My (Weak) Minority Position

UnknownI’ve been thinking about how many times I’ve been in the minority, and it’s sadly tough for me to come up with much.

My parents are from Michigan and I was born in Detroit. My dad graduated from Michigan State, and after I came along we moved down to small-town southwestern Missouri in the mid 1970s. He didn’t get much Big 10 sports coverage there and then, so we just watched whatever. Sports were more difficult to watch in that era, and you had to watch whatever they showed you. I kept my dad’s affinity for the Detroit teams, and then drifted to whatever else anyone was talking about at the time. I don’t really remember having favorite local teams, but it more about the big-name college sports departments.

When I went to college I picked Mizzou. I hadn’t rooted for them, but I hadn’t been against them either. It was fun and easy to join right into the collegiate spirit. Our basketball team was #1 my freshmen year, but our football team stunk. We were 3-8 every year during this Bob Stull “era.” Still I saw some incredible games (like the five down game against Colorado), and we played some great teams from 1989-1993. I became a Big 8 fan, and then it merged and became the Big 12, which was fine with me.

I spent three years working at Oklahoma State, and rooted for the Cowboys there. Then one extra year in Lincoln rooting for the Huskers right inbetween their national championships.

Then I moved to St Louis to attend Covenant Seminary and get my MDiv degree.

That’s when things changed for me as far as our current topic is concerned. That’s where I solidified my passion for Big 12 football and learned to hate the SEC. That’s where I found out I was in the minority, which I hadn’t known before.

Covenant Seminary is the denominational seminary of the PCA, the Presbyterian Church in America.  I hadn’t grown up in this denomination, but had found my way to it and wanted to join into it. The PCA is predominately southern to say the least. We’ve been doing better in the last 20 years, but it’s still skewed toward the south. To be fair, it’s the southern church that have sent church planters and campus ministers to the midwest, north and west, but there is still an incredibly high percentage of churches and pastors in and from the south.

That means there is a very distinct southern culture to the whole denomination and its ministers.

And that means SEC football.

They mean well. I get it. It’s their culture. And there sure are a ton of good SEC football things to talk about, especially lately. It wasn’t exactly like that in the 1990s though. There was a stretch there before the SEC won all those championships in a row where they hadn’t won that many at all (if you can remember that). That didn’t matter. It’s not like the SEC fan has become rabid in the last decade. It already was and now is even rabid-er.

So here I was a midwestern guy entering this southern world. I didn’t know I was in the minority. I loved football. But I didn’t love Ole Miss or Mississippi State or Florida or LSU. And that’s all they wanted to talk about. Over and over. Non stop. It’s all they wanted to watch. It’s all they could do to bear a few minutes of discussion – in order to flip over to the superiority of the SEC. When southern guys would go out to the west to start churches or campus ministries, they exported their SEC love and tried to get their members or students to start watching Auburn games on Saturdays.

That’s when I dug my heals in. That’s when I started to push back. What about my team?! What about my culture? What about my conference? They seemed to humor me, but not really. They couldn’t understand why I was this way. They couldn’t get why I took this stance against them. They couldn’t fathom why I didn’t ever see the light (and it didn’t make it any easier when the SEC went on that streak and won all those in a row). I know I egged it on. I know they were teasing me because they loved me and I did it because I loved them. But also it did really bother me. Maybe I need to grow up. Maybe they need to. Maybe they need to put away their SEC belts because they really do have them. Maybe they need to retire their SEC chants because that is just freakin’ crazy.

It was sort of funny I suppose. I got to be “that guy.” But in this little essay I’m saying it’s more than that. I’m saying that it wasn’t just about football, it was about the superiority of a culture – southern culture. It moved away from being good-natured ribbing to somehow not being able to see value in something else or someone else. That bothers me. It irks me when there’s a culture that presupposes its superiority to others and then actively promotes that.

I’m not sure what the best conference is in college football. It’s something to debate over beers and we can revisit it over and over again. Maybe it is the SEC. It probably has been for the last decade or so. The PCA has a southern problem. It needs to branch out in its identity. It needs to have more and more voices that don’t look like they’re from the south, don’t think like they’re from the south and don’t always have to talk about the south. We need to keep on reaching out to the rest of the nation. We need more voices, different voices, other voices. We need to put away our privileges and prejudices and figure out ways to add more diversity, color, languages and ethnicity into our midst. We need to talk about what other people want to talk about too.

I think that that is happening sometimes. I think we’re going to have to work on it. We may have to peel our alma mater stickers off of our car windows and put away our Alabama hoodies unless we’re with other alumni. We may have to have more General Assemblies in other places – maybe even just to prove a point. We may have to make some sort of requirement (I realize that that is not Presbyterian) that we need more diverse hires in our presbyteries before we keep planting white church after white church.

And yes, I hate the fact that Mizzou went to the SEC, but I have to deal with it. Go Sooners. Go Big 12! Go Big 10! Go Pac 12! Go Mountain West! Go Conference USA!

It’s not much of a minority position, but it’s what I’ve got right now.

Headshot 2 Nicole Hager