For a country and a culture on edge, Super Bowl LI was a welcome distraction. For a moment, we could take a break from the exhaustive media charade, gorge ourselves on finger food, avoid political discussions on Facebook, and cheer for the Patriots to lose. Or so it seemed.
In the week leading up to the fifty-first installment of the big game, someone spotted a Make America Great Again hat in Tom Brady’s locker which raised questions about his affiliation with President Trump. And, Lady Gaga was slated to perform the halftime show—a perfect opportunity on a one-hundred-million plus stage to leverage the moment for an agenda. Reporters and journalists presented catchy storylines to incite clicks, garner views, and build the hype around Sunday’s game.
From the opening coin toss where George and Barbara Bush showed us what seventy-two years of marriage looks like to the final seconds of a record-breaking overtime, the only ones disappointed were those waiting to be offended, those who watched for the commercials, and Atlanta Falcons fans.
Trading an Agenda for Authenticity
This year’s Super Bowl simply wasn’t political. It was pure entertainment and that was refreshing. Those with the stage used their God-given abilities to do what they do best and we watched in amazement.
Lady Gaga’s halftime performance was particularly surprising. I suppose I have become conditioned to expect those with the microphone to use it for something other than singing, but Gaga didn’t. She recited “One nation, under God”, belted her anthems, said hello to her parents, and dropped the mic.
After the festivities, I put this quick thought on Facebook:
It surprised a lot of my friends. Why would a straight, white, conservative Christian male speak support for Lady Gaga?
One friend even said, “Historically Christians aren’t Gaga fans.”
Well historically, Christians get bent out of shape for all the wrong reasons and as a result we blur the line between supporting a person’s God-given gift and celebrating their point of view. Personally, I found her performance refreshing. Instead of using her platform for an aggressive agenda, she simply performed. It was entertainment without the baggage and I think America could use a lot more of that.
What I realized is that there’s a difference between someone who is authentic and someone who has an agenda. I think it’s time for us as a country and a culture to learn the difference.
The United States of the Offended
But almost on cue, the headlines of major new media told a different story. The USA Today said, “Did you catch these hidden messages in Lady Gaga’s halftime performance?”
I think the media wants us to be offended. Talk about a bad romance. For a country that quickly screams, “I’m offended,” we sure do love offending others, don’t we?
We need to shift our energy from being offended to being authentic. Maybe it’s time to stop proving points and start empowering people. And the most powerful thing a person can do is live authentically out of their gifts. Those actions drown out the noise of an endless sea of words.
As the confetti fell in Houston on Sunday night, poetic justice was served. As the New England Patriots celebrated their fifth Super Bowl, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell shook hands with Tom Brady, the man he suspended for four games earlier in the season, and congratulated him on his record-breaking fifth Super Bowl.
Brady, Gaga, and the like could have used their moment for vindication. They could have used their microphone to prove a point, but they didn’t. They let their actions outshine any potential words they could have said, and that was refreshing.
That’s an example that we can learn from.
Matt Ham is an author, speaker, and co-founder of the faith development organization, YouPrint. He writes weekly on his blog at www.mattham.com and hosts a live YouTube show with Zondervan author, Kevin Adams. Matt and his wife, Liz, live in Wilmington, North Carolina with their four children.