Tweets By Tom Crean About Church Draw Strong Reaction

Religion has been an especially big topic in the sports world this year.

The two biggest stories of the past year – Tebow Mania and Linsanity – both centered around young men for whom faith is a key element of their lives, and neither has been bashful about saying so.

As big as the Tebow Mania and Linsanity stories have been, no individual sports story has been bigger to me, a child of Bloomington, Indiana, than the resurgence of Indiana basketball under head coach Tom Crean, another man whose life is driven by his faith and who is not bashful about saying so.

Today, Coach Crean said so again on Twitter, as he does quite often (typically in the form of retweeting Joyce Meyer), but this time his choice of words drew a stronger reaction than normal. I’m curious what people think about it.

Here is some context, then let’s discuss.

First, the tweets, sent today around 9:15 CT:

tom-crean-tweets-religion

(Note: For anyone who reads this who is not a regular tweeter, go from the bottom up to read in the order in which they were sent.)

As an avid follower of Coach Crean’s on Twitter, of course, I saw these almost immediately. For the record, here is the tweet I sent off right away in response:

crean-response-tweetBefore I go any further, this caveat must be stated:

My response to the tweet draws a direct connection that infers Coach Crean believes people who were raised in a home where Church is a regular activity and who continue going even away from home were raised “the right way.”

The 140-character nature of Twitter often requires word parsing and coming to conclusions that require logical inferences, so I want you to know mine here. I fully acknowledge that they could be wrong, or that someone else could interpret this in a totally different way.

It’s quite possible that Coach Crean believes that there are other ways to be raised the “right way,” but the point here is that a lot of people are interpreting the tweets similarly to how I did. A smattering:

responses-to-crean-tweet

As you can see, the tweet has been favorited 14 times, so people taking exception to Crean’s tweet is far from unanimous. These five responses just happen to be the ones that come up when you open the tweet at Twitter.com.

One of the responses to this series of tweets by Crean that I found most noteworthy came from @ChronicHoosier, who is well known in IU circles for his unyielding support of IU athletics and his strong, influential opinions about them.

I have spoken with him on a few occasions during episodes of The Assembly Call, and while supportive he has, in general, always seemed to keep Crean and his all-around coaching and program-building methods at more of an arm’s length while the majority of the fan base (including me), especially this year, has far more fully embraced Coach Crean.

Here were his responses to Crean’s tweets from this morning:

chronic-hoosier-tweets

The scripture verse linked in his second tweet is this one.

Also worth noting is that many IU players tweet often about their faith. Freshman Remy Abell and junior Christian Watford, in particular, invoke God and their faith often in tweets. Others do as well, but I just happen to see Remy and Christian’s tweets the most. Cody Zeller’s Twitter page is designed as something of a shrine to his faith. So clearly many IU players share their coach’s strong faiths and willingness to discuss it openly.

It is also worth noting, as I have noted many times on The Assembly Call, that one of my favorite attributes of IU’s resurgence and this year’s team in particular, is how well every player represents Indiana on the court and off. There has not been one peep about any discipline problems with any current IU players, and the team had a 3.09 GPA during the fall semester. These are terrific kids. However they were raised, they certainly turned out well.

But that gets to the entire point, which I can now return to with the context, I think, properly set.

Do you take issue with Tom Crean’s tweets, either specifically or in general?

As I said in my response tweet to Coach, I believe there are many “right ways” for kids to be raised. I was raised in a house with parents who have split religions and was given a lot of freedom explore my own spirituality. I like to think I’ve turned out okay, and I know many others who have turned okay too, who follow the Golden Rule whether they call it that or not, and who were raised with and without church and religion being a big part of their life.

I don’t begrudge Crean his beliefs and feelings. If he believes raising kids in the church is the “right way” for him and his family, I think that’s great. Conviction is a great thing. He should absolutely hold onto that. What’s great about the United States is that we are all free to believe what we want to believe and say what we want to say.

And maybe I and many others mistook his full meaning. Or perhaps his words came out differently than he intended. That’s fully possible and happens often on Twitter. Maybe he wasn’t trying to imply that those of us raised outside of church-going families were raised something other than the “right way.” Perhaps he acknowledges that the “right way” for him may not necessarily be the “right way” for all.

