Social Media is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the dividing of humanity and a revealer of the thoughts and intents of our lives. And no creature is hidden from its sight, but all people are naked and exposed to the eyes of our big brother to whom we all must give account.
At 2PM EDT, April 29, 2014, Adam Silver the NBA commissioner, announced his decisive action against Donald Sterling’s alleged racist comments that were released to the press the previous weekend.
Sterling was fined 2.5 million dollars and banned from the NBA for life. There was also an appeal from Silver to the board of governors to make a move to force Sterling to sell his business, the Los Angeles Clippers.
This latest media conflagration around public scandal has gripped my thinking this week. And I am not a news guy. I have never been interested in the news because it is not how I am wired.
The LORD gave me the end of the news reel a long time ago (Revelation 21:1) and I typically leave the in-between details up to Him. My thinking has always been if it is really important somebody will tell me about it.
I heard about the Oklahoma City bombing ten days after it happened. Someone told me about flight 370 being missing three days after it was lost. It seemed the LORD wanted me to give some thought to this Sterling fiasco. So I have.
There were five things that troubled me about what happened. I’ll list them for you here and then interact with them in order.
- Donald Sterling’s comments.
- Public dissemination of a private conversation.
- Sensationalized racism.
- The harshness of the penalty.
- What if they catch me for my racism?
What Sterling said was wrong. It appears to no longer be alleged, but factual. I listened to several minutes of the audio recording and there is no doubt about the wrongness of the comments. They were harsh, unkind, mean-spirited, and unacceptable. There should be no place in our hearts to foster that kind of thinking, but sadly we all have been guilty of his sin.
As my soul settled down and my mouth closed, the Spirit of God came around to reveal to me how I’m not any different from Donald Sterling. There is a kind of racism in all of our hearts.
Racism is the belief that all members of each race possess characteristics or abilities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races. – Google
If you or I are different from him, it is because of the grace of God and nothing else. Looking at Donald Sterling is in some way looking at me. I have hated people.
Through the course of our marriage, I have said some shameful things to my wife, as well as to my children. In moments of disappointment or impatience, I have used hate speech.
I am not going to sugarcoat my hatred in a way to convince you that I am better than Donald Sterling–for by grace I have been saved (Ephesians 2:8-9). Speaking unkindly in times of elevated self-importance is not outside the range of possibilities for me.
“Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” – Jesus
It would be intellectually dishonest to set myself apart from him, while speaking against him. It does not mean I should refrain from speaking out against his sins; it means before I pick up my rocks to toss on the pile, I need to realize how I have carried hate in my heart toward other people.
This kind of self-imposed modulation is one thing that is not forthcoming from the media screamers. Christians know better. We can see Donald Sterling through a biblical lens, which gives us a threefold advantage.
- We can speak against his hatred of blacks because those views are sinful.
- We can be humble enough to acknowledge our own sin, while we speak against his views.
- We can intercede for him, asking our kind Father to show mercy on him, as He has shown mercy on us (Matthew 18:33).
There is something wrong with the dissemination of Sterling’s comments. While I could never condone what he said, I also cannot condone someone recording a private conversation and making those comments available to TMZ.
There is more deviousness going on here than his racist remarks. Suppose you worked for a company and during one of your lunch breaks a colleague engaged you in a conversation about gays.
Let’s further suppose your friend recorded the conversation. During your lunch break you are asked leading questions that reveal your anti-gay lifestyle views. (Though you are not against gays, only their lifestyle, it is a moot point to those who have no tolerance for people like you.)
Your “friend” then shares the recording with the owner of the company and you are fined, fired, and banned for life from the company. This is, essentially, what happened to Donald Sterling. Follow the sequence here:
- Donald Sterling does not like black people.
- Someone records his views about black people.
- Those views were shared in the public arena.
- Donald Sterling was fined, fired, and banned for life, with the future possibility of losing his business.
Dear Christian, welcome to your future. You are now Donald Sterling. You and I can agree that disliking blacks is heinous and unwarranted. We can further agree that the process of exposing Sterling was wrong. But there is more.
Because public media is the means through which moral agendas are established and punishments are demanded, you and I are also considered to be of Sterling’s ilk. We are standing in their line-of-sight.
There is a difference between sensationalize racism and racism. What has just played out in our culture the past few days is sensationalized racism. This is what is alarming to me.
