by Jonathan Hobbs
“Not Okay” with Something vs “Anti” Something...
...and using Super Bowl LII teams as an example
I live just outside Philadelphia. I’m writing this article one week before Super Bowl LII - Eagles vs Patriots. My city is more excited than I’ve ever seen it.
In my (humble?) (and completely biased?) option, Philadelphia fans get a bad rap. I don’t think we’ve been perfect throughout the years (by any means) but now Eagles fans make the news any time there’s disorderly conduct at one of our games.
I have a slightly different take on this…
Philadelphia fans are passionate people that are completely and totally ANTI whatever team we’re playing on a given week. Sure, some teams are in the permanent “enemy zone.” (Primarily, the Cowboys and the Patriots - and some would argue the Giants ... but for the most part, the teams in this zone are not universally agreed upon by the fan base.) So understand… if your team is playing the Eagles, I’m PASSIONATELY anti your team that week. But once that’s over with, I’m cool with your team. This postseason, the Eagles played the Falcons and the Vikings - both are teams I really like. Both are from cities where I have close friends. Most importantly, BOTH are teams I would be cheering for if they were in the Super Bowl. (Especially since they would be playing the Patriots!). There are actually two times in my life where I cheered for the NY Giants - both times they were playing in the Super Bowl verses the Patriots. (And I cheered LOUD when they won both of them!)
But what I think many people misunderstand about us Eagles fans is that we are not simply “not okay” with other teams that play the Eagles. We are completely and totally “ANTI” teams that are playing our teams. Passionately so.
Now....I’m actually not trying to get you to understand Eagles fans nearly as much as I want us to acknowledge this important fact: There is a massive difference between being “not okay” with something and being “anti” something.
I love the quote from Angela Davis: “In a racist society, it’s not enough to be non-racist. We must be anti-racist.”
I think that Christians have gotten these two confused a bit... specifically when we are teaching about issues. In fact, I think we get them backwards from time to time.
“Non” or “Not okay with” says “I don’t think people should. I choose not to do that in my life. I think this is the right way to live.” It sees the nuances and the gray area. It is more about me and my choices… not so much others.
But “anti” says “There is no place for that here. It is not welcome here.” ANTI behavior is allowed to push things away. It repels. It gets loud. It’s not interested in being polite.
For almost 20 years now, I have been in the field of Youth Ministry, working in churches all over the country. There’s a running joke of sorts about how youth ministry used to basically just teach kids “Don’t smoke. Don’t drink. Don’t do drugs. Don’t have sex.” I would argue that we went a little too far and taught people to be anti-smoking, anti-drinking, anti-drugs and anti-sex. (Etc etc etc). This has led to Christians pushing away the very people that we should be reaching out to. This has led to people in crisis not wanting to come anywhere near a church. This has led to Christians being known far more for what we are against instead of what we are for.
And let me be clear: I’m not against teaching about making wise decisions and staying away from substance abuse. I want my students to have a healthy view of sex and sexuality and have a desire to wait until they are married. I want them to be ANTI-peer pressure. Sure. But I have friends that smoke. I have friends that see nothing wrong with sex outside of marriage. I love being able to explain to them my “not okay with that” stance - but they should never feel like I’m judging them and pushing them out of my life when they hear where I stand.
However - there are issues we need to promote up to “anti” level. For example, I completely agree with Angela Davis’ quote. I have no problem saying to my students that racism has no place at our church. We are not just a NON racist youth group… we are an ANTI racist youth group.
Same thing with homophobia. No matter what stance a church takes on marriage, there is NO PLACE for homophobia in ANY church.
Do you think it’s fine to treat a woman like an object? Then don’t bother coming to our youth group… because that’s an “anti” issue with us.
These are issues that most people would say they are “not okay with.” You’ll hear things like “I’m not a racist,” and “Women shouldn’t be treated like that.” Etc etc. But this is where we run into the problem. Christians have been teaching people to be ANTI smoking and drinking (which, fyi - hasn’t really worked) and then settled for them to be just “not okay with” racism and sexism.
I’ve heard far too many reports about a woman getting assaulted and at least one person commenting, “well, look what she was wearing!” That comment is saying “I’m ‘not okay’ with assault, but I’m anti-sexual promiscuity.”
Friends… that’s messed up.
That’s exactly backwards.
So maybe it’s actually okay for us to be known for what we are against… Maybe that’s not the problem? Maybe the problem is that the list things of what we are so passionately against is filled with the wrong things. This issue has caused far too much hurt in the world and has led to divides in our churches that should have never existed. We’ve majored in the minors and minored in the majors.
We recently had a group that fights human trafficking visit our church. These are people that realized that it wasn’t enough to be “not okay” with human trafficking. We need to be anti-human trafficking.
Oh… side note here. It’s SUPER popular around the Super Bowl to talk about how this event is a magnet for human trafficking (along with other large sporting events). This idea gets a lot of media time and attention. Just as a heads up, the proof of this being true isn’t really there. I want us to be anti trafficking, but let’s make sure we check our sources. Otherwise we end up creating a myth that feels right, but turns out to be a straw man. And it actually can hurt legitimate efforts to fight back against that kind of evil…
Speaking of myths: Allow me to end by going back to my original myth… Don’t hate on the Eagles or the Eagles FANS this weekend at the Super Bowl. It’s not their fault… it’s just that we were taught the difference between “not okay with” and “anti” from an early age…
… and we are passionately ANTI-whomever the Eagles are playing.
JONATHAN HOBBS is the Director of Youth Ministries at the Church of the Good Samaritan in Paoli, Pennsylvania. He has worked in youth ministry for almost 20 years, including churches in New Jersey, New Mexico, South Carolina, and Pennsylvania. He has spoken and/or led worship for multiple camps, retreats, and events around the country and has written multiple articles for blogs, newspapers, and magazines. He also co-wrote/edited a book called “Don’t Do This” which is full of stories about failures in youth ministry. (Something he knows a lot about). He is the founder of J3 Youth Ministry (WWW.J3YOUTHMINISTRY.COM) and is one of the hosts of the J3 Youth Ministry Podcast. He took karate in high school because he thought it would help make him cool. He was wrong. Jonathan and his wife, Carolyn, have two beautiful daughters, Kaylin and Julia. He loves golf, can juggle two balls skillfully and does a halfway decent impression of Kermit the Frog. He’s also a big fan of the Oxford comma. Follow him on Twitter @JONHOBBSTWEETS.