But I do have to admit that as much I love and admire Coach Crean for his indefatigable and passionate work to return IU to respectability on and off the court, I was a little bothered by this series of tweets. They just rubbed me the wrong way, simply because I felt implicitly rebuked. It seems others did as well. It doesn’t change my opinion of him as a coach and program leader, nor does it alter support for him, but I do think it’s worth pointing out and I am curious to see what other IU and non-IU fans think of it.

Is this appropriate for a guy in Crean’s position to be tweeting?

From a basketball standpoint, as a recruit or parent of a recruit who is not the church-going type, would this influence your ultimate college decision?

Should I or anyone else even be bothering trying to interpret and discuss tweets, religiously-loaded or otherwise, or is this a total non-story?

These are the questions running through my head as I close this post.

I asked some folks on Facebook what they thought about it, and as I expected got a variety of responses such as these:

“Well he’s implying that if you don’t attend church you’re not raised the right way, which is pretty close-minded. Comes across as a little bit arrogant.”

“It’s his account. He can say whatever he wants.”

“Everyone is entitled to their opinions, but he has basically said that anyone who wasn’t raised in a church was raised the wrong way – which means everyone who wasn’t raised in a religion that attends church was raised the “wrong” way – which is kind of offensive. Is everyone on that team christian?”

“I’m a non-religious sort. This doesn’t offend me (now, poor perimeter defense and turnovers, those offend the bejesus outta me)”

“I just think people will find a reason to be offended by everything these days. Whatever.

I’d love to hear some reactions here too – assuming we can all do it in a way that is respectful of everyone’s beliefs, which I hope I’ve been to Coach Crean and others who believe like him and agree with him. This post is not an attack on church nor religion, but because of the general reaction Crean’s tweets seem to have sparked, and the ongoing discourse about sports and religion, it seems to me like a worthwhile conversation to have. Let’s have it.

Update:

One of my co-hosts on The Assembly Call, Ryan Phillips, a fellow IU fan and the founder of Rumors and Rants, chimed in on this topic via email. I want to post his reaction here because my goal with this piece was never to push any type of agenda, and I think he provides a nice alternate viewpoint to what I provide above:

I honestly don’t think he was saying people not growing up in the church were raised “the wrong way.” I think he was just saying that these guys were particularly raised the right way. There is no implication that there is only one “right way.” I consider myself a christian but I’m not an avid church-goer and I was not offended by what he said in the least.

I simply think he was reveling in the fact that he has a team full of good kids who go about their business in the right way. If they all grew up in and around the church, then that obviously has something to do with it.

I’m not a fan of personal evangelism from public figures (Tebow and Lin included) but I also don’t get offended by it. If someone has something they can rely on that makes them happy and enriches their lives, then who am I to rip on them for expressing it?

As for the “raised the right way part” I really think that’s splitting hairs. We all know Crean is a good guy and I sincerely doubt anything negative was meant by the comment.



About Jerod Morris

I love words. I write for Copyblogger and founded MSF, The Assembly Call, & Primility. I practice yoga, eat well, & strive for balance. I love life. Namaste. Say hi on Twitter, Facebook, & G+.

Comments

  1. I am not surprised it makes many uncomfortable. I mean if you are not really in love with the Lord there is much about what the Bible instructs you to do that is upsetting at worst and hard to fit into your daily life at best. And in truth many parents ( me and mine included) fall short to the standards that God outlines in the Bible for raising your children in a community of believers (the church). I really think that TWEETS and FB messages have become an extension of ourselves and our thoughts.. almost an open diary that gives all who follow a glimpse into our true self. 
    I see Coach Crean’s comments as a joyous acknowledgement of the positive impact worship and praise for GOD can have in your life. I don’t think he is babbling on in public to elevate himself to a false level as the verse Matthew 6:5-7.Folks need to relax and realize two things. GOD instructs in the Bible because he loves us and he gives us a path to the most satisfy and rewarding life if we follow his instruction. Of course it is our nature not to. 
    Secondly Social Media falls very short of one of the very important BIBLE lessons about being thoughtful James 1:16  
    My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry. 

