Like millions of other people around the world, I was watching the Super Bowl Sunday night as the Seattle Seahawks took on the New England Patriots.
Of course the entire world was talking about the final Seahawks play of the game. With mere feet to the end zone and a renowned running back, the Seahawks opted to throw the ball rather than run it. What looked like a sure score and Super Bowl victory turned out, well, disappointing for the Seahawks.
I’ve heard lots of criticism and jokes made at the expense of the Seahawks coaching staff. But it’s easy to be an armchair quarterback—to criticize things from the outside looking in—even though we have never (and will never) spend a second playing in the big game.
There are others who point to the fact that the play call was NOT, actually, a bad call. The New York Times posted an article looking at the Super Bowl through Game Theory and posited that the call was actually the smart move.
Fox Sports said something very similar:
So what’s the lesson Christians can learn from this whole debacle? Cross-apply the principle of armchair quarterbacks to armchair church members and the lesson is this:
We shouldn’t be so quick to criticize play calls made by Christian leaders.
It’s easy to be removed from the situation and criticize the play calls and the ones making the calls. I see this kind of behavior on social media and in real life. People are quick to criticize the decisions made by pastors, elders, or ministry leaders. It’s easy to stand back and, in hindsight, say, “That was a terrible decision! You should’ve done it differently!”
But in the middle of living life we don’t get to make decisions with the luxury of hindsight. Sometimes a play can be a perfectly viable play and still go horribly wrong. If the Seahawks had made the play and scored, Pete Carroll would have been a hero instead of a goat and the brunt of internet jokes:
Yes, I know that the coach, pastor, leader (whatever) takes the heat for bad calls. It’s the reason why the project manager of the losing team usually gets fired by Donald Trump in The Apprentice. But Christians can act with grace, knowing that sometimes people can make viable decisions that have poor results. It doesn’t make the leader a bad leader. Sometimes it just means that the other team’s defense stepped up and made a better play.
Instead of blaming church leaders every time we perceive a bad call, let’s act with love and grace.
‘Cause that’s kind of how the Bible calls us to act.
Chris Linzey is husband to Tené, father to the three most beautiful children in the world, movie addict (seriously, if it’s on a screen he'll watch it—doesn’t matter how crummy or low-budget), and a Navy Chaplain, currently assigned to Naval Air Station, Meridian. Chris has a deep desire to help people live lives of faith where the Bible is more than mere words on a page, but the way we live everyday. His undergrad and Master’s studies were in Biblical Studies and he focused on the New Testament (his mentor was a Gospel of Mark scholar). He went on to get a Master of Divinity (MDiv) in Pastoral Preaching. Follow him at @chrislinzey.