Monday, December 28, 2009

Book Reflection

Two weeks ago I finished a 700-page book on the Association. That's right...700 pages. Hours spent reading about the career of Dolph Shayes, Elgin Baylor, Tracy McGrady and about a hundred others. Obviously, this was just reading for entertainment, but I also tried to tell myself it could have gospel impact. Perhaps the style of writing, or an anecdote or just the relaxation will enhance my ministry, I told myself. By page 35 or so, I realized that was simply entertainment, and there was no reason to attempt to whitewash it.

For a 700-page book, it read relatively easy. I finished the book thinking, Well, that was fun, but did not seek to bring any real meaning out of it. After all, it's a book about a game I love to play (but am lousy), and enjoy watching (but since we don't have cable I rarely ever see). Surprisingly though, I started mulling over various thoughts, which I think were remotely related to the book.

Foul language is overrated. One reason I am not specifically referencing the book is because I know the language would be offensive to many who read my blog (It was to me, as well). I guess offensive is not the right word, I would not expect an unbeliever to act any different. The greater issue I saw was just how completely unnecessary the language was. There is a temptation, especially around men my age, to justify crude language as authenticity. It just simply isn't the case. Foul language does not display authenticity unless you're wanting to declare to people you are authentically immature. Often times, the author conveyed his emotions far more clearly and robustly in sections where he did not see the need to swear, than in some where he did. It didn't enhance his writing, nor did it make his point. Sadly, some ministers today want to advocate coarse language as a means of engaging the just doesn't have to be.

Writing about others is tricky. It is no secret that the author of the book respects Isiah Thomas the player, but not Isiah Thomas the GM/coach/front office guy. In fact, he has spoken so critically of Thomas that at one point--while Thomas was coaching/GM of the New York Knicks--Thomas told a radio host he would physically harm the author if they ever met face tot face. Well, early in the book he recounts the time he was introduced to Thomas by another member of the media. While still holding to his opinions, he also (obviously) softened his stance somewhat, and became a bit more empathetic. Certainly a humbling and awkward situation. (You can read about my crow-eating-humbling-lesson here.) However, the author continues to write about people in such a way that I couldn't help but think of athletes and coaches who may read it. As I read, I kept thinking He could have a lot of awkward occasions in his future! The author regularly critiqued in a such a blunt form, that I am sure would have to be softened when would meet an athlete. Then I thought about myself. How often can I critique apart from considering motive? This does not mean something becomes right simply because someone had good intentions...poor theology and practice remains poor theology and practice. But, it did cause me to ask, Can I point error out in such a way that the person would be willing to converse with me without having to diffuse the situation? Sometimes, this is out of our control; a person will be offended either way. But I could do a better job of not contributing to the raised emotions.

Facts/stats do not necessarily reduce subjectivity. I enjoy this author because he is a fan of specific teams and does not try to cloak his views. He hates certain teams simply because he loves others. I enjoy this style far more than the starched collar professional journalist view who treats games with the same gravity and seriousness as terrorism. I want to read from a guy who jumps off his couch at the end of a game because he's thrilled, not a guy who simply reports the game as an event. However, this book was different for the author tried to be objective. At times, he acknowledges that he is not being objective, yet he still underestimates how often subjectivity permeates his work. He attempts to buoy his views with statistics. However, numbers may not lie but the same numbers can be used to make opposing points. It convicted me to remember that "facts" do not always get to the heart...for they can be spun however a person desires. If a person wants to toy with the facts, there is no reasoning with them. At times, this can even happen with Scripture, a person will distort and twist a Text to say the opposite of what is intended. I was reminded: a) to call out to God that He would protect me from myself and my fleshly tendency to distort Texts to my gain; and b) to not join a person in the game when they choose to defiantly distort a Text just to keep from doing what they know they need to do. Sure, an undershepherd is to teach and help show people error. However, when a person is clearly willing to sacrifice the integrity of the Scripture to defend their actions (rather than sacrificing their actions to defend the integrity of Scripture), there is no reasoning with them.

I enjoy books that feed my soul. Reading this book also made me realize how much I cherish reading books that not only feed my mind, but my soul as well. Nearly every book I read is ministry related, and some could see that as reading for work, rather than reading for pleasure. However, when you enjoy your "work reading" then it really is reading for pleasure too! Time is short. I'm not making a commitment that I'll never again read something just for the sake of entertainment (such a commitment would be a foolish endeavor), but for now I'm content to just get back to the pile of books I've been thinking I need to read. And I'll thank God for the grace that it isn't just work, but I enjoy it.

I am not advocating an "all truth is God's truth" sort of view that would claim Christian thinking is revealed in a book even when it wasn't the author's intention. No, there is no Christian agenda to this book. Sanctification does not come from reading anything, but ultimately from reading Scripture. I'm thankful to God for His Word and was also reminded that just as I had to be in the Word to truly grow while reading an NBA book, I better be in the Word to grow even while reading Christian words from a ministry-minded book. Sanctification comes from the Truth, and His Word is Truth. Whatever you may be reading, make sure it doesn't supplant your time in the Word!


Darby Livingston said...

Good insights. Is the food picture a snapshot of your Christmas table spread? Tasty.

Darby Livingston said...

Just got a 700 page book today myself: The Whole Counsel of God: Volume 1, God's Mighty Acts in the Old Testament by Richard C. Gamble. Cost of book: $50.00. Cost per page: $.07. God-glorifying biblical theology: Priceless.

hubbo said...

Next time get some real Christian relaxation if you are interested;