Over the spring, there was a series on this site about not falsely representing God. It addressed comments made from members of the faith who claim to be giving directives from God as well as rhetoric not becoming of Christians and even misrepresentations of reality by His servants.
Most of the public faces of the faith were from the most vocal political right wing of the church. However, as if to prove this is a human fault, not one unique to one philosophy (and present an opportunity to show balance here), Jesse Jackson chimed in on the response from Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert after Lebron James chose to go to Miami.
“His feelings of betrayal personify a slave master mentality. He sees LeBron as a runaway slave. This is an owner employee relationship — between business partners — and LeBron honored his contract.”
First of all, I do not want ambassadors of God (which any pastor always is, as well as any public figure who makes his or her faith central to their persona) weighing in on trivial matters like NBA free agency: Jesse, stick to matters of spiritual or (real) political importance.
I am an avid sports fan, but other than self-perception among fans, where this athlete chooses to play will have little to no impact on God’s kingdom. His signing will not have any effect on either faith nor the Bay Area (issues central to this column), nor will Gilbert’s lettter. However, Jackson’s use of such obscene hyperbole to equate a trivial matter with a despicable practise (slavery) that was abolished 150 years ago adds fuel to the fire of racial division in this entire nation.
Gilbert was not saying Lebron did not have a right to leave, he was saying he should not have. And he is as entitled to his opinion as Lebron is to leave, and as Jackson is to his opinion–would it be right of us to throw fascist and/or Marxist labels on Jackson suggesting his statement is tantamount to censorship?
Gilbert called Lebron narcissistic and cowardly, and it is hard to argue otherwise. James made an entire league and its fan base wait more than a week, put on a one-hour “special” to make his announcement without having the courtesy of notifying the parties courting him man-to-man, and then has a big pyrotechnic extravaganza the next day (what other major professional team holds a pep rally, and where has anyone seen such an event so lavish?).
Gilbert called James a quitter. Did anyone not think he quit in Game Five against Boston, when he had as many turnovers as field goals and threw the team he is supposed to be leading under the bus after a 32-point loss?
Gilbert talked of betrayal. Given the anguish of Cleveland sports fans and his benefiting from their outright worship of him (“Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” Exodus 20:3) as the entire city tried to show him they wanted and needed him, his disregard not only for their wish for him to stay but even simple interaction and appreciation was a betrayal, even if the magnitude of that betrayal was overplayed.
So what exactly does Jackson take issue with? That Gilbert was upset? That he dared to speak up bluntly about it?
Perhaps that is a privilege Jackson reserves only for himself, or those he agrees with.