To sensationalize something is to make much of an event. Donald Sterling was caught on tape and that one event was sensationalized. The hypocrisy of this is that Sterling has a well-documented history of racism. If the issue was only about racism, they had him dead to rights years ago. But there is irony here.
The local chapter of the Los Angeles NAACP gave Sterling a lifetime achievement award in 2009. He has been a major donor to their organization. In 2011 the NBA awarded Donald Sterling, along with the Los Angeles Lakers, the NBA All Star Game, their showcase event for the league.
His long history of racism was permitted until this one event was swept up into the vortex of Social Media. What the country has witnessed this week is the power of Social Media.
It became apparent how I am caught between two worlds. In one world I despise sin, which can manifest as racism. In the other world I hear people yelling at me, “Crucify him, crucify him.”
When the herd mentality ramps up to a fever pitch, there is no turning of the tide. I have listened intently this week because I know this kind of swarming hatred of another person is going to be turned on me some day.
The NBA is a business that is free to operate how they see fit. As a fellow business owner, I am glad they have this freedom to manage their affairs in broad and unhindered ways. It is one of many things I love about America.
Still yet, it seems to be the NBA was caught between a rock and a hard place. The penalty for hating someone is $2.5 million dollars and a lifetime ban from the company you own, with a future aim to make you sell your company. (I praise God some of the private conversations in our home have not been recorded.)
The mass hatred for what Sterling did was so unabated that the NBA had no choice. There was no way they could put themselves on the side of racism. They needed a sacrifice. The only way they could win was to levy the stiffest penalty allowed, which is what they did.
“This has all happened in three days, and so I am hopeful there will be no long-term damage to the league and to the Clippers organization,” Silver said.
Silver had to make a big time power play to quell the uproar. There was talk of a boycott. This was a highly charged political nightmare that, from a business perspective, could have only one outcome–Sterling had to be offered up.
I am not sure we fully realize the power of our media culture. This case, like no other before it, has clearly shown how the new morality maker is Social Media. One of the most popular and powerful organizations in America could not stand against it.
Some would argue that $2.5 million is chump change for Donald Sterling. Maybe so, but that is not my point. The point is the new morality makers in our country. When disgust for a person and his views swell to the level it did this week, then even the mighty are not willing to go to war.
While I’m sure you don’t want your most sinful thoughts displayed for public scrutiny, what about your religious views? This kind of reverse hatred is already part of our culture’s right to body slam anyone who thinks differently from them. They will not tolerate anyone hating on anybody, unless you disagree with them. Then they will hate you with all of their force.
- Do you realize how closely aligned you are to Donald Sterling?
- What do you think about homosexuality? (If you are a biblicist, then you are opposed to that lifestyle.)
- Are you aware there is a label already created for a person like you?
If you are against the gay lifestyle, then you are a homophobe. If you believe homosexuality is a deviant behavior, then you have a mental disorder according to the Diagnostic Statistical Manual. You are closer to the Sterling camp than you might be aware and they have science to support their hatred of you.
A homophobe is a gay racist and people like you and me have no place in the public arena. What if the current of our massive media culture bent its way toward you or me? What if they targeted your employer?
What if your comments regarding your views of the gay lifestyle were recorded? What if they made their way to the public square? I’m somewhat confident your employer would sell you down the river for the sake of capitalism.
You would be fined and banned for life because of your bigotry. When the culture is allowed to determine our morality, all Christians are in the soup. This is why I am watching the Donald Sterling saga play out with mixed emotions.
I don’t agree with his position or his attitude toward black people, but I sense a dark shadow falling over my soul as the culture condemns him. The Sterling story has put me on both sides of the fence. I’m against his views, but I’m soaking in, as much as one can, what it must be like to be him—because I am him.
Many of my views are condemned by our culture—the new gatekeepers to what is right and wrong. I suppose some Christians could read this and say, “Damn the torpedoes, we’re pressing on.”
Well, that is what I plan to do by the grace of God, but I don’t want to be naive about what I have just experienced this week. Today, I am pointing my finger at Donald Sterling. Tomorrow, I’m getting the finger pointed back a me.
And they stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on his head and put a reed in his right hand.
And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” And they spit on him and took the reed and struck him on the head. And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him and led him away to crucify him. – Matthew 27:27-32 (ESV)
If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. – Mark 8:34 (ESV)