Adrian Peterson is the latest casualty/perpetrator of the epidemic of NFL violence. Peterson is accused of brutally whipping his child in a twisted form of corporal discipline. Peterson is also a celebrity player, worth millions to the Minnesota Vikings. Are celebrity football players above the physical law? What about the moral law of holy justice? Would Jesus whip and bruise his child?
There is something sinister about the Twin Cities metropolitan area, which I am not proud to currently inhabit, plus the NFL as a whole, that Adrian Peterson could brutally beat his son and then only miss playing one game. He had many Vikings supporters rallying in Minneapolis to have him play again. Peterson was suspended from Sunday’s football game, then reinstated under the guise of leaving the allegations for the courts to sort out.
Is this really about the courts, or is about big money which routinely overlooks NFL violence?
Of course Peterson means big dollar signs to the Minnesota Vikings. The Vikings lost the game without Peterson, and losing teams mean losing revenue. The team owners decided to reinstate Peterson based on their own greedy calculations, and nobody really expects Scrooge to do the right thing. But the show of support from the community? It makes me tremble to see all the people wearing Peterson jerseys and saying “discipline” is a parent’s choice. Do they think NFL violence is just part of the game. Do they thing violence off the field is OK, too?
Discipline or Abuse?
Is beating a child simply a discipline choice?
It is never a choice to harm another person, especially the weakest among us. Beating, especially beating to leave bruises, is an act of violence. Jesus called the little children to come to him, to show us adults the way of the Kingdom. Children are imagination and innocence. Yes, children can make mistakes and misbehave while learning social norms, but they need gentle correction, not violent discipline.
When correction turns into beatings that leave children bloody and bruised, it has crossed the line into abuse. Beatings are never appropriate, no matter how wealthy or famous their parents. Peterson claims, as do most other perpetrators of child abuse, that this is the way he was raised so he doesn’t know better. This is not an excuse. People who truly come from a background of abuse should be the first to understand the lifelong pain, emotional and physical, brought on by a parent’s violence.
Unfortunately, the NFL promotes this type of violence. Football is a violent sport, physically and psychologically. NFL violence is NFL entertainment. The slow motion film is fed to the screens small and large all over the county, ready for fans to view all the brain- and bone-crushing hits.
Football is a game of war, focused on the strategy of how to destroy the enemy. Many people live out war and violence fantasies vicariously through their favored team. My father used to yell, and even break things, when watching his favorite team lose a play, or a game, on television. Football terrified me as a child. My father embraced the NFL violence, and then he became violent at times toward me and my siblings. Just like Peterson did to his son.
Maybe it wasn’t entirely Peterson’s fault. Playing football encouraged and nurtured his violence. It is hard to leave a war game behind on the field. The big money the NFL makes from its legions of fans contributes to the culture of violence. This too often spills over into the player’s home lives.
The football league, made impotent by greed, loves the big hits.
Something must change. Adrian Peterson must be dismissed from the league, from the spotlight, for the life of his child, the future of his family, and for a change in the bigger culture.
A Prayer for the Children
God sees the tears of the children. He stands up for the innocent and the abused. Jesus weeps over families that condone generations of violence, and for societies that condone sports of violence.
I pray today for Adrian Peterson’s son, and all the other children who are going to bed with bruised bodies and bruised souls. I pray for the parents who have learned generational violence and embraced cultural violence, including the violence of sports entertainment, that they will see the error of their ways and turn from the violence for the sake of the precious children. I pray that greed will not triumph over morality, and the NFL will change as a driving force in American culture. I pray for healing and justice over this situation.