Learning about Orthodoxy from #43
I grew up in the Roman Catholic Church, bounced around in a few different protestant churches for a while, attended a non-denominational mega-church for a few months, and eventually found a home in the United Methodist Church.
But in that long journey, I’ve only learned bits and pieces about the Orthodox faith. There is a small Greek community in my hometown, so I had a few friends who grew up in the Greek Orthodox Church. Then in college, one of my roommates freshman year was Serbian Orthodox. During one of my spiritual formation classes at Duke last semester, we learned about praying with icons from an Orthodox priest. Through all of this, I’ve learned that fasting and traditions are important to the Orthodox faith, but I’m not as well-versed in it as I am in other Christian traditions.
One thing I am very well-versed in, however, is Steelers football. The amount of facts and figures I know about the Steelers and every other NFL team is kind of insane. My mom sometimes asks me, “How do you know all this stuff?!?” [which is hilarious, since she knows a whole lot about football too!] I can’t help it. I’m a born and bred Pittsburgher who loves ESPN.
My favorite book is Tony Dungy’s Quiet Strength, and one of the many things I learned from it was that during the Steelers dynasty era, many of the Steelers grew in their Christian faith, even having organized Bible studies within the team. It was interesting to read about Dungy’s faith journey and how it was shaped while he was a part of the Steelers organization.
Maybe 20 or 30 years from now we’ll learn of similar stories from current Steelers. But one thing is for sure: a lot of people are learning about the Orthodox faith from America’s favorite safety Troy Polamalu. [To all Baltimore Ravens fans: Yes, he is America’s favorite safety. He has the #1 selling jersey in America!]
You don’t have to be a die-hard Steelers fan like me to see #43 live out his faith on the football field. You’ll often see him making the sign of the cross and praying on the bench during games. One of my friends even said that if he has sons one day, he wants them to emulate Troy Polamalu on and off the football field. He’s known on Twitter for raising money for various causes, including helping Haiti rebuild (a cause near and dear to my heart); his current TwitChange campaign benefits US soldiers & their families. He’s an incredible role model, and the Steelers are so fortunate to have him on their team. And I must say, every Sunday I wear his jersey with pride!
Yesterday was Christmas for Orthodox Christians around the globe; a fact I may not have realized if Polamalu wasn’t a Steeler. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette wrote a fantastic article about #43, his Orthodox Christian faith, and his family. Like me, he worshipped in many different settings before finding a home church. He and his family are Greek Orthodox, and it was really cool to learn about his beliefs and the Orthodox faith. If you’re interested in learning about Christian Orthodoxy or just want to read a great article about Troy Polamalu, click here.
Do you know a lot about Christian Orthodoxy? Faiths other than your own? How do you see them portrayed in the media?