LARSON: Why are public expressions of Christian faith so triggering?

Twitter convulsed for a moment last week after former NFL coach and current NBC sports analyst Tony Dungy tweeted his support of Nick Foles, the quarterback for Super Bowl champs Philadelphia Eagles. Foles, according to Dungy’s tweet, believed the Lord had “him in Philadelphia for a special moment” and this divine intervention was evident in Foles’ impressive play.

If you ever want to observe Twitter screaming like the melting wicked witch in the Wizard of Oz, just watch what happens after a prominent person express their faith in Jesus Christ. Don’t spend too much time, however, perusing the Twitterverse. It is like swimming in a digital sewer. With your mouth wide open.

It wasn’t just Twitter that had an issue. Sportswriters, two in particular, called out Dungy for his cultural transgression. Kyle Koster and Stephanie Stradley both went public with their criticisms. Stradley’s social media post, later deleted, was not uncivil, expressing that she didn’t want Dungy’s religious views “… as a part of football analysis. Humans are not the Holy Spirit.”  Koster devoted an entire article saying, among other sentiments, “Dungy, a very public and proud Christian, pushed a narrative favorable to Christianity that may or may not be true.” Koster then went on to call on the public and NBC to rebuke Dungy for not hiding an indispensable part of who he is.

But I’m puzzled by an  inconsistency. Eagles coach Doug Pederson openly thanked his “Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” immediately after the Super Bowl. Is that somehow different? Or are the sports writers afraid to call out the man of the hour with the same level of criticism they flung at Dungy? The Eagles’ wide receiver Zach Ertz also credited Christ. Injured starting quarterback Carson Wentz spoke at the National Prayer Breakfast this past week. Seems there’s a fair amount of this intolerable intermingling of sports and faith.

It’s important to point out something subtle but very important and real when it comes to devout Christians. You may want them to separate faith from their joyous life successes, even professional ones. They don’t, however, not because they don’t want to. The don’t because they can’t. There’s no such division in their hearts that allows them to discard the sometimes inexplicable assistance they experience in their successful earthly endeavors, just to placate those who don’t believe as they do; they don’t really care what the world thinks of them. Someone else’s opinion matters much, much more.

But it brings me to my basic question. I ask it genuinely. Why are public expressions of Christian faith so emotionally upsetting to some? Of course we want a healthy boundary between the two monolithic realms of Church and State so both are somewhat protected from the other. And it’s understandable that excessive expressions of religious conviction in a captive secular workplace are inappropriate. But this is a Twitter account, not a bill in Congress or a corporate cubicle.

If you don’t like it, I have good news. You can unfollow. Stop reading. Simply disagree in silence. Or, just move on. There are remedies aplenty. Twitter is not holding anyone captive.

If the fact that Tony Dungy believes professional ambitions can be augmented by a genuine faith in Jesus Christ, why should he hide that any more than Colin Kaepernick should hide his disdain for police and the American flag and our country, or Bob Costas’ fondness for gun restrictions?

In the case of Kaepernick and Costas, their extracurricular expressions within the sports realm serve up an offensive desecration to those who cherish the flag and the Bill of Rights. But I would ask what, in anyone’s heart and soul, is being desecrated by Dungy’s acknowledgement of God?

Associated Press award-winning columnist Neal Larson of Idaho Falls writes at www.neallarson.com. He is also the author of “Living in Spin.” He is a conservative talk show host on KID Newsradio 106.3 and 92.1, and also at www.kidnewsradio.com. “The Neal Larson Show” can be heard weekday mornings from 8:00 to 10:00. His email address is neal@590kid.com.