“Life of Pi,” Ray Lewis, and Believing in God

The character Pi in “Life of Pi” says he has a story that can make us believe in God, and he’s kind of right. The belief the film fosters isn’t in God’s existence, but rather in the importance of religious stories. “Life of Pi” doesn’t argue for God, it argues that believing in something wonderful makes sense when real life can be so cold and brutal.

Ray Lewis also kind of makes me believe in God.

Lewis is the star linebacker of the Baltimore Ravens, who will play in the Super Bowl in two weeks after beating the New England Patriots on Sunday. Lewis is so in-your-face with his religion that it could totally be considered annoying. This is a snapshot of his insanely emotional reaction to the National Anthem before the Patriots game. He was swaying and crying and smiling huge and saying “Thank you God” and “Praise God” over and over:

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After the game, he collapsed in prayer on the field and was swarmed by cameras. Later, he said this: “No weapon formed against this team shall prosper. And to see us here today holding this trophy, God is absolutely AMAZING!”

Ray Lewis was the MVP of the Super Bowl in 2001, when he led the Ravens to the championship. This almost never happens for a defensive player, though he was not given the “I’m going to Disneyland” line that typically accompanies that honor, probably because he was arrested and indicted on murder charges the year previous.

That’s right – murder. Lewis was partying during the 2000 Super Bowl when a fight broke out between his group and some other party-goers. Two men wound up stabbed to death. Lewis’s lawyers admitted he lied to police and told his friends not to cooperate with the investigation. He wound up pleading guilty to obstruction of justice. The blood-stained white suit Lewis was wearing that night has never been recovered.

So he’s been through that. And not to pile on the guy, but he also has six kids by four women. There are bits of information about this man which make his belief in God appear dubious. Patriots receiver Wes Welker’s wife put it nicely on Facebook after Sunday’s game: “Proud of my husband and the Pats. By the way, if anyone is bored, please go to Ray Lewis’ Wikipedia page. 6 kids 4 wives. Acquitted for murder. Paid a family off. Yay. What a hall of fame player! A true role model!” (She has since taken that down and apologized.)

So Lewis is a relentlessly violent football player (he’s been leading the Ravens in tackles this playoffs), with a past that includes facing murder charges. He is also in everyone’s face about his faith, completely devoted to the cause, preaching every chance he gets.

It appears to be working. Lewis tore his tricep in the regular season this year and thought about retiring. Instead, he rehabbed until the playoffs and has returned to dominate and lead his team to a Super Bowl. He says the game will be his last in the NFL. If he wins, it’ll be a glorious ending for a certain Hall-of-Fame career spanning 16 seasons.

Things are working out for Ray Lewis, I guess is my point. It should be offensive when he gushes about God like a schizophrenic homeless man. But when life is going that well for someone, who are we to judge?

It’s just like “Life of Pi.” I may not be religious because of “Pi” or Ray Lewis, but I understand religion better because of them. It’s all about the story.

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