Friday, June 25, 2010

Manute Bol

A stimulating article appeared in the Wall Street Journal about the late Manute Bol's charitable work in the Sudan, and his sacrificial giving to alleviate the suffering of his people. The writer contrasts the meaning of the word "redemption" with the term's usage among sports writers. I hadn't known of Bol's activities or his faith until reading in an article that the death was announced by a friend's husband, who leads a Christian reconciliation and development agency in the Sudan (which I encourage you to support).

The contrast of the word redemption is below and the full article can be read here:

What does redemption mean in the world of professional basketball and sports more broadly? It involves making up for—or, yes, "atoning"—for a poor performance. When the Lakers beat Boston, for instance, Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times called the victory "redemption for the Celtics' 2008 Finals beating."

More often, though, sports journalists use the term to praise the individual performances of NBA superstars. Thus, the Associated Press reported that Kobe Bryant "found redemption" after he won a title in 2009 without the aid of his nemesis and former teammate Shaquille O'Neal.

Manute Bol, who died last week at the age of 47, is one player who never achieved redemption in the eyes of sports journalists. His life embodied an older, Christian conception of redemption that has been badly obscured by its current usage.

Bol, a Christian Sudanese immigrant, believed his life was a gift from God to be used in the service of others. As he put it to Sports Illustrated in 2004: "God guided me to America and gave me a good job. But he also gave me a heart so I would look back."

An article by Nicholas Kristof in the New York Times gives further insight.

Three cheers for Manute Bol, a faithful servant of peace and the Prince of Peace.