This is a short cultural commentary on the Donald Sterling issue. I won’t discuss the racial issue and its ramifications since this has been spoken about quite a bit in the media. I’ll provide two initial thoughts on this subject as well as an observation.
First, I imagine most people were upset about Mr. Donald Sterling’s reprehensible but private conversation with his girlfriend. However, I’m certain many of us have said things privately and publicly that doesn’t line up with today’s cultural norms (Jesus is the only way).
This private conversation proved to be very costly for Mr. Sterling. Mr. Adam Silver, NBA Commissioner, stated, “The views expressed by Mr. Sterling are deeply offensive and harmful. That they came from an NBA owner only heightens the damage and my personal outrage. Sentiments of this kind are contrary to principles of inclusion and respect that inform our diverse, multicultural and multi-ethnic league.” As a result, Mr. Silver banned Mr. Sterling from his team the Los Angeles Clippers. He also started the ball rolling to force Mr. Sterling to sell his team. Throughout Mr. Silver’s press conference, he referenced Mr. Sterling’s words that were caught on tape. Yet Mr. Sterling wasn’t punished for his long history of racism. Admittedly, the subject was touched upon. I’m not certain if the financial fall out or Mr. Sterling’s words sparked this historical punishment. Keep this in the back of your mind as you continue to read.
Second, as Christians we must extend Christ’s grace to Mr. Sterling and those who act like him. How would the world respond if they saw Mr. Sterling accepting Christ as his savior? I think this is an opportunity for us to show a skeptical society how Christians respond to hatred. Do not be confused with my saying that we show love towards the Donald Sterlings of the world and us being weak. I’m emphasizing the fact that we must show love even towards those who do not love us (Matt 5:43-48).
Just a thought
Could the Sterling decision have implications on the church? Mike Tirco, ESPN Spokesman, made a bold statement. He said Mr. Silver’s actions shows us that society will not tolerate what people think if it isn’t in line with how society feels (loosely quoted). J.A Adande, Around The Horn Personality, said something similar. He stated private conversations like this (Mr. Sterling) will not be tolerated. This got me to thinking. What will happen if our thoughts on (1) Who should go to Hell; (2) Not accepting homosexuality; or (3) cheating on our taxes were aired? What if those thoughts aren’t congruent with societal morals? Not only that, but we didn’t act upon those impulses or thoughts? Perhaps we disagreed with society’s current position but didn’t do anything to harm the people engaged in those actions. Should we face the full fury of society through fiscal punishment or jail? This isn’t a quantum leap in actions as you might think. Why? By definition, Christianity is exclusive and intolerant. Christians exclusively follow Christ and Him only. Hence we are exclusive. Also, Christianity is intolerant. We do not tolerate things that society says is okay. Further, we are intolerant to sin even if others say that sin is now okay. Our integrity and lifestyle isn’t governed by economic ramifications. We live by God’s standard and that stand is exclusive. In other words, our plumb line doesn’t change. But there is more. We’re also open. God’s love and grace is for everyone. In fact, God desires that no one should perish (2 Pet 3:9). Remember as Christians, we can’t judge…that job is left to our Lord and Savior.
One last point. The church is creeping towards a battle. A battle between intolerance of Christian beliefs and non-Christian beliefs. It’ll be our intolerance towards society’s intolerance of our beliefs and theirs with ours. In some regards, the battle has already started. It’s not as though the church hasn’t been sued for not allowing Gay marriages. Yes, people using lawsuits to make us change your position. Not only that, there has been talk about jailing clergy going if they speak against same-sex marriages. However, this has just been talk and no real traction has taken place, as of yet. Obviously I have no idea when this collision will happen but it seems inevitable. I just wanted you to think on this possibility.
To be clear, it definitely appears Mr. Sterling has a long history of discrimination and underhanded dealings. Yet his banishment wasn’t because of those issues. Mr. Silver did not punish Mr. Sterling because of his actions but because of his words. We may be headed towards a slippery slope if society corporately punishes someone for their thoughts. If true, it’s likely Christians will be targeted and punished since our lifestyle and beliefs are and will continue to be different from society’s. Even with all of what we’ve just discussed, continue to be prayerful and continue to walk in the love of Christ.