    • Thanks for commenting. Very, very worthwhile points. And I do agree that the comments Crean tweeted are a great acknowledgement of the clear impact that religion has had both on him and members of the team. That I have no issue with whatsoever. Frankly, I enjoy hearing about the positive impact religion has had for others, even if my own journey has been different than theirs. It is an interesting case study in Twitter though, because regardless of what Crean MEANT with his tweet, the very nature of Twitter means that it will be interpreted numerous ways, and thus draw strong reactions on all sides.

      • As a person who was raised in a household where I regularly attended church with my mother and sister while my dad did not attend, these tweets rubbed me the wrong way. Religious views aside, ( I don’t attend church much anymore.) I certainly don’t believe Coach Crean was insinuating that non-church goers were raised in the wrong fashion, I just think it was a poor choice of words from him. This stuff is always going to get blown out of proportion by people on both sides of thinking either believing that he is insulting people of other religions and being a bigot, or that he is saying the absolute right thing and should only recruit Christians.

        All that aside, I don’t think twitter, press conferences, or anything public is the place for religious expressions or opinions of this matter, it doesn’t bring about anything positive and only can alienate or piss off some of your ( very large in Crean’s case) fan base. Bottom line, I don’t think Crean meant anything malicious but his choice of words was pretty terrible.

        •  Balanced view Tanner. Thanks for sharing. I never really have had an issue with any of Crean’s religion-based tweets until today, and I readily admit that my own background makes me predisposed to being a bit defensive when reading something like that, and to taking it negatively.

  2. mrjonessodaandme says:

    Couple things. 

    First, this has opened the door to a question I have long desired to have insight in for a long while. I ask some friends I attend #iubb games with often, ‘Do you think part of Crean’s recruiting pitch is his faith?’

    I tend to say yes. While I can’t convince myself he goes into recruiting trips with this speil ready to go, I have no doubt he jumps at it if he knows the recruit will be influenced by it. I’m sure it doesn’t hurt with the parents either. I don’t know how I feel about this in terms of losing out on good basketball players because of it, but as long as he keeps filling the roster with players that are terrific people, students, and ballers, its whatever.

    As for the actual tweets, I am not offended by it, just off-put by it. I don’t think he should be using this platform for this topic. However, if its not an official IU athletics twitter, I guess he can say what he wants. I am a 12 years of catholic school, every Sunday Mass raised former Catholic. I am now an Atheist. Going to Church didn’t make me a good person. My parents raising me to be a kind, caring person who must take responsibility for all my actions did. I’m sure instilling ‘the fear of God’ helped me behave when I was a child, but now I view that as a very cruel way to keep children in line.

    In short, the #iubb fanbase is made up of a vast variety of views, on religion and every other topic. The one thing we all agree on, however, is that we want #iubb to be the best and stay the best. I think in the interest of keeping the fanbase satisfied and happy, he should keep the tweet to #iubb. Then we can disagree on if Verdell should start or not, not if I am a ‘good person’ because I don’t go to church.

    Also, some very horrible, evil people attend Church every week, if not everyday. Going to church or following a certain God don’t make you a good person. Your words and actions decide that.

    • Thanks for commenting, and you bring up great points as well.

      As to Crean using religion as a recruiting “tool” I really don’t know. I’d guess that because religion is such a big part of his life that it helps him relate to players and families for who that is also true; and that certainly can’t hurt with those players. One thing I have ZERO issue with is the kind of kids he’s bringing to IU. Other than that, I don’t really know anything to comment.

      As far as the tweets, I just think he needs to be careful. As I’ve learned well, tweets and headlines, especially about anything controversial, induce knee-jerk reactions. So you better make sure that what you say will be interpreted how you want it. Maybe Crean did in this case, or perhaps he didn’t. I don’t know. To me, the story is the REACTION his tweets got and the larger discussions about Twitter, about religion in sports, and about the challenges a guy in Crean’s position faces tweeting about something so personal. It’s going to draw a reaction, so he should at least know how people are reacting.

  3. mrjonessodaandme says:

    I just want ask something non-judgementally…I want know if I am reading one of your lines right.

    ‘I mean if you are not really in love with the Lord there is much about what the Bible instructs you to do that is upsetting at worst and hard to fit into your daily life at best.’

