Love in Camouflage

CC7 by U.S. Pacific Fleet at Flickr

From the 2011 Carrier Classic

In the end we didn’t get our game.

There was condensation on the hardwood floor they had laid down on that aircraft carrier. Military personnel were trying to wipe it off and it kept coming. Too hot down there in the waters of Charleston Harbor on that early November evening. Court perspired and slick. Marquette and Ohio State itching to start things up. They just couldn’t get enough moisture off to make it safe and the refs called it and that was that.

Now maybe an alarmist pacifist idealist critic of the over-worldly dealings of Christian colleges would find that game-ending condensation to be some kind of liquid manna sent from God. A subtle upwelling of holy water on the wood court of the USS Yorktown as a sign to a lost basketball tribe wandering in the desert of the NCAA Military/Athletic Complex. A sign telling them in no uncertain terms that it was a phenomenally bad idea for a Catholic, Jesuit college like Marquette to tip off its 2012-13 season in the second annual “Carrier Classic.” (Or even for a state school like the Buckeyes, for that matter.)

Such a gloomy soul might prophesy that, for MU at least, a school founded in one way or another on that old biblical “gotcha”, that glorified text-proofing scriptural game-ender, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you, etc.,” should not dress up its un-enlisted unpaid civilian athletes in camouflage-patterned uniforms and put them on a warship to play a basketball game for a national audience where they will tacitly play recruiting tool for those (brave, dutiful, honorable) people who nonetheless serve an industry that loves its enemies several feet into the cold black ground.

CC4-cleaning by U.S. Department of Defense Current Photos at Flickr

No Amount of Towels

And maybe this hairshirt would find it in his heart to use the reasoning of St. Thomas Aquinas – i.e., God works in creation through secondary causes – so he would not even need to declare in those embarrassing bold-letter ways Christians sometimes do, that suddenly GOD POURED FORTH DROPLETS OF HIS SWEAT on the USS Yorktown to stop in its tracks the HIDEOUS ALLIANCE OF CROWN AND CROSS, OF GOD AND GUNS. No, he could say it with much more subtlety, more élan: God created the earth, and its atmosphere, which on this night with perfect timing and sheer liturgical poetry congealed the conditions that settled the moisture that made the players skid and no amount of towels and game over.

And perhaps our clever natural lawyer would even be an alum of Marquette, (early 90′s, let’s say, the leafy perms of freshman girls from Wauwatosa, clinging to the decade past, drizzled over the campus, as Belly and Radiohead strafed the Varsity Theatre for five bucks a ticket, and not a text message in sight). An alum and a Jesuit, writing in an outlet called The Jesuit Post, apparently “calling out” a Jesuit university. Breaking formation! Exposing the scandal of different opinions in the long black line!

But, clearly such a pacifistic Christian Thomistic alumni black-robed ranks-breaking critic of the over-worldly dealings of Catholic colleges operating in the Pentagon/Sweet Sixteen/Industrial Whatever would be wrong, no matter how elegantly he put it.

He would be wrong because this game was actually raising money for veterans. And who in their killjoy dour saint right mind could disagree with that? Veterans! Hellcats! Doughboys! Leathernecks! Who deserves our help more than these guys? One of the groups to benefit, the Wounded Warrior Project, has worked for almost ten years to “honor and empower” veterans who sustained traumatic injuries in Iraq and Afghanistan. The kids on that court were honoring those who gave their bodies for something higher than themselves.

And they were doing it on a ship that fought mostly in the Good War. And has a charming Good War nickname, “The Fighting Lady.” And has achieved National Historical Landmark status, and today serves as a sea-side museum. All of which means she is so denuded of any hint of violence, or at least Bad War violence, that there should be no qualms about any of this by any Christians of any stripe.

Plus, the revenue streams brought in by Golden Eagle athletics and the national profile raised by events just like the one on “The Fighting Lady,” allow Marquette to bring in more lower-income students to its campus. The game was helping not only veterans but inner city kids and immigrants and Native Americans and the list goes on.

Besides, it’s just kids playing a game! Playing their hearts out! Nineteen year-olds getting a chance to play in – let’s make no mistake – a super-cool place like an aircraft carrier out in the open under the lights and stars. Like nighttime street ball except docked on the ocean being watched by Maverick and Ice.

Furthermore, this locust-eater would be wrong because all the people involved in making this game happen are good! Everyone is good! Not just soldiers who risk their lives – have you risked your life lately for a cause? – but ESPN producers and NCAA suits and officials of Catholic universities. They are people. Image and likeness. Good. And Good People shouldn’t have to stand for constant interrogation like this.

CC3-BW by Rebeccafschu at Flickr

Camouflage Uniforms

And even if Mr. Joan Baez still found it “suspect” for a Christian school in the waning years of two long, desperate American wars to send its civilian athletes to play a ballgame on a battleship and act unwittingly as recruiting tools and serve the NC Two A/Military/SportsCenter Etc. while onward streams the simple eerie plainchant of love thine enemies and not in the whole national platform moment offer the faintest gloss on that old weary “social justice” question: why are there “wounded warriors” in the first place? ...nonetheless good people are just trying to do what seems best. Doing their jobs, so they can keep their kids fed and clothed. Keep the economy going. Anyone against that?

And on top of all this, the fact is, there is not one single other way on God’s saturated earth to honor the brave, heal the wounded, educate the poor, build the economy and give 19 year-olds an unforgettable experience other than to stage the “Carrier Classic.”

This is it. There is no alternative.

Or, if there is, who’s got time to dream it up? These “deeper questions,” how to “help society” outside of the smooth contours of charity, are for the heady, dreamy types. You know, the philosophers, the theologians. The Jesu…

…well, anyway, people into stuff like that. We’ve got to deal with the day-to- day.

Chain-mail sleeper, sin weeper, Gandhi dreamer, you’re in over your head. You mean well. Admirable. Truly. But you just don’t have what it takes. You’re blocked at every turn. Rest. Do some yoga. Be kind to yourself. The hour is late, the air is heavy. The house is going to sleep. Don’t wake anyone up. You’re good.