Looks like we have another proselytizing episode like the one that afflicted the U.S. Air Force Academy, in which the chaplains were pressuring students to become evangelical Christians. In this case, the Olympic archery coach, a former South Korean coach who found Jesus in 1999, has been baptizing atheletes in his charge and proselytizing them:
Two weeks before leaving to compete in the Olympics, the archer Brady Ellison waded into a