    Are you saying that it makes me uncomfortable because deep down I know am going against a God I don’t believe it and fear punishment for not believing and following?

    I may be reading into it too much, but just want to clarify so I don’t take it the wrong way.

  4.  So basically, this article is attacking him for not being a moral relativist. It’s come to the point where any Christian who actually believes in Jesus Christ and doesn’t just think of him as a nice metaphor for carrying an unselfish spirit in our daily lives is considered a bigot in the public sphere. That’s fine if you want to call all Christians bigots, but at least keep the terminology straight. If you really believe every religion is equally valid, you are not a Christian. That more accurately describes the Bahá’í faith. If you believe that every religion is just a different form of metaphorical self-expression, you are most likely a Unitarian Universalist. These things are not Christian. I’m sorry if it offends your sensibilities that some religions are mutually exclusive to one another, but how you feel about it doesn’t change anything in this case. I agree that a Christian shouldn’t hate or attack someone for having a different belief (or keep a haughty disposition based on his faith), but if you’re upset with him for believing that he is right (necessarily to the exclusion of others being right), then I think that says more about you than about him.

    •  And let me add that I didn’t mean to come across as nasty or mean-spirited, but reading it back I discovered a couple lines that could be interpreted as such (eg. “at least keep the terminology straight”). I’ve just seen this “melting pot” mentality reinforced so liberally in public discourse that it’s a wonder anyone can hold a philosophical conversation at all anymore. I don’t wish ill on anyone, whether author or commenters, and I hope I didn’t sound too snippy.

      • Thanks for the visit and comment. I disagree with your assessment of the article. I am not attacking Crean for anything regarding his religious beliefs. I even mentioned multiple times that I may have misread what he meant. What I was bringing up with this article is that his tweet galvanized strong reactions, on both sides. I presented my example and also added another that felt differently than I did. I think someone in Crean’s position needs to know that when he tweets, especially about a topic like religion, he needs to be clear with what he is stating. I have every reason to look past this or give him the benefit of the doubt, yet I was taken aback by the tweet. THAT to me is the story, not who is right or wrong. Some people think there is one religion that is RIGHT, and I respect that whether I agree with it or not. All I was aiming to do was present facts and get people’s reaction to them, which you provided, and I appreciate. The goal was not to “attack” Crean for anything, and I don’t think I did.

        •  Hey Jerod, I guess I was most focused on your “correction” of Tom on Twitter. I just wanted to point out that to implicitly denounce the whole of his faith by disagreeing with him that it’s “the only right way” (once again, a fundamental component of Christian belief) is just as strong an assertion as what Crean himself is making. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing. You have your beliefs, and so does he. But I would argue that in that context, if he was being “pushy” with what he believed, then so were you. You’re right that it would be incorrect to label the article as an “attack”. In fact the article itself was fairly even-handed. You seem like a reasonable guy.

          •  So I guess in summary, I’d argue that neither of you were being pushy. I don’t think his tweets nor your response were unreasonable.

          •  Well I do try to be reasonable, so that’s good! The only distinction I’ll make is I don’t begrudge Tom Crean his ability to believe that someone being raised in the church is “the right way” and the only “right way” if he does in fact believe that (which we don’t know, and requires plenty of word parsing and inference). I think I mention that in the post, but perhaps could have explained better. If he believes it, I have zero issue with it, I just take exception to the feeling of rebuke when it’s explicitly stated. In general, I’d just say that I value everyone’s religious expression and entitlement to their opinion, and the only time I ever take exception to anything from a religious belief standpoint is it violated something I morally or ethically disagree with, or if it involves someone else telling me I’m wrong. At a certain point it becomes semantics and splitting hairs, and perhaps we’ve reached that point already. But I do think the process of thinking it through and discussing it is worthwhile, even if a specific common ground isn’t reached, so I appreciate the open and honest discussion.

          • And in re-reading the Twitter reply I sent to Crean, you do have a point. As presented, it states my opinion that there are many “right” ways as fact, which in reality I really just meant that it was how I felt on the matter.

    • “… any Christian who actually believes in Jesus Christ and doesn’t just think of him as a nice metaphor for carrying an unselfish spirit in our daily lives is considered a bigot in the public sphere.” Nah, man–really? 

