Those who read my Blog and my books know my conviction that history is relevant today. Even more, they/you know my conviction that the history of spiritual care is relevant to how we relate to one another today.
Today, I’m going to prove it.
The Bears’ Crisis
Most of my readers will be unaware of the “crisis” with the Chicago Bears’ football team brought on by one of their best players, Tank Johnson. A week ago, police raided Johnson’s home, finding a cache of firearms. Booked and released on bond, he awaits a trial. It is America: Johnson is innocent until proven guilty/convicted in a court of law.
Problems mounted and tragedy ensued two days later when Johnson’s body guard was murdered in a shooting at a local Chicago bar.
You ask, “How in the world does this relate to the history of soul care???”
The debate in Chicago sports pages now is whether or not Tank should be tanked by the Bears. Some say that the Bears should get Tank some help and get him back on the team. Others say that the Bears are embarrassing (emBEARrassing, perhaps?) themselves by keeping him around.
In fact, ever-bitter and biting Chicago Tribune columnist, Rick Morrissey, lampoons the Bears and questions the integrity of their head coach (Lovie Smith) and general manager (Jerry Angelo). Here’s what Morrissey has to say:
“I’d like to say Tank Johnson should have been sent packing by now, but I’m afraid he would take that to mean he should pack some heat. Why Johnson isn’t already a former Bear is a complete mystery, unless it’s that the organization likes being embarrassed, disrespected or played for a fool by its players. Or unless it’s that coach Lovie Smith has sold his soul for a chance to win a Super Bowl. . . . If Smith is concerned the rest of the team will think he has deserted Johnson if he waives him, then he has no concept of right and wrong. He should be very concerned right now that his team and his city believe he has no spine. If Johnson does play again this season, it will show exactly how far Smith will go to win games. . . . I see an opportunity for Smith and general manager Jerry Angelo to show they have trace levels of principles” (Chicago Tribune, http://chicagosports.chicagotribune.com/sports/columnists/cs-061216morrissey,1,3518618.column?coll=cs-bears-headlines accessed December 19, 2006).
Don’t get me started on the arrogance of Morrissey daring to question whether Smith has “trace levels of principles.” And don’t get me started on Morrissey totally misunderstanding the little matter of Unions, Contracts, and Procedures, not to mention that little issue of “innocent until proven guilty.” Because, moving in those directions would move this Blog to the Sports’ page and off the “Truth for Life” Blog page.
How History Replies to Tank’s Story
But do get me started thinking with you about how the history of soul care and spiritual direction might offer some guidance in this debate over how a team (organization, family, friends) might want to respond to an issue like this.
Those who would follow only the soul care (sustaining and healing) side of historic spiritual care, would insists that Tank Johnson should not be tanked. He should be cuddled, coddled, encouraged, grieved with, and rehabilitated.
Those who would follow only the spiritual direction (reconciling and guiding) side of historic spiritual care, would, like Morrissey, call for Tank’s instant removal from the team. He should be confronted, busted, exposed, exhorted, and released.
However, those who follow both the soul care and the spiritual direction side of historic spiritual car, would, like Lovie Smith and Jerry Angelo, attempt to sustain, heal, reconcile, and guide Tank Johnson. They, like Tank’s friends on the Bears, are grieving with Johnson over the death of his friend. They are recognizing also that they have a social, family, organizational responsibility to “get Tank help.” They are not “winking at his problems” nor “excusing his sins.” However, they see him as a human being who is messed up and causing messes and needs healing.
At the same time, people like Lovie Smith, Jerry Angelo, and Johnson’s Bears’ teammates, also understand that Johnson needs to be disciplined. And, he has been. He has been deactivated from his livelihood. Further discipline, within the confines of NFL Union contractual obligations, are being discussed and considered. He certainly is being confronted, both publicly and privately. He is also being guided; he is being given the sort of counsel, direction, and advice necessary to clean up his life. He has been told in no uncertain terms what right behavior and wrong behavior is in his specific situation. The law has been laid down; he has been told what is acceptable and unacceptable activity.
I am not an apologist for the Chicago Bears’ organization, nor for Lovie Smith or Jerry Angelo. That’s not my point. Nor am I claiming that they are somehow consciously following historic sustaining, healing, reconciling, and guiding. Of course not.
I am saying, that we can map their response, and the responses suggested by others, such as the serpent-tongued Morrissey, using the GPS of sustaining, healing, reconciling, and guiding.
Every encounter with another human being involves some combination of sustaining, healing, reconciling, and guiding. The question always is, “What is the most effective combination and implementation of each in a given situation?”
Yep, Tank Johnson and the Church Fathers do relate. Yep, history is relevant today. Yep, the history of soul care and spiritual direction do help us to make wise people decisions today.