Tuesday, August 27, 2013

One Sentence Does Not Say It All

Pavel Datsyuk has no problem with the anti-gay laws in Russia, and explains his stance by saying that he's an Orthodox and that says it all.

How, exactly, does that say it all? So much ink has been spilled on this issue in recent weeks, and Datsyuk chooses to address it in a soundbite. As if that's enough. How on Earth could he think that that's enough?

Why does it seem like he's hiding behind his faith in order to avoid answering questions fully and expressing exactly how he feels? I know that athletes aren't often celebrated for being honest and telling it like it is, but I wish that the culture of sports would allow them to.

Why aren't we asking more questions about this?
I think I'll start by asking one of my own. I asked it on Twitter last week but I'm still looking for a good response. If Datsyuk is faithful enough to his religion that he would use it as a super-brief response to a major world issue, why is this the first time I hear him say that he's Orthodox?

Faith can be a beautiful thing, but it most often makes the news when it's used in a negative context. And far be it from me to tell anyone how to live their life, but I believe that anyone vocal enough to identify their faith should be able to live it freely. Why don't we ever hear Datsyuk extending holiday greetings beyond the canned, pre-written stuff the team makes him say? Why don't we see him going to church or volunteering his time? Has anyone heard him thanking God after winning an NHL Award or the Stanley Cup? I know that Datsyuk barely speaks at all, but still, I can't help but wonder. A peek at his website tells me all about his mentors and how much he enjoys billiards and fishing. No mention of any church stuff.

Datsyuk chooses to be a model for his church only when a political issue comes up. As a person of faith, I find this discouraging. I personally would love to see an NHL star, a Lady Byng winner, showing the world all of the positive things he believes in. Since we're in different denominations, it's very possible that he and I see things differently. And yes, I know that as a Catholic, I probably have a lot to answer for on this same issue. However, as a Catholic, I was also taught that we should love one another. I'm assuming that the Orthodox have read the same Gospels that I have. 
Pope Francis has been encouraging Catholics - and all Christians - to live their faith, rather than just expressing it:

"To be Christian is to live and witness to the faith in prayer, in works of charity, in promoting justice, in doing good."

Now, to me, "promoting justice" sounds like a very good way to say "oppose a government that treats homosexuality as a crime," but I don't actually know very much about Datsyuk's own thoughts about homosexuality and/or how uncomfortable he is with it, so I'm not going to expect him to do a 180 on this overnight. But Pope Francis' words aren't just about this issue - they're about living life every day. If Datsyuk uses his faith to guide his opinions, he should use it to guide other aspects of his life as well. Expressing himself (even just to the Russian media - we can wait for a translation), encouraging others to engage in acts of charity... this is the kind of stuff that I would love to see a star athlete doing.

Now, some people have said that athletes often do or should keep their religious beliefs private because it could turn off their fans or alienate them. Or, in other words, that a Christian should keep their faith in the closet. In my opinion, that is completely ridiculous. No one should have to lie about who they are. The NHL can only continue to grow and evolve if its players cooperate and respect each other. To me, this means that a player deserves respect regardless of who he loves, where he's from, and what religion he practices. And, in turn, he should show the same respect he's been given.

Wishful thinking, I know.


  1. That's his opinion and he is entitled to it.

  2. Speaking of respecting people, why don't you show Pavel some. He didn't say anything derogative which he easily could. Some people don't like decadent behaviour, religious or not.


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