      I appreciate that being a Christian isn’t as mainstream as it once was. (Ahh, the “good old days”.) But I hardly think one is considered a bigot for believing in Jesus Christ. I think Tom misspoke a bit and didn’t consider how his words could be taken by those who don’t share his beliefs. I wouldn’t use the word “bigot” to describe him, especially not for believing in Christ.

      • As someone who lives in Boston, I’m sure that my perspective is different than a lot of people on here (although the world of blogs and internet news is skewed very heavily in the progressive direction, as the most prominent demographic on most popular websites is the overwhelmingly relativist 18-30 suburban/well-to-do urban crowd).

        But yeah, from what I’ve been able to observe, to express the opinion that you have a belief that is true to the exclusion of other beliefs is an easy way to get the “bigot” label thrown at you, and doubly so if the belief in question is Christianity. The aforementioned demographic tends to play nicer with Muslims (in the US.. neither are very welcome in the UK), a distinction that clearly hints at (in many cases) a reactionary approach to what surrounds these young people.

    • That’s what the world needs more of, people who think their way is the right way to the exclusion of all others.  I think your last statement is right, but I don’t think it cuts the way you think it does.

  5. Jamesbarlow3 says:

    If Crean’s third tweet isn’t a textbook example of “bigotry”, then I don’t know what would be.

  6. Old Time Alum says:

    My issue with Tom Crean is not that he loves his religion. It’s simply that he is trying to convince me that unless I adopt his religion I am not as good a person as I could be. I don’t appreciate people who proslytize. He diminishes and deligitimizes those of us who don’t necessarily share his religious beliefs. History is full of examples  of people who were persecuted simply because they did not believe that Jesus Christ is their saviour. He is a public figure who represents Indiana University, a public university, and as a very loyal alumnus of IU, I find his public pronouncements surrounding his church to be inappropriate.

  7. Coachmo4040 says:

    Been reading everyone’s comments, interesting points of view both pro and con. I think coach Crean was saying that he is gald he has a team of good guys, in a context that made sense to him. I don’t follow IU basketball that closely, but I do not believe that coach Crean has ever put his faith out in front as the coach of the IU basketball team.  I would take his comments in that context. He was not trying to push his faith on anyone, just stating his opinion. I doubt it hurts him at all with recruits, no matter what their faith.  I have coached on the collegiate level, and some of the best teams I have been associated with, had a strong sense of “faith” that helped the individuals of that team and the team itself to achieve at a high level, with a strong sense of togetherness. And in no way were those teams ever non-inclusive of team members that maybe had another faith or set of principles that helped them to achieve at a higher level.  If asked I am sure that coach Crean would say the same of his team. Coach Crean and the 2011-2012 IU basketball team is a team all associated with IU past and present should be proud of.

    • Good points, and I tend to agree re: Crean. I really don’t think he intended it that way in hindsight, but it didn’t change the knee-jerk reaction that many have. And while it is incumbent upon anyone who uses Twitter to try not to be reactionary, it is also the burden of the person communicating a message to do so clearly based on both the context and the medium in which it’s being communicated. In this case, I just think Twitter may not be the best place for this kind of evangelism, given Crean’s position, regardless of intent. And I say that not because I don’t think he should be religious or use it as a part of building his team and communicating his message. I’d just choose a medium less impersonal and prone to misinterpretation than Twitter for a topic that inherently creates stronger reactions than others.

      • Kenneth Yoder says:

        Jerod, I tend to disagree with you. If this is what Crean believes, why should he not be able to express himself on Twitter. Why is it that only those with opinions that are not like our own, draw the wrath of folks who are so easily offended. What happened to the ideal of free speach that this country was founded on? Is it only allowed when someone who doesn’t agree likes absolutely ever little word that is used? Is it only allowed if it is in agreement with our own beliefs? I really do not believe that was the intent of free speach, do you? I believe people should be less ‘thin-skinned’ and more accepting of others beliefs.

