After I got back to town here on August 15, I still had about ten days on my two month gym membership, and on Monday night, I chose to work out during football, so I could use the elliptical while watching Johnny Manziel of the Cleveland Browns. We don't have television, and I was interested in how Johnny Football would fare against professional competition. I played quarterback in high school and college, and from a purely football standpoint, on the high side, he might in the future compare to a Russell Wilson type of skill set. I call that above average, and mainly because of intangible athletic instincts he possesses. But I'm not really writing here about his football prowess, but about what I didn't see on Monday night, but did see when I came in to work out early Tuesday.
When his opposition mocked him on the sidelines after a subpar play, Manziel retorted with a common crude hand symbol. The gesture was called an "obscenity." The report said he might receive an $11,000 fine from the NFL for the "obscenity." $11,000!! ESPN protested the obscenity by replaying it about 47 times in the short time I used the exercise machine, except 'fuzzing' out his hand each time, as if seeing the single upraised center digit of a hand could not be imagined. ESPN will not be fined. Replaying the obscenity dozens of times does not constitute an obscenity, and neither does talking about it for cumulative days. Just wanted you to know. It's obvious that his one moment of holding up that outstretched finger was the obscenity. But why? Let's explore and then I'll comment.
What is an obscenity? I wondered mainly because it interested me that the world thinks that anything is obscene. I got that the world thinks Manziel was obscene. One dictionary definition of obscenity is
any statement or act which strongly offends the prevalent morality of the time.
I looked at a whole bunch of other definitions and they were all essentially the same as the one above.
What could offend the prevalent morality of this present time? Did Manziel really do that? In this culture, what difference does it make? The cheerleaders wear something not much less than underwear and often join in undulating hip thrusting as a "cheer." This doesn't get a reaction. I could keep going and going here. Many high school basketball programs play foul rap lyrics at eardrum bleeding volume on a boom box at half time, time-outs, and pregame. I've seen this at middle school games in Oakland so loud that I couldn't hear the person next to me. I have talked to coaches who witnessed as foul language as possible at clinics from the top named coaches across the country. This is how they talked in their own practices. I know that on rampant cable shows you don't see the symbol, but nonstop the actual act that Manziel was symbolizing. Michael Sam slobbering all over his boyfriend live on ESPN was courageous, not obscene. How many venues and times do we hear our Lord's name in vain without apology? I suppose this doesn't matter any more.
What I'm saying so far is that Manziel isn't offending the prevalent morality of the time. I contend that most don't care except as a matter of hypocritical self-righteousness. People are feigning offense, I'm saying -- just to look good. Obscenity is entirely subjective in this culture. We're at a place, as I see it, that obscenity is essentially unfeasible. How can people call something wrong, when there is no. way. of deciding or determining what's wrong? No absolute standard. This culture rejects absolute truth. According to the NFL worldview, no one could say Manziel did anything wrong. ESPN, its type of people, has no right to say anything is obscene. Nothing.
Sure. Many people don't want to see Manziel's gesture. I'd say that far more people though don't want to see Sam's slobbery kiss or hear one more thing about his lifestyle. ESPN misreads or just lies about prevailing morality. Obscene is whatever works as obscenity.
I oppose what Manziel did, even if it was in jest. And most readers here would expect me to connect it to evangelicalism. Judgment should begin with the house of God. The Bible doesn't say it's wrong. There is no verse on it. Isn't it going "beyond what is written" (1 Cor 4:6) to oppose it? Suddenly something means something to evangelicals? Maybe. Why should it? Fingers are nothing. They're just fingers. Music is just notes, the equivalent of paper and pen. Amoral. Morally neutral. What's obscene to evangelicals is judging symbols. Any of them. If symbols such as these are judged, it seems totally to be arbitrary, like the soldier at the tomb of the unknown soldier. They want that to mean something, so it does. Where it is inconvenient, it stops meaning anything. Evangelicalism produces this, pushes this, excuses this, and gives cover to anyone who wants to go to heaven, but not live like a Christian.
Much of what evangelicalism does should be obscene. It isn't, because evangelicalism says it isn't. And they can't have it mean anything if they want to reach what they understand to be a success. So it isn't obscene, but only in a totally arbitrary way. They shape their buildings like theaters, but that means nothing. They use screens at the front and that means nothing. Casual dress means nothing. Women's shorts over a foot above the knee -- nothing. Rock music, nothing. Rap, nothing. But Manziel's center digit. Something. Suddenly. Means something obscene. Oh yes.