Thursday, December 26, 2013

Three Lessons From Professional Hockey

Those who know me, know I don't much like professional hockey.  The reason is the same for why I don't like any blood sport: it is barbaric to place money and entertainment before life--particularly human life.  Professional hockey is a classic example of this; it is not about tactics and skillful playing, but brawling, bloodletting, and indirectly, killing.

In a recent edition of Lab Reporter (of all sources), Ashley Peterson discusses the rising cases of brain damage among pro hockey players (Lab Reporter 2013 (4), 32-33).  These brain injuries, which usually don't manifest until years after they first occurred and are not detectable with current technology, often result in premature death.  Case in point is the recent demise of Derek Boogaard at the tender age of 28 years.

I'm not here to rant against blood sports, though.  Ashley's expose on the state of professional hockey affords three glimpses into the human condition.  We can learn three lessons about ourselves from the discussions around the problems stemming from violence in hockey.  It is these problems I want to briefly address here because they clearly illustrate why we all need a Savior.

First of all, fallen humanity thrives on what it sees as power.  Even though faced with mounting evidence of the lethal ramifications of aggression in hockey, the promoters are reluctant to completely do away with the fighting.  As Ashley reports,

"However, as long as rough action sells tickets, a major change to totally eliminate fighting in the NHL may still be a ways off."

You see, even though we all talk about the value of human life, tolerance, peace, and all such noble causes, we secretly value power more.  Money is power.  And if we are not making money at the expense of human life, we are doling it out so we can vicariously beat up those in our lives we want to see bloodied--if not killed; indeed, it is becoming less and less satisfying for people to pay others to burn their personal effigies for them; this is why we are hearing of more and more cases of post-game violence among the spectators.  Blood sports are and have always been a legal outlet for our hate.  This present world believes hate is power.  The incentive of hate is death or the threat of death; and the currency of hate is money.

Therefore, people value power because they see power as both a means to promote hate and to protect themselves from hate.  They want to promote hate--although they deny this--because it is hoped this will produce more power for themselves. They want protection, because to be king-of-the-hill ultimately comes down to survival. And if they lack the innate gifts to achieve such power on their own, they buy it.

Secondly, we easily blind ourselves to the clear facts in order to get what we want, which is, of course, power (see above).  I laughed aloud when I read in Ashley's article,

"Specifically, researchers presented new findings in support of the elimination of fighting [i.e., in hockey], suggesting that repeated punches to the head can cause the most serious injury.  While there is still no irrefutable evidence that fighting results in brain damage, many experts continue to press the issue."

Really?  Do we really need insurmountable evidence before we believe hitting someone repeatedly in the head will cause brain damage?  Are we really that stupid? Of course we are; but it is a self-imposed stupidity for the sake of power; and for this reason we will always question the data, no matter how irrefutable it might be.  Fallen humanity is--despite its protestations to the contrary--comprised of liars. And sadly, these liars have long ago believed their own lies.

Finally, we discover we cannot really protect ourselves from ourselves.  Ashley points out the fact that recent NHL legislation against blindside checks actually resulted in more concussions.  Furthermore--as I suspect we have been seeing in Pro football--implementing better protective gear actually emboldens the players to take more risks, which means more aggression.  Rules and armor will never overcome our thirst for power.  Truly, it has been said by someone, "Necessity is the mother of invention."

The last point locates the core of the fallen human condition: the human heart.  All I have discussed here flows from a heart of selfish-ambition and conceit.  For this reason, all the analyses, good intentions, and legislation will never bring peace to our world.  Until the human heart is changed to see what true power is and then act in it, we will continue to slit each other's throats, and congratulate ourselves in the process.

We will never possess such changed hearts until we completely surrender ourselves to our Creator; because only He knows what real power is and can give us the wisdom to possess it.  The true power which I speak is love.

God's answer to the human condition was for Himself to take on humanity as His son, Jesus the Christ, walk among us in perfect love, and take upon Himself, as an act of true love, all the so-called power this world can muster in defense and validation of itself, and sacrificially die.  But then prove the world's power to be powerless against the true power of love, by raising Jesus to eternal life as transformed humanity; so that now, if we surrender ourselves completely by faith to the living Christ, we will possess His heart of love as He lives within us by His spirit; we will become transformed humanity together in Christ and live forever in the power of his love, which is true lasting peace.

"For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on His shoulders.  And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.  Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end.  He will reign on David's throne and over His kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever.  The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this." (Is. 9:6-7) [NIV]

Through three lessons from the NHL we have found ourselves severely wanting; and therefore from them we hopefully come to see our need for our Savior, Jesus the Christ, who is God with us.