I am a big fan of the Academy Awards—the glitz, the glam, the speeches, the inevitable gaffes. I love it all. Last night was no exception: Lada Gaga sang The Sound of Music, John Travolta relived his “Adele Dazeem” moment, and we got to see Neil Patrick Harris in his underwear.
Also in the spotlight was how people choose to accept their awards: some spoke out for gender or racial equality. Some talked about the importance of family and supporting each other. Some—although not as many as you might imagine—choose to thank God. The biggest winner to do so was Common, who won the Oscar for best original song. The cynical part of me wonders, though, “What about all those other songs, also deserving of recognition? Do they have God to thank for their failure?”
The other place we most often see public thanks being given to God is in sports: the batter who crosses himself after sliding into second, the receiver who kneels in the end zone for prayer. The implication is that God intervenes in athletic events—which is something I find a little absurd, but obviously others disagree. A poll taken by the Public Religion Research Institute found that 26% of Americans believed God plays a role in determining which team will win a sporting event.
Does that mean that the winners (be they athletes or musicians) were somehow more faithful? That the losers just didn’t believe enough? Aaron Rodgers, quarterback of the Green Bay Packers, gave an interview where he said, “I don’t think God cares about football. He cares about the people involved, but I don’t think he’s a big football fan.”
I think that Rodgers does a good job of finding the middle ground. God does care—God cares about people. But Rodgers (who I should note, was coming off an incredibly heart-breaking loss) is unwilling to equate winning or achievements with God’s blessing. Winning is not a sign of God’s love, just as losing is not a sign of God’s contempt or lack of care. God is with us and supporting us throughout all of the ups and downs of life. Do I think that Common, or any of the actors or public figures who make statements thanking God, intended to say God was responsible for the other nominees’ failure? Absolutely not. He was merely expressing the fact that God plays an important role in his life, and he is thankful for that.
Maybe all of this is a sign that I think much too deeply about a short statement at the Academy Awards. But I do love words, and I think it’s good to remember the power that simple, short words can have.
For a slightly more irreverent look at God and football, check out this sketch from SNL: http://www.nbc.com/saturday-night-live/video/tebow/n13335