I like LeBron James. I am a native born Ohio son and I have been hearing about him since he was in High School. My cousin even played against him in a tournament (LeBron won). I get that folks were upset with the way he left Cleveland (a horrible ESPN live debacle that was supposed to be a benevolent fundraiser for some charity that is now long forgotten in the wake of the controversy). But I am still shocked that people are angry at him for leaving Cleveland as a free-agent.

I would like to say that this is long gone in the distant past and that time has healed some wounds. But with LeBron James it seems that time only causes the temperature to rise and intensity of hatred to escalate. I am always taken back with not just the amount of hatin’ on LeBron but the increasing viciousness of it.   Then a fellow Ohio-born friend posted this comment this morning.  Elud writes:

but I couldn’t help but think about this piece last night as I was watching LeBron win his first title.  Being a native Clevelander, my Facebook and Twitter feeds were awash with dismay and vitriol.  Yet, I thought a little bit about why it is that there was such a distaste for LeBron winning – yes, primarily because he spurned Cleveland in the most visible and humiliating way — isn’t it because we have this inherit desire to attach winning with virtue and righteousness? Only those that God has blessed prosper?  As a previous post acknowledged, this is a convenient excuse for maintaining (and doggedly protecting) institutional and societal structures of power and privilege.  Certainly LeBron didn’t “deserve” to win a title and had consigned himself to heartbreaking failure for the rest of his career, because justice wouldn’t have it any other way, right?  I find we do this all of the time, not just with sports, but also when analyzing individual and societal outcomes.  This implies an “authoritative God” that is consistently pulling strings behind the grand stage, but subsequently undermines the notion of free-will.  I don’t necessarily think this is an either/or position, but we have set up this binary that creates these spiritual (and moral) narratives out of success and failure.

This was in response to a piece I put up yesterday questioning whether God is in charge of the Economy.   Elud makes a great point. The problem here is actually a merging of three factors – two of which Elud mentions.

  1. The use of simple binaries (us/them, good/bad, right/wrong) warps our lens. Everything then appears bent.
  2. The expectation that good will be rewarded and bad will be punished by some ‘Authoritative God’ figure.

I think that there is a 3rd Factor that makes it combustible. It is actually embedded in the DNA of this country courtesy of those original Calvinists who brought with them the concept of “signs of divine benevolence”. This little mechanism says
‘while we can’t know who is elect unto salvation or damnation – certainly we say that a good tree will bear good fruit. So, while no can know for sure if they are “in” certainly God graces the chosen with “signs of divine benevolence”.

This is how we get that famous “Protestant Work Ethic” in order to make it as easy as possible for God to ‘bless you’. I have heard it said that this Calvinist legacy runs in the American water (like fluoride) and it so assumed and so embedded that people just inherently think this way whether they have been ‘taught’ it or not.

Did LeBron James deserve to win the NBA title?   Based on his performance, that answer is clearly ‘yes’. If  you are basing it on some abstract notion of virtue and reward … then I guess you can keep on hatin’.   It just weirds me out a little bit and causes me to ask “how exactly do people think that the universe works?”

I had the same kind of take during the whole Tim Tebow debacle