Super Bowl

Beyoncé and the Next Great Awakening

Rev. Michael Piazza is well known for developing Dallas’s Cathedral of Hope, the first predominantly LGBT church in the country. The Cathedral of Hope grew from a store-front church into a megachurch with a message of inclusivity, love, and justice. I am taking a class taught by Rev. Piazza this semester, and with us he recently shared a compelling insight. Rev. Piazza believes that America will have another Great Awakening. 

I think that the time for that awakening could be right now, and Beyoncé’s documentary does a stellar job of showing us why.

How Beyoncé Slayed the Super Bowl and Fox News

The white power structures were offended, so they fought back. Fox News interviewed Rudy Giuliani about the halftime show. The interview is a textbook case in America’s 400-year history of silencing black voices. The segment shows four white people critiquing Beyoncé’s performance and the black lives matter movement. They lectured Beyoncé on her performance. One commentator said, “In the end we find out that Beyoncé dressed up in a tribute to the Black Panthers, (the dancers) went to a Malcom X formation, and the song, the lyrics, which I couldn’t make out a syllable, were basically telling cops to stop shooting blacks!”

Why Everyone's Talking About Beyonce's Halftime Super Bowl Performance

Image via Twitter/@cjnlewis

“The potency of ‘Formation’ doesn’t comes from its overt politics: it comes from the juxtaposition of lyric with the images, which organically present black humanity in ways we’ve haven’t seen frequently represented,” wrote Syreeta McFadden in The Guardian.

“Beyoncé’s work shows that revolution can be beautiful; protest and celebration are not contradictions when imagining a black future that isn’t overrun by images of black pain and death.”

'Nuns on the Underground Railroad'

The way forward railway. Photo via hxdyl / Shutterstock.com

While some people may have heard of the great work of Nuns on the Bus to engage people on pressing social issues, there’s also the “Nuns on the Underground Railroad”—a quiet movement of nuns working together to restore dignity and healing for victims of labor and sex trafficking across the nation and the world...

For several years now, Catholic nuns have been proactive in preventing sex trafficking before, during, and after major sporting events like the Super Bowl by raising public awareness and conducting personal visits to hotels to alert them to the signs of human trafficking. Nuns have also placed full-page ads in airline magazines to educate the public about the dangers of child trafficking.

A fundamental theological and scriptural principle for Christians is that each human person is made in the image and likeness of God. This belief in the imago Dei helps us to see the face of God even when the person doubts her own beauty and worth because of oppression. “Nuns on the Underground Railroad” seeks to restore a person’s sense of dignity and beauty through two rails of freedom: healing through programs and shelters and empowerment through education and employment.

As we move toward the Lenten season, the prophet Isaiah reminds us: "Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?" (Isaiah 58:6)

How is God moving your heart as you awaken to the stories of human trafficking victims? What action can you take for your enslaved sister and brother? What will you bring to your faith community to stir up concern? One single action to educate others and liberate the oppressed strengthens freedom throughout the world. As our mission affirms, “Ending slavery is everyone’s work.”

The Super Bowl and the Church in a Culture of Dominance

Photo via Eugene Onischenko / Shutterstock.com

Americans enjoy football because, to a degree, football reflects the values of strength, courage, strategy, self-discipline, teamwork, and celebrity that American culture holds dear. It’s also refreshing to watch someone else get crushed by a 260-pound linebacker after you’ve had a lousy week at work.

The problem develops when we let football (or other sports, or a military, or corporations, or other forces) define strength in terms of dominance.

I’m not trying to dump on football. I’m noting that it’s a game largely devoted to imposing one’s will on another. That competitive value can be fine on a field, but when it seeps into our society, neighborhoods, and families we should be wary.

Because when dominance is the name of the game, there will be victims.

The Super Bowl might prompt us to consider the hazards of an ethos in which rewards go to those who say “We take what we want” and follow through on it.

Social Justice Pick-Up Lines

I didn’t expect to get hit on during Super Bowl XLVIII.

I mean, I was expecting the usual stuff — the testosterone-fueled web hosting pitch, the adorable animals selling beer – but this was shameless. Someone really did their homework, because company after company turned up with things I like to hear: healthy families; cute biracial kids; a nation of immigrants; a thriving main street; victory for the marginalized; solving the world’s most pressing social ills. Check, check-check.

Progressive values, you are currently the it-girl for advertisement pickup artists. Enjoy it?

