I was looking through a transworld skate magazine the other day and came across this quote:
Skateboarding starts and ends with you… No one owns what skateboarding is and no one can control it because it’s yours, not theirs. You have the power to make it whatever you want. Don’t worry about what everyone else is doing. Don’t worry about the olympics. Don’t worry about the big corporations taking over. None of that matters as long as you take it back to where you started; just you and your skateboard rolling solo…. skateboarding will be just fine. -Jamie owens, Editor in Chief – Transworld Magazine.
There always seems to be this concern or fear among skateboarders (especially those who have been in it for a while) that the brotherhood and the core values in skateboarding is dying, and that all the corporate money being thrown into it is the problem. Skateboarding has grown a lot in the last twenty years, skateparks are everywhere, big corporations like Nike, Adidas, and New Balance have tapped into the industry, and it is soon to be in the olympics. With all the athletic companies in skateboarding now, it has come a long way from the tight knit, punk, outcast persona that it began as, and has grown into something more diverse, clean cut and sporty. It is not uncommon anymore to see a skateboarder dressed like he just came from the golf course or the basketball gym, which is the image of skateboarding that is marketed to us by all the big companies. Legendary pro skateboarder Andrew Reynolds said in an interview, “A bunch of rich people are trying to figure out how to make skateboarding into a boring jock spot, but f…. that, I’m going to keep it raw, and I hope you do too.” Where is skateboarding going? Will the brotherhood be lost? Has it strayed too far from its roots? Or has it just gotten so big and accessible that it has become more diverse with many different styles. When something is small, there is a greater sense of, “we all need to stick together.” But when it gets big, and a lot of people are doing it, that naturally begins to dwindle a little bit and factions or cliques begin to split off from the mainstream. But no matter what happens to skateboarding, it can never be damaged at the core – just you and your board.
Just about every culture and subculture that has grown substantially from its humble beginnings has the concern of “where is it going?” We see beauty of what it has been in the past, and fear what it may become in the future. Churches and Christians have throughout history, had this same concern. Churches have done lots of good things in the world (I.E. Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement), but they have also done lots of bad things. Many times in history, churches and pastors with lots of influence have made Christ and Christianity out to be hateful, argumentative, judgmental, and sometimes even violent. Paul says in Romans 2:24 to the Christians in Rome, “The Name of God is discredited among the nations because of you.” After the Orlando shooting at a gay night club in 2016, a Baptist preacher in Sacramento praised the death of the 50 people that were massacred and preached that this was God’s divine judgement. Along with all the “God hates fags” picketers and the protesters at soldiers’ funerals demonizing them as products of God’s judgment; people have done a number on our culture to give the perception that God is against them, and delights to see them suffer. Why would anyone find a God or any person like that appealing? I don’t think anyone at a PRIDE event who encountered the Westboro picketers said to themselves, “yeah let me lay my life down for this God who hates me and my community and wants to see us all suffer.” With all the Preachers out there that make God out to be a mean, angry, harsh being, it can be hard to have a positive perception of Him. When Christianity first started, there was a lot more unity within the movement. But when anything gets big, there becomes various perceptions and styles within it, and it can be hard to sift through it all. But when Christ becomes something personal and we make it something of our own, it doesn’t matter how ugly someone makes it look, or what anyone tries to say what an ideal Christian looks or acts like. We know how beautiful it is and no one can take that away from us. No matter what the public opinion or perception is of Jesus, it can never be damaged at it’s core, Just you and Him struggling through life together.
Nobody has to do anything the same as anyone else. As a skateboarder, I don’t have to look, act, talk, skate like anyone. It doesn’t matter what Nike says a skateboarder should be like or look like, and no matter where skateboarding goes as a whole, it’s never going to make me stop skateboarding. I have the freedom to find my own style and do whatever I like that is the best reflection of me within it. In the same way, no matter how hateful or mean people make the Christian God out to be, and make it seem like all Christians have to be like they are, it’s never going to make me turn away from Him. I have my own perception of Jesus and nobody can take that away from me. I know how loving, generous, just, and inclusive He is. It doesn’t have to affect me when someone tells me I need to hate anyone or think less of someone because of their political beliefs, sexual orientation, race, gender, and so on. In whatever we do or are passionate about, there will always be people that make it look like, “only a crazy person would get involved in that.” The people who are the loudest and most outrageous, are the ones that will generally get the most media coverage. Thereby creating a public perception of a broad culture based on one small group of people. Every activity or belief system comes with a culture, and if we don’t develop our own way of going about being a part of it, we will be too easily corrupted by the outrageous and the rich and powerful.
When we see people like the Westboro baptist church and the preacher from Sacramento, spreading a message of extreme hate and judgment, it can be tempting to hate them for it. If we do so, we play the same game and recreate the problem. How can play a different game and solve the problem instead of recreate it?
When we see one extreme getting lots of media coverage that puts a bad taste in our mouth, it can be easy to swing to the opposite extreme. Instead of a conservative fundamentalist, we can become a liberal fundamentalist, which isn’t any better. There is a time to be black and white with clear boundaries, and there is a time to reach out and accept people for who they are. How can we maintain balance here and not swing to one extreme?