me of a Bob Dylan song, With God on Our Side. In it, Dylan recounts many atrocities that were committed in God’s Name. So the question must be asked, Who’s Side is God on???
Both teams in the Super Bowl have people of faith playing. I think that this is great. It shows that people of faith live and work in all walks of life. And, I do not believe that God has a stake in who wins. I believe that God has a stake in WHAT wins. Does talent and hard work win? Does “bounty hunting” win? Do people who take seriously the task at hand win? Do the braggarts who just “show up” win? Does money buy championships? Do the people who win care for the widow, the poor, the stranger and the orphan? Does the winner enhance redemption? Does the loser see themselves as “losers?”
Much has been written about Ray Lewis and his pending retirement. Ray Lewis is a very good football player. As I write this, I have to admit that the Ravens abandoned Cleveland, Ohio, my hometown, and I can’t really root for them. Did God tell Art Modell to abandon the city that made him into an owner and gave him his start in football? Did God tell Art Modell to turn his back on a city that supported him even when the teams didn’t win? Where is the Godliness in these actions?
Ray Lewis was involved in a double murder in January of 2000. While no one knows the extent of his involvement, he did plead guilty to a misdemeanor charge of obstruction of justice and the suit he was wearing was never found. He has become a model of preaching and faith to many and I applaud this behavior. He has been spoken about by a Minister as a truly repentant person. I understand his “living amends” and am in awe of them. Yet, he has never spoken to the families of the victims. He has made financial settlements to a couple of the survivors and the transcripts of his depositions have never been made public. Can we say someone is a truly repentant person without confession and resolution with one’s victims? Not in the Jewish Tradition.
In his song, With God on Our Side, Bob Dylan reminds us of how the Indians were massacred and the Americans had God on their Side. The Germans were forgiven so, after “in ovens they fried, the Germans now too, have God on their side.” He goes on to say how we don’t question our actions, when God is “on our side.”
I see that this is what has happened to us today, Dylan was/is a historian and a Prophet. We still wrap ourselves in God and Country to defend indefensible actions. Extremists of all kinds do this. Politicians do this. Mass Murderers have used God as their reason for atrocities. Now we have football players and teams doing this? Who will be next?
I am Addicted to Redemption because Redemption calls me to action. The action of confession, confronting my victims, hearing their pain and sorrow, restoring their humanity and changing my ways. This is how GOD IS ON OUR SIDE. THIS IS WHO/WHAT GOD WANTS TO WIN THE “BIG GAME” “THE SUPER BOWL CALLED LIFE”!! Which team, God’s or False Ego will you play on?
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