“To the family: If you knew, if you really knew the way God works, he don’t use people who commits anything like that for his glory. No way. It’s the total opposite.” Ray Lewis to CBS Sports before Super Bowl
After the Baltimore Ravens won the Super bowl in 2000 Ray Lewis, their Pro-Bowl Linebacker and MVP of Super Bowl XXXV and two of his friends were involved in a fight after a post-super bowl party. The fight turned out to be an ugly affair and when it was done two men lay dead, the blood of one in Lewis’s limo. The suit Lewis was wearing during the party was never found. Lewis ended up taking a plea bargain in which Lewis plead guilty to a misdemeanor count of obstruction of justice in exchange for his testimony against his companions and the dropping of double homicide charges.
Since that time Lewis has distinguished himself on the football field, won many accolades and done much charity and community work. He has been active in church and worked for the benefit of many people. For all of those things he should be commended. He is beloved in Baltimore, not merely because he has brought football glory to the city but because of those acts of charity and community involvement.
At the same time his silence about the murders, in which he is one of three men living to know the truth about what happened on that night is troubling. Even more so when I saw his interview before the Super Bowl as well as other comments made back in 2006 to Sports Illustrated in The Gospel According to Ray http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/article/magazine/MAG1108943/1/index.htm as his image rehabilitation efforts had propelled him back into the favor of fans and the league.
Do I believe that people can change? Yes. Do I believe that God loves and forgives sinners? By all means. Do I value Ray Lewis as a football legend, man of great civic charity and even faith? Yes. Do I have questions that are unanswered about the unsolved murders and Lewis’s involvement in them? Yes.
In assessing Lewis and his legacy I agree with Boomer Esiason who at the end of the interview this Sunday commended to Sterling Sharpe, the man who conducted the interview: “It’s a complex legacy that we’re talking about here…Because he was involved in a double murder. And I’m not so sure that he gave us all the answer that we were looking for. He knows what went on there. And he can obviously just come out and say it. He doesn’t want to say it. He paid off the families. I get all that. That’s fine. But that doesn’t take away from who he is as a football player. And I appreciate you going down there and asking him that direct question. I’m not so sure I buy the answer.”
However, for me the questions are even deeper than Lewis’s individual guilt, innocence and involvement in the murders. That is a big issue of its own but I see a bigger issue and that deals with Christians who are willing to bury the murders because Lewis has found God, been successful on the field and done many wonderful things for his community and the disenfranchised in it.
The problem that I see is not new. It is a problem that has been the bane of American Evangelical Christianity for at least a generation. That problem is the “Prosperity Gospel” which puts a premium on earthly success as a measure of the blessing of God on an individual, business, church or organization. In fact, that message basically has been used and abused by a multitude of preachers who have committed crimes against God and man, adultery, murder, greed, avarice, lies. You name it a prosperity preacher has done it and found a way to excuse their sin based on God’s “blessing” of their ministry and earthly success.
The sad thing it is not just preachers, nor is it limited to the “prosperity” crowd. The banal covering up of crimes in order to protect legacies of preachers, churches or popular “Christian leaders” is epidemic in the life of American churches. The incidents are so many that they have become numbing. One only has to look across the denominational spectrum to see the terrible effects ranging from the Roman Catholic sexual abuse scandals to unseemly behaviors by church leaders in other denominations to see the rot that has been covered with a veneer of righteousness and deception which cloaks their misdeeds under the vail of temporal power, opulence, political influence and material success.
In his interview Lewis made the comment that “if you really knew the way God works, he don’t use people who commits anything like that for his glory.” Actually Lewis is wrong on this. According to scripture God used many unseemly men for his glory, but the key for those that are honored in scripture is that they acknowledged their sins and sought forgiveness.
I think that the most notable of these was King David, a man who killed the husband of a woman that he was conducting an adulterous affair to cover up her pregnancy. David tried to cover it up but was uncovered by the a prophet named Nathan. David repented and Psalm 51 documents that repentance. However endured an awful price from his sin. The baby died and his son led a rebellion against him. He was forbidden from building the Temple, despite scripture’s proclamation that David was “a man after God’s own heart.”
My issue with what has gone on with Ray Lewis is the fact that the records for his court settlements and pleas are sealed as are the records of his out of court cash settlement with the family of one of the dead men. The truth is known by Lewis and is being covered up by him even while he proclaims his own victimhood, in the 2006 Sports Illustrated article that being booed and criticized was like being “crucified.”
But that is par for the course in modern American Christianity. If Ray Lewis’s actions were an anomaly it might be more remarkable, but they have become all too common, even the now disgraced former Cardinal Archbishop of Los Angeles Roger Mahoney is spinning his cover ups of the sexual abuse scandals and claiming victimhood for himself following his suspension from public ministry. No wonder people are fleeing the Church in droves and that the fastest growing segment of the religious belief are “the nones” or those with no religious preference.
The involvement in and cover up of what happened do not take away from Ray Lewis’s remarkable on field accomplishments. He is one of the most gifted and accomplished football players who ever played the game. However, when it is all said and done is that all life is about and is that all that Lewis or any of us want as our legacy?