Tuesday, January 15, 2013

What Identifying Your Favorite Image of LeBron Can Lead to....

My jaw dropped for the second time that day.  Standing in the chapel at Belen Jesuit, an all boys Catholic high school in Miami, a 6'4" senior dressed in shirt and tie encouraged every person in the chapel to look up.  He averted our eyes to the Christ on the Cross and said with total reverence and sincerity "this is my favorite Christological symbol in the school."  I know this young man's intention wasn't for the crowd to look at him, but at Jesus...but it was hard not to.  I gazed at the handsome captain of the Wolverine's football team (committed to the University of Georgia) and thought Could my students articulate to a stranger their favorite image of Christ?  Could I?
I love that somewhere in his faith formation this student learned to know and appreciate a Christological image...enough to identify one as his favorite.  I encourage my students to choose one for Jesus in the same way they might have a beloved image of their preferred athlete.  Asking a young person to identify why a certain poster or picture of a football player, runner or swimmer is their favorite is a no-brainer.   I love this image of LeBron because it reveals what a craftsman he is. OR  It captures how dominant he is on the court.  To think of Jesus in such a personal, unique and real way may be a challenge--but no less important.
One way to begin this process might be to see religious imagery in a new way.  In my Sports and Spirituality course, I intentionally use a provocative image-- a black and white photo that features LeBron James underneath the words "We Are All Witnesses."  It is actually an ad that was run by Nike; part of the "Believe" campaign.  On the first day of class I ask several questions: Is it is spiritual? Why or Why not.  Describe the religious symbolism.   

Those who know and love King James probably see it for what it is; it is but a snapshot of his pre-game ritual.  He places chalk dust in his hands and releases it with open arms above and beyond. But with the light shining down on him highlighting his physical strength in near majesty, it's not a quantum leap to recognize there is something spiritual about it.  I believe if we start to see the spiritual in the everyday, we can approach the overly or obviously spiritual more often.  We can make it our own.  We can keep it at less of a distance and integrate into our everyday lives.  The here and now becomes the now and here.

An integration of the spiritual life into our everyday life may usher more comfort and familiarity with religious imagery. language and information.  Give it a shot.  Let me know what you think....in the mean time, I encouarge you to share with others your favorite image of Jesus. It's a powerful form of evangelization.

My next posting will feature the reason my jaw dropped for the first time that day at Belen Jesuit....

Photo Credits
Dominant James
We Are All Witnesses
Rembrandt's Jesus

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