Mendenhall Causes American Self-Examination


NFL star and Pittsburgh Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall caused quite a stir on Monday when he tweeted comments contrary to popular opinion about Osama bin Laden’s death and our reaction to it.  Mendenhall, who is 23, commented first about a potential 9/11 conspiracy, tweeting: “We’ll never know what really happened.  I just have a hard time believing a plane could take a skyscraper down demolition style.”

See article about his comments and media/popular reaction to them here.

The main focus of his comments, however, concerned American reaction to the news of bin Laden’s death.  Many people took to the streets across the country in an impromptu patriotic pep rally and party.  We all saw the videos and pictures of people waving American flags, chanting U.S.A.! U.S.A.! and smiling brightly for group pictures.  The atmosphere was electric, to say the least.  It provided a moment that we’re all likely to remember for the rest of our lives.  It was a historic moment, to be sure.

What did Mendenhall have to say about all this?

What kind of person celebrates death?  It’s amazing how people can HATE a man they have never even heard speak. We’ve only heard one side…  I believe in God. I believe we’re ALL his children. And I believe HE is the ONE and ONLY judge. Those who judge others, will also be judged themselves.  For those of you who said you want to see Bin Laden burn in hell and piss on his ashes, I ask how would God feel about your heart?

Wow.  Talk about calling us all out.  And to make his point even more powerful, there is plenty of scripture to back his points:

Mathew 7:1-5: (ESV)

Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.

Matthew 15:11 and 15-20 (NLT)

11 “You are not defiled by what you eat; you are defiled by what you say and do.”  15 Then Peter asked Jesus, “Explain what you meant when you said people aren’t defiled by what they eat.” 16 “Don’t you understand?” Jesus asked him. 17 “Anything you eat passes through the stomach and then goes out of the body. 18 But evil words come from an evil heart and defile the person who says them. 19 For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, all other sexual immorality, theft, lying, and slander. 20 These are what defile you. Eating with unwashed hands could never defile you and make you unacceptable to God!”

There are plenty more scriptures about this, but the point is, Mendenhall has, at the very least, some powerful ground to stand on.

What Mendenhall expressed was his opinion, and certainly anyone may agree or disagree.  The fact that some Americans disagreed with what he had to say isn’t surprising or alarming.  What was alarming was the media’s response, and some reader response to what he had to say.  The paper in which the above referenced article appears characterized Menhenhall as ranting, and even went so far as to suggest that he is ignorant.  Readers called him everything from “idiot” to “ignorant” to racial slurs, and even called for Mendenhall to be cut from the team.  Steelers owner Art Rooney, II had this to say:

I have not spoken with Rashard so it is hard to explain or even comprehend what he meant with his recent Twitter comments, Rooney said. The entire Steelers’ organization is very proud of the job our military personnel have done and we can only hope this leads to our troops coming home soon.

What I find interesting about Rooney’s response is his need to include how proud the organization is of the troops, which provides a clue to this intense reaction.  In times of war or economic hardship, history has shown that extreme political and social behavior becomes evident.  We have both.  For examples of what can happen, we need only look at Nazi Germany or Fascist Italy to understand.  There’s nothing wrong with being patriotic.  Far from it.  But there is something terribly wrong when a dissenting opinion is looked at as a measure of one’s love of country.

Mendenhall reminds us to be careful.  And to examine ourselves before we take to the streets, or drown each other out in our own shouting.  We are ALL connected.  We ALL matter.  And a life is still a life.  You’re still an American if you don’t chant “U.S.A.!” because someone lost his life….  Right?

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