Salon Writer Frets That Teen Gold Medalist Gabby Douglas 'So, So, So Into Jesus'

August 3rd, 2012 11:34 PM

Why does hate the Olympics so? After Wednesday’s David Sirota piece decrying (a la Chris Hayes) how “infantile displays of hyper-patriotism” like chanting “USA” for the home team give him jingoistic hives about aiding the military-industrial complex, a Friday article asked “Did God help Gabrielle Douglas win? The gold medalist is a teenager of deep faith and gratitude -- and that can be a little unnerving.”

Writer Mary Elizabeth Williams found it creepy that any athlete would credit Jesus after a victory, and wrote of how she agreed with a colleague that “I would like her more if she were not so, so, so into Jesus.”

If her performance in the women’s individual all-around didn’t blow your mind, you cannot possibly have been paying attention. Yet after her victory, one of the first responses that truly resonated for me was from a colleague who noted, “I would like her more if she were not so, so, so into Jesus.” Which raises the question – what is Jesus going to do now for Gabby Douglas’ career?

Williams finds most American Christians to be a scary lot that is too wedded to "proselytism" and doesn't know when to hide their lights and tone down the creepiness of their faith:

We are a nation that is lousy with Christians — a fair number of whom are not nearly as nice as Gabby Douglas. A lot of them aren’t super-clear on the whole “freedom of religion” thing and can get pretty gung-go about trying to shut down people with different beliefs. A lot of them are insistent that everybody in the world should conform to what they know for an absolute fact is the one and only truth. So even when Douglas is merely expressing her personal philosophy, posting #christmotivation quotes in her Twitter feed or talking about how she meditates daily on Scripture, there’s always that lurking hint of proselytism. Dear Christians: It’s a fine line between sharing your beliefs and selling them. And there’s something else too.

As a Christian myself (albeit one of those really freaky papist kinds), I’ve often wondered what it is about Christians like Douglas that unnerves me so. The closest I’ve been able to figure it is that Douglas and her ilk seem to espouse a faith based on what is commonly referred to as “The God of Parking Spaces.” It’s the deity that grants wishes to those who ask nicely. Douglas is a girl who has described God as the figure who’s “waking me up every morning and keeping me safe in the gym every day.” She told People Thursday, “I was on the bus and it was raining and I thought, ‘It’s going to be a great day.’ My mom used to tell me when I was little, ‘When it rains, it’s God’s manifestation, a big day’s waiting to happen.’ I texted my mom, ‘It’s raining. You know what that means.’” It means that Russian girl is going down, I guess.

Williams must not place much hope in the Bible verses that suggest "Ask and it shall be given to you" or "The fervent prayer of a righteous person is very powerful." It would be un-righteous to pray for the Russian girl to lose, but not as much to pray for the strength and focus to prevail. Williams concludes in a way that doesn't clash too much with that notion:

I don’t think the force that I, for want of a better word, call God rains down sufferings or blessings based on individual piety. I believe in a grace that gives me the strength to muscle through the sufferings, and the gratitude to appreciate the blessings. That’s why the subtle implication, when an athlete or an artist says that God was with them on a winning day, seems so strange, and why, I imagine, it rings so hollow for others. And though I am in awe of a young girl whose talent is damn near miraculous, I likewise don’t believe in a God who made it rain for her to win.

Williams wasn't happy with the reader reaction from some, tweeting:  "Reminded again today that Jesus has some really, really angry fans."

But then, commenters underneath her piece were angry, too, and somehow a teenaged girl gymnast is a mafia don:

Exactly. A God who plays favorites -- and that's what these athletes are praying for, no more, no less, because they want someone else to lose what in a "neutral" situation would have been theirs -- is nothing more than a Mafia don demanding that his ring be kissed.

[Hat tip: Dan Likes Ephesians]