A house divided


This is a big week in Jackson County.

On Friday night, Bulleit Stadium will play host to the Jackson Bowl as the Seymour Owls face off against the Brownstown Central Braves. It is a big event for these two communities who are only separated by a few miles on U.S. 50.

Parking will be hard to come by in and around Seymour High School. The parking lot at First Baptist Church is usually packed as if it were Easter Sunday on the night of the game. Waves of the purple of Seymour and the red of Brownstown will flood into the stadium as these two rivals face off under the Friday night lights.

I have often seen vanity plates on the fronts of vehicles that say, “A house divided.” Usually, they refer to competing family allegiances to various college teams. Here in southern Indiana, it is either Indiana and Purdue or Indiana and Kentucky. We could very easily create a similar license plate using Seymour High School and Brownstown Central High School.

The colors run deep here in Jackson County. There are those among us who will not wear articles of clothing that are the color of the rival school. To some extent, we are a community divided. It is us versus them.

I am a fan of interscholastic athletics. It provides good learning opportunities for our kids and our communities at large. Tasting both the thrill of victory and the sting of defeat are valuable experiences. It teaches us the value of hard work and the consequences of its absence. It helps learn how to win with humility and respect and lose with dignity and grace.

But sometimes, what should be fun and friendly competition on the field of play becomes contentious in the stands. Something that should bring us together often pushes us further apart.

I am regularly dumbfounded at some of the things that are shouted at players, coaches and officials during games. I am even more appalled at some of the interactions I observe between opposing fans.

At that point, the posture of opposition begins to bleed into our everyday interactions, influencing our relationships with one another. It serves to confirm our us versus them perception and further divide our community.

We love the us versus them motif. We enjoy the feeling of being insiders, part of the group. We enjoy the feeling of superiority that comes from amplifying the faults and weaknesses of other groups that are “less-than.” We become defensive when we feel our group has been slighted or disrespected.

I often wonder if our proclivity to default to defensive postures doesn’t result in offenses that only serve to further the us versus them divide.

Perhaps you would argue that I’ve overstated the impact of our loyalties to sports teams. There are numerous other examples of the us versus them machine at work in our community. We clearly see it in American politics. It has gotten to the point to which you invite attack by clearly stating any opinions on the state of our nation or leaders whom you respect.

Think about how we talk about politics. We refer to “sides of the aisle.” Division is apparent in the colloquial definition. Unfortunately, I think we’ve also seen it in our churches. We have made the mistake of seeing other churches as competition for a piece of a market share rather than partners for mission.

Jesus warned, “If a house is divided against itself, it cannot stand.” President Abraham Lincoln offered his agreement when he famously quoted the phrase.

There too many real battles to fight to be divided by the logo on our hats, the color of our shirts or the name on our building. There are enough enemies threatening to divide and destroy our community without our assistance.

Brownstown Central Braves and Seymour Owls; Methodists, Lutherans, Baptists or unaffiliated; Democrats, Republicans and Independents; we are all part of the same community.

May the Friday night lights be a celebration of what unites us rather than a reminder to further divide us. We are better together.

The Rev. Jeremy Myers is the lead pastor of First Baptist Church in Seymour. Read his blog at jeremysmyers.com. Send comments to [email protected].

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