        • I really don’t think “free speech” qualifies as an argument here. Of course he CAN say anything he wants to, just as I CAN react in any way I want to what he says. And that is a wonderful principle of this country. But when it comes to communication, the medium used to communicate can often be just as influential as the words themselves. To me, this was a poor choice of medium for something like this to be communicated because, in hindsight, a lot of poeple took offense to what he said. He may or may not have meant to offend (I tend to think he did not MEAN to), but the communicator holds a level of responsibility for how his message is received; and in this case, Crean’s message either a) was misinterpreted or b) was interpreted correctly, in which case people who take exception to it do so justly.

          Free speech legally protects our right to say anything we want. That should never change. But that doesn’t mean we cannot have reasonable disagreements over what someone SHOULD say and where they SHOULD say it for maximum effectiveness as a communicator, especially when Tom Crean has a position of prominence and represents a very large and diverse university and fanbase. I definitely believe he has more of a burden to consider his words carefully because of that. Such is the nature of the position he holds. And while I’ve readily admitted that I probably misinterpreted his intention, I do believe it’s work acknowledging the fact that it galvanized a strong reaction, and both sides, which was the point.

          As for this: “I believe people should be less ‘thin-skinned’ and more accepting of others beliefs.” – I totally agree. In fact, that was my point – though my initial response to Crean was essentially just as closed-minded as his own was, even though I didn’t mean for it to be (a Twitter lesson for me!). I am not all unaccepting of Crean’s beliefs, nor will you find that anywhere in anything I’ve ever said. My point that his words came across very unaccepting of others’ beliefs. And I could argue the very same thing to counter you – that you should be less “thin-skinned” and more accepting of what I believe. As I mentioned in another comment, this discussion usually ends up devolving into semantics before true common ground is reached, but I think just the act of talking it out and hearing eachothers’ opinions at least makes us more knowledgeable and hopefully, in the end, more tolerant of eachother.

          In addition to making a general point about the trouble with Twitter, that was my goal in launching this discussion. Goal achieved, as far as I’m concerned.

  8. Kevgood_2000 says:

    You need to understand the types of players Sampson recruited to IU to understand the context of Crean’s text in full.  Those guys were not your typical IU guys.

    • I am certainly not lacking in understanding of that. And I have zero issue with the kids Crean is recruiting. I’ve said time and again here and on The Assembly Call that the best part of this season isn’t the wins and our record, it’s the type of kids who are doing it, and what they do off the court as well as on. But I don’t think that has anything to do with what I took immediate exception to in the tweet, or others. I think they are two totally separate issues.

  9. “We have a team full of guys raised the right WAYS.”  Ways could be taken as more than 1 right way.  Perphaps if someone has a problem Crean’s tweets it says more about that person than it does about Tom Crean.

    • I swear that “s” wasn’t there before!!

      Just kidding. And you make a fair point, and it just goes to show the level of word parsing and knee-jerk reacting that takes place on a site like Twitter. Again, I don’t think I’m RIGHT nor do I think anyone else’s interpretation or opinion on this is WRONG. That’s part of what made it a compelling topic to discuss for me, with the religious aspect just a part of it.

      Thanks for the comment.

  10. Hoosier Daddy says:

    I love how people can take an opinion and completely transform it into rants of bigotry and other such nonsense. Nobody is holding a gun to your head and forcing you to agree with it, and if you don’t you should let it lay and simply move one…really!

  11. I found Coach Crean’s tweets to be extremely offensive. Tom Crean’s twitter account is not just Tom Crean, it’s the twitter account of the head basketball coach of Indiana University. Indiana University is a public university and could certainly ask their employee to stop tweeting things that CLEARLY imply that a non-churchgoing upbringing is the wrong way.

    I have a great solution. Divide the accounts up. Let Tom Crean crow about his salvation on his own twitter account and have an IU Basketball Coach account for the information I’m interested in. That way, us atheist and agnostic students don’t have to feel shunned by our own basketball coach.

  12. Connerisabasketballboy@gmail says:

    Thank you to the author for being so open minded, I am a Christian and believe coach crean is a great coach. I know many people who have not been raised in Christian homes and have turned out as great people, I think his point is training children up according to the bibles standards is the best way to go. Also I think like you said we live in America the greatest country on earth, we should be free to speak what we want in moderation of course. Ps. You are a biblically knowledgeable person about the golden rule, even if not religious

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