To hell with georgia.

The Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets are such an awesome football team! We run a unique, complex offensive scheme specifically engineered to negate our opponents’ superior speed or strength, or both. We have more national championships than the puppies from athens, and our most recent one, as illustrated in the photo above, is 10 years more recent than when that other team from down the road needed the all-time best running back ever to carry their sorry butts to glory.

We have all kinds of songs and cheers, many of which talk about how smart we are and how expensive our choice of whiskey is. We also throw in a line or two about the other team down the road… but they can go to hell.

The Georgia Tech fan base is pretty diverse. We have a variety of interests, and have found successful careers in various fields… not just engineering. Those idiots from athens? They are a bunch of inbred hicks. What is 100 yards long and has two teeth? The sideline at a uga home football game.

And scene.

That got ugly in a hurry, didn’t it? What an interesting phenomenon, this idea of group belonging. In some ways, we need group identities to carry a lot of the mental workload and allow us to function in everyday life.

That guy with a whistle and a badge? He is probably a police officer and I am being robbed. He can help me. That kind of thing.

But when we put too much weight into our group identities we run the risk of creating negative identities for other groups. In many ways, we form our own group identities by what we are against, or opposed to, in some other group.

After we are done lumping the group of others together, we tend to attribute overarching characteristics to the group, and therefore to each member in the group. Historically, we have come up with some pretty awful generalizations. “Black people are naturally more athletic.” Or, “Jewish folks are better with money.”

If we found ourselves nodding to something in that last blurb, we need to listen up!

What starts out as a seemingly harmless generalization can quickly escalate. When we are unfamiliar with a certain group of others, we tend to be hesitant to interact with that group. That hesitancy turns to fear, which turns to hate. All of a sudden, we go from “Those folks are thriftier than other folks,” to the Holocaust.

Seem extreme? It isn’t.

These group dynamics are well-studied and have far reaching effects. Honestly, if I meet a dude on the street and he isn’t wearing anything with that godawful G on it, or some stupid inbred english bulldog, or anything like that, I would think he was just a regular dude, like me. The moment he says something barbaric like, “go dawgz” or puts on a red, monogrammed hat, then the trouble begins.

Good thing I don’t fall pray to this in group-out group dynamic. Georgia Tech fans are so much smarter than that.

I believe that Jesus’ ministry allows us a way out of this in-group, out-group dynamic. I mention the inclusiveness of Jesus’ work in this post. What we rarely recognize is that our responses to Jesus are often conditioned by our group belonging. Christena Cleveland, in Disunity in Christ, says that “People can meet God within their cultural context but in order to follow God, they must cross into other cultures because that’s what Jesus did in the incarnation and on the cross.” Christena also points out in the same book that 90% of churches in America are 90% attended by one majority group of people. Would that still qualify as the most segregated hour in our nation’s week, Dr. King?

How can we allow the gospel to break down these barriers and help us see people as Jesus sees them? “Give us Your eyes for just one second” becomes a much-needed prayer in this hour. Never thought I would be thanking Brandon Heath in a blog post.

 

 

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One thought on “Football and the Denigration of the Other

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