There are a great many things about faith. It gives strength to succeed over impossible odds and helps people cope with tragedy. It inspires people to do good in the world, to fix injustices and provide for the less fortunate. In the wrong hands, though, faith and religion can turn from inward strength to outward aggression. Messages of love and compassion can be twisted to ones of hatred and even malice towards those who are different. These are the sorts of messages Mark Jackson, supposed man of faith, espouses from his pulpit.
“I had a joy when I was coaching,” Jackson said to his church congregation on Sunday, according to the Bay Area News Group. “I had a joy when I got fired. The owner of the Golden State Warriors was baffled when I left the meeting, shook his hand and smiled. I said, ‘I’m praying for you.’ He looked at me like I just cussed him out. All I said was, ‘I’m praying for you.’ There are folks in this world that cannot comprehend or understand the peace that you have.”
“I’m praying for you.” Like religion, that phrase can be used in many ways. It can provide comfort to the mourning and bereaved, but it can also be condescending and spiteful. This isn’t “I’m praying for you guys to have success without me,” it’s “I’m praying for your soul because how dare you fire me, Mark Jackson, who Wasn’t Even Supposed To Be Here, who, despite having Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Andre Iguodala couldn’t design a creative offense to save my life.”
On the surface, this may not seem so bad. Jackson comes off as petty and persecuted, but hardly hateful. Except for that single phrase. If this sounds familiar, it should, as it’s not the first time Jackson’s used these words.
As a Christian man, I serve a God that gives you free will to be whomever you want to be. As a Christian man, I have beliefs about what’s right and what’s wrong. That being said, I know Jason Collins. I know his family. I’m certainly praying for them at this time.
That was Jackson’s response to the news of Jason Collins coming out as gay. Do not mistake Jackson’s comments as one of benevolence. Jackson’s true feelings rest in what is unsaid. He’s not praying for them the way one might pray for a sick friend or for guidance. He’s praying for them the way one prays for the damned — those who do not agree with his core beliefs. It’s at once petty, bigoted, hurtful and close-minded.
Jackson’s methods and words fly in the face of everything that should be good about religion. He doesn’t wear his faith like an armor but instead wields it as a weapon, hoping to strike down all those who disagree with him.
As it turns out, neither Collins nor Lacob needed Jackson’s prayers. Collins is seen, rightfully so, as a hero. Lacob, meanwhile, is the happy owner of the best team in the NBA, thanks in large part to a head coach who employs actual strategy to win games, rather than just cultivate an atmosphere of exclusion and a trite, “Us Against The World” mentality.
Save your prayers, Mark Jackson. No one asked for them, and no one needs them.