The Super Bowl is a mandatory event in our country. Football fans and non-football fans gather to watch the spectacle. This year at least one player would argue God was also a interested. Ray Lewis is the vocal middle linebacker for the Baltimore Ravens. He has been a fixture in the middle for what seems like an eternity, but Ray announced this is his final season, making the Super Bowl his final game.
The Ravens had not been the odds-on favorite to win the big game all season. They had a tough road to through the playoffs, but they put together quite a run. Joe Flacco, the Ravens Quarterback, made big plays all in every playoff game. It is like the team peaked at the right time. Following each game Ray Lewis was interviewed, and each time he related their win to God.
After the Ravens beat the Broncos Lewis said, “No weapon formed against you shall prosper.” Sunday Ray quoted Romans 8:31, “If God is for us, who can be against us.” Again let me remind you this is in reference to a Super Bowl win.
Now, I am not the first person to write about Lewis’ use of scripture. I know there are people on both sides of the argument, but I want to caution us to be too hard on Lewis. I have my doubts God chose a side in the big game, but I think Lewis’ theological reflection is the product a bad hermeneutic (theory of interpretation). This hermeneutic seems to run rampant in our American Church, so lets be careful how we judge Lewis.
When we read scripture through modern eyes, we use the lenses of reduction and individuality. To this end, the Scripture becomes a sayings source for our everyday life. Texts, like those Lewis used, become pieces of rationalization about my pursuits. God is certainly on my side; God not only approves of my success, but God is giving me the success. This way of reading makes the Holy Scriptures putty in our hands. We have a text for this and a text supporting that. Scripture is not meant to be reduced to slogans and one minute devotional thoughts.
We all need to learn to turn our ear to Scripture because it does have the power to form us. This means we need to allow the whole text to speak into our lives. Luke Timothy Johnson says, “The reading of Scripture itself creates a complex conversation concerning Jesus.” By scripture, he does not simply mean the Gospels or the New Testament texts, but the whole canon.
“All the intertexual connections interact with the complex ways in which the living Jesus is experienced, creating a sense of Jesus within the imagination that transcends literal or univocal reduction.”
Scripture is also meant to be read in community. Together, our individual readings are brought into dialogue with others. These conversations can help open us up to fresh meanings as well as keep us from the misuse of a text.
We Christians live by a particular story, and this story must be the lens in which we interpret the text. Reading Scripture together is the way we speak truth in love.
What do you think about Ray Lewis’ use of Scripture? What tools do you use to interpret Scripture?