I’ve always found the Notre Dame Fighting Irish more than a little annoying. If you’re not a college football fan, I ask that you forgive me a small rant…
Notre Dame has had their own TV deal with NBC for years (even with declining ratings). They own special exemptions that grant them access to the most prestigious bowl games, even when their record isn’t deserving. “Touchdown Jesus” seems to be a tad sacrilegious. And isn’t “fighting Irish” just as racially insensitive as other monikers based on native American heritage? Their mascot is a leprechaun, for goodness sakes.
Notre Dame and its fans believe they are special. And honestly, they do have much to be proud of. Yet despite all of their history and tradition, their wins and championships, it is independence that has defined Notre Dame football. Unlike other teams, they have never needed conference mates. They are just fine on their own, thank you. They are an island unto themselves.
So it had to come as a shock to many when it was announced last week that Notre Dame would be joining the Athletic Coast Conference. Well, sort of.
In reality, they’ve only gone halfway. Instead of becoming full members, they are only playing a certain number of games versus the ACC every year in football. Partial membership to help in their pursuit of championships.
But they get to hang onto their precious independence.
It’s a very American ideal, independence. The idea that we are special and don’t need others is a value that is woven into the fabric of our society.
The rebel. The cowboy. The lone wolf.
It’s as though if you can rid yourself of the need for others, you’ve accomplished a great goal. We desire to pull our own weight. We don’t want to be a burden. To need others, then, is ultimately seen as weakness.
But although very American, independence isn’t an ideal that is held in high regard in scripture. Take 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 —
Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price.
Or Romans 12:5 —
We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other.
It’s a joy as a parent to see our children grow and begin to do things on their own. We want our kids to take responsibility for themselves and gain some independence. There may be no greater day in life than the day when potty training has been completed. Independence is actually a very integral part of development and maturity.
But independence is vastly overrated.
I think we often approach church like Notre Dame does their conference affiliation. We only go halfway. We want to be included, but we don’t like people telling us what to do. We desire the benefits of community, but resist the burdens of true friendship.
We want to be a part of the body of Christ, but also hang on to our independence.
And I’m not sure it works that way. I think this keeps us from experiencing the true blessing of what church is intended to be. Community. Belonging to one another. Taking responsibility for the person in the pew next to us. Deep relationships instead of shallow acquaintance.
Perhaps the key to real blessing is our desire to give up our right to independence.
Do you ever feel like you hang onto your independence too tightly? Have you ever suffered because you didn’t want to let it go?