Wednesday, February 27, 2008

They Have Their Reward

Recently I have stumbled across a message board for PBR fans on the Television Without Pity website, and now I check out it out every Monday morning. Many of those who comment seem to be pretty savvy about the sport, as well as rather more thoughtful than most bull riding fans whose comments I’ve read. A thread that has been ongoing for a few days now has been about Travis Briscoe’s irritating habit of saying, “Praise God!” every single time he’s interviewed.

Briscoe is by no means the only offender—after every ride, Mike Lee kneels and prays and then points skyward, and Wiley Peterson does the same. I hear Wiley was instrumental in starting up the
Cowboy Church services that take place on Sunday mornings during PBR events, and I read in Fried Twinkies, Buckle Bunnies, and Bull Riders that Adriano at one point was urging his fellow bull riders to work harder at bringing sinners to Jesus. I’m sure there are others I am neglecting to call out, but you get my drift.

I have been holding my tongue about this for a while now, because I was brought up in a right-wing, fundamentalist, evangelical, misogynistic Christian sect that taught women should raise the kids and clean the house and keep their lips buttoned, and the long process of liberating myself from that kind of claptrap has left me a trifle thin-skinned. Certainly there are those of my acquaintance, Barn Cat included, who counsel me to just keep my mouth shut. I also recognize that anybody who objects to public displays of piety runs the risk of being pillaged by the same loving Christian folks who are always so defensive about their right to be obnoxious and so determined that nobody else has the same right.

But frankly, I’ve had it. If I never see Mike Lee kneeling in the dirt with his head bowed again, I will count myself a fortunate woman.

As far as I can tell, there are only two possible explanations for why these boys think it’s not just okay, but incumbent upon them, to behave this way. The first is that they may think that because Jesus enjoined them to “Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature,” they have a moral obligation to use their presence at PBR events as a platform for doing just that. This thinking is based on the notion that there is only one path to salvation, and that notion is responsible for the Crusades, the pograms, and the genocide, both literal and cultural, of the American Indian, just to list a few in a long litany of unspeakable atrocities. It’s no wonder many followers of Islam, Judaism, and aboriginal religious practices worldwide are highly suspicious of proselytizing Christians, to this day. In fact, it’s a wonder that when such folk knock on my door, as two sweetly made-up and overdressed Jehovah’s Witnesses did last Saturday morning, that I even manage to be polite when I tell them to get off my property.

The second explanation, which Barn Cat favors, is rather more cynical: They are just showing off. I’d prefer to think otherwise, but on the chance that he’s right, I refer you to Jesus himself in Matthew 6, the Sermon on the Mount. In deference to those of my Christian friends who believe the King James version of the Bible is the only acceptable text (“If it was good enough for Paul, it’s good enough for me!”), I am quoting from that translation:

And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.

But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.

Mike, Wiley, and Travis: He’s talking to you.

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