I, for one, do not.

Don’t get me wrong, commercials that celebrate our society as diverse and affirming are far more appealing than the advertising tropes we’re used to. But they also veil or flat-out misrepresent the structures and practices of the companies telling them. Without a significant shift towards justice on the part of these companies themselves, their social good stories shouldn’t charm us — they probably should leave us with a bad taste in our mouths.

Between Repression and Freedom

Photo courtesy Tom Ehrich / Via RNS

I stopped drinking Coca Cola years ago — not in protest but in a bid for health. But I want to applaud their presenting "America the Beautiful" sung in seven languages.

In a 60-second Super Bowl ad, and now a 90-second version at the bizarre Sochi Winter Olympics, the soft drink company showed people of different ethnic backgrounds singing in English and six other languages.

I found it charming and warming. It spoke eloquently to the America that I know today — and the America that my ancestors knew when they arrived many years ago speaking German and Norwegian.

For God, Country, and Coca-Cola

Coca-Cola Super Bowl commercial screenshot
Coca-Cola Super Bowl commercial screenshot

The highlight of the Super Bowl for me was Coca-Cola’s "America is Beautiful" commercial. The images of the American landscape are amazing and the song was beautiful. At first I was a bit confused by the different languages singing "America the Beautiful" (I’m slow…), but I caught on about halfway through. When the commercial ended, I looked over at my wife and said, “Wow. That was beautiful … Not worth four million dollars, but that was good.”

For the moment, let’s deal with any cynicism that the Coca-Cola Company is simply trying to sell us their product. Of course they’re trying to sell us their product; that’s why they spent millions on their ad, but along the way, Coke pointed to the reason that I love the United States. I love my country because it is a nation that welcomes the “Other.” Indeed, we haven’t always been good at this, and we still struggle with it, but the United States is a nation of immigrants. Even Native Americans, who have tragically been excluded from the land they’ve lived on for thousands of years, were originally immigrants who were welcomed by this land. This land has a long history of welcoming people into it, and so any act of excluding immigrants goes against its ideal of welcoming the “Other.”

5 Points About the SodaStream-Oxfam Dust-up

Scarlett Johansson during the 2013 Toronto Film Festival. Photo courtesy of GabboT, via Wikimedia Commons/ via RNS

In the run-up to the Super Bowl, advertisers work hard to get their money’s worth, even before their spot has run. They leak teasers and hype the stars who will appear in them. If they can find a way, they generate controversy.

This year, SodaStream is already the big winner in the controversy category. One of the dust-ups surrounds a tug of war between SodaStream and Oxfam International over Scarlett Johansson, who recently accepted a role with the carbonation company and will appear in its Super Bowl ad.

On Wednesday, Johansson resigned her eight-year-long goodwill ambassadorship with Oxfam, citing a "fundamental difference of opinion."

On Scripture: Enjoy the Super Bowl; Be Suspicious of Its Values

Football player in a tunnel, Brocreative / Shutterstock.com
Football player in a tunnel, Brocreative / Shutterstock.com

If the outcome of Sunday’s Super Bowl comes down to the game’s final play, and you find yourself inclined to ask Jesus to help your favorite team win, remember: It’s quite possible he doesn’t know squat about tackle football.

At least, when we read the opening sentences of his Sermon on the Mount (found in Matthew 5:1-12), it seems his values are light years away from the confident and muscular ethos that football teams rely on for success. He directs attention in this passage toward the weak, powerless, and vulnerable elements of humanity. Consider these some of the groups he embraces:

  • The poor in spirit : referring either to humble people or to those who are broken and have lost hope.
  • Those who mourn : those who suffer loss and the feeling of emptiness that follows.
  • The meek : those who are gentle and unobtrusive, who refuse to use power over others as a tool to make things happen.
  • The merciful : people who willingly surrender their privileges or otherwise go out of their way to improve others’ well being.
  • Those who are persecuted : people whose refusal to give up their quest for truth or virtuousness results in the taking away of their rights, wholeness, or dignity.

Careful, Jesus, or you’ll get blamed for contributing to the wussification of America .

The kinds of people Jesus highlights tend to dwell beneath society’s radar. They often stay out, or are kept out, of public view. They possess little power. Most of us can find no good reason for aspiring to join these groups.

Eye-opening numbers about the Super Bowl … and how they stack up against other things going on in America.

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