I am becoming more and more convinced that if you ever stop thinking while you’re walking through this world, you’re done for. Anti-God, anti-Bible, pro-self, pro-sin worldviews are everywhere, and they’re pumped into us (especially through media, entertainment, and technology) like an I.V. for the mind. If you take one mental pit stop at the wrong time or in the wrong environment, you’ll be caught and overrun by the world’s breakneck agenda. And that’s a race you don’t want to lose. Maybe one example will clarify.
When I played basketball at the park this past summer, I saw a lot of selfishness, ball-hogging, showboating, trash-talking, one-upping, laziness, and an overall failure to play team basketball. It’s not that the guys I played with had no skill. Many of them definitely had skill. But few of them were team players. There were some, but there weren’t many. I learned to only expect 100% effort from most of the guys when the ball was in their hands. Scoring — especially in a way that humiliates your opponent and glorifies yourself — is much cooler than playing hard defense, boxing out for rebounds, making the extra pass, and thinking more about how you can make your team better than how you can put up bigger personal numbers. The glory goes to the scorer, especially the more flamboyant and acrobatic he is. So everyone wants to be the scorer, almost at all costs. Of course, you can just chalk this mindset up to the selfishness that’s woven into our souls, but I think there’s more to it than that.
This hit me one night when I was watching SportsCenter. I began to think about what kind of clips they were showing, and I realized that almost everything was a highlight. In fact, that’s exactly why people watch SportsCenter. It’s not just for sports news, but sports highlights. I don’t have a problem with this per se, because neither showing highlights nor watching them is inherently immoral. In fact, I think it’s natural for human beings to want to see and experience a sense of greatness in whatever atmosphere we’re in. But what I saw that night on ESPN was that SportsCenter had defined greatness for us, and most of my friends at the park had bought the lie. They don’t show simple, efficient, self-sacrificing passes on SportsCenter. Defensive hustle plays don’t dominate the lead stories. Key rebounds don’t make the top ten plays of the night. What’s highlighted? Dunks, three-pointers, slick lay-ups, technical fouls, huge blocks, and buzzer-beaters. The sensational stuff. The wow stuff. The glory stuff. So it only makes sense that in a culture that drinks SportsCenter and its values, basketball at the park will be saturated with those same values. SportsCenter unwittingly teaches us that great individual accomplishments are the name of the game. There’s no “I” in TEAM, but there is “M-E.” The implication? Go out and get yours. Which is exactly what I often saw night in and night out at the park.
So if I turn off my brain when I’m watching SportsCenter highlights, I may be drinking poison without knowing it. No, I’m not calling SportsCenter poison. But I am saying that there are poisonous values and worldviews all around us, even in the things that seem safest because they don’t have a scarlet letter on them or a Vegas billboard advertising them or an MC-17 rating warning us of them.
What happens if I plug the I.V. of contemporary American sports culture into my spiritual veins and let it run for a few years thinking that since sports are amoral, there’s no danger? Well, I’ll probably be tempted to pursue spotlighted acts of Christian service while avoiding the mundane; I’ll be prone to view my kingdom teammates as competitors who might hinder my scoring average instead of fellow-laborers on the same mission; I’ll neglect to give 100% of my energy to my less-glorious responsibilities (like defense and rebounding); and I’ll take my definition of spiritual success from the SportsCenter model of big numbers, impressive stats, and personal achievements instead of faithfulness, consistency, and character.
There’s worldview everywhere. It’s not just in philosophy books and religious discussions and political debates. Every word spoken reflects values and priorities. Every movie filmed is communicating a perspective. Every TV commercial assumes and appeals to common temptations and enticements. News headlines and art shows and music sub-cultures and fashion magazines all have their messages to send.
Everything is a pulpit. You don’t just hear a couple or a few sermons a week. You hear thousands, from all different angles and containing varying degrees of poison. So be careful. Be on your guard. Worldview is everywhere.
“See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ” (Colossians 2:8). “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2).