If you're not a cricket fan, I'm sorry. Very sorry indeed for you...
Below is an evangelistic talk I gave last week. It was part of our Passion for Life events. I interviewed Henry Olonga, former Zimbabwean cricketer who stood up against Robert Mugabe. He gained international attention by wearing a black arm band in the 2003 World Cup to protest the death of democracy. He had to flee the country immediately and now lives in the UK.
He's a tremendous gospel servant, a straight-talking evangelist with a story of courage and integrity. And he's a great singer too - he's had a number 1 in Zimbabwe! And he sang for us on the night. I'd highly recommend Henry for your church!
A friend and I were discussing the negative impact of a certain theologian on the evangelical landscape. (No, not him. Nor him. I haven't blogged about this guy).
Anyway my friend brought up an aspect of his personal life that exemplified the problems in this theology.
I said, "Yeah, but when discussing this publicly, you can't raise that." He said "Why not?"
Hm. Good question.
I found myself falling back on a sporting analogy (which is a sure sign you've lost the theological argument). I said "Well, you need to play the ball and not the man." There was a pause on the other end of the phone line. My friend's thick Welsh accent came back: "You're not a rugby player then?"
See, in rugby you watch the ball and you take out the man in possession. You take him down with a ball-and-all tackle and you pile on. And if the ball goes to someone else, you take them down.
You don't play the man without the ball - but if he's got the ball, your orders are to 'terminate with extreme prejudice.'
My friend continued... "Just read the theological debates of the reformation. They played the ball and the man. You can't separate them. Theology is personal."
Well, what could I say. I'd been exposed. I could only pray he wouldn't ask me what sports I did play. You see my winter sport was hockey. And not ice hockey - that would be a fine Lutheran pursuit wouldn't it? You can just imagine a huge body check on Erasmus, face pressed into the plexiglass.
No, my winter sport was field hockey. You know - the game where the referee blows foul every 30 seconds because of some kind of obstruction, stick check, foot violation. It's the most clinical of sports. You play the ball only.
And my summer sport? Cricket. This abstracts man from ball by a good 22 yards. But actually it leads to a very passive-aggressive atmosphere. You bowl the ball, and it doesn't matter who's at the other end. But off the ball, in between deliveries, the fielding side take the opportunity to cast aspersions on the batsman's technique, girth and sexual orientation.
The lesson? Never debate a cricketer. They're all clinical and polite on the surface - dressed in white for goodness sakes. But you just know they're dissing your momma behind your back.
Anyway, what do you think? Do we take the man out along with the ball?
And how do your sporting experiences shape the way you engage theology?
It's sad but true. (Inspired by Paul's poetic (but not prophetic) effort.)
They managed to win all the same
Despite their mid-order bein' lame
Both teams had two lapses
Each batting collapses
But the Poms had em both the same game.
That's my in depth analysis.