Tight end Benjamin Watson of the New Orleans Saints is a standout on the football field. He recently delighted Saints fans and fantasy-football owners by finishing a second straight home game with more than 100 receiving yards (and a touchdown), as the Saints were victorious over the New York Giants on Nov. 1 (All Saints Day, by the way).
He’s also an author. His new book, “Under Our Skin: Getting Real About Race — and Getting Free from the Fears and Frustrations that Divide Us,” comes out on Nov. 17, featuring the devoutly Christian husband and father of five (his latest child, daughter Eden, was born in August) offering his thoughtful, profound observations on race, faith, football and what it means to be an American.
Watson has garnered a lot of attention with his Facebook commentaries on controversial issues. Most recently, he weighed in on the the case of Bremerton, Washington, high-school football coach Joe Kennedy, who was placed on administrative leave for leading silent after-game prayers on the field, something he’s done since 2008.
Here’s Kennedy describing his situation to Fox News host Bill O’Reilly (posted Nov. 2 by Fox News Insider):
The legal battle goes on.
Then, on Nov. 3, the Bremerton High School Knights took the field for a playoff game. In attendance was the Satanic Temple of Seattle, which said it had been invited by Bremerton students and faculty.
The exact beliefs of the various Satanic Temple organizations are hard to ascertain, but they often insert themselves into conflicts over religious liberty, saying that if Christians are allowed to express their beliefs, then Satanists should get equal time.
On Oct. 30, Benjamin Watson weighed in on the Kennedy flap from his Facebook page:
How can we print “In God We Trust” on our currency, evoke divine intervention during natural disasters, and pray for comfort and healing after mass shootings yet seek to remove and criminalize this same prayer when done by individuals across this country.
If he is God in the catastrophe, when our human power is so painfully inadequate and fear grips our souls, he is also God in the exercises of daily life and deserves to be treated as such. We can not continue to shun Him from our routine consciousness only to turn to Him in our day of peril. We can’t have it both ways.
The story of football coach ?#?JoeKennedy? is unique yet in some ways common to many of us as we feel pressed to make tough decisions in how we exercise our faith, all the while knowing our faith is who we are, not just an exercise we simply participate in.
Don’t lose heart. A lighthouse set upon the rock, is a beacon of hope, steadfast, as it casts its light into the darkness around it. It’s greatest impact is not beheld during the day, but at night when it can be seen for miles around. Joe Kennedy, thank you for being a lighthouse and continuing to shine your light. You’re an encouragement to many.
Football is a difficult and demanding sport, and expressions of religious faith are common, especially in the NFL. As former Baltimore Ravens center and devout Catholic Matt Birk said to me recently, “The game will bring you to your knees, so you might as well start there.”
Although TV networks try hard not to show them, those faith expressions make their way to the pro playing field. This past Monday night, the Carolina Panthers bested the Indianapolis Colts, 29-26, in a nail-biter decided by a field goal in overtime.
And then this happened:
It’s true, if we make room for one faith expression, we need to make room for all. But in the end, doing that makes a lot more sense than this official fiction that faith is something that can be confined to the walls of a house of worship … or that bans on religious expression are evenly applied.
Imagea: Kate O’Hare; Benjamin Watson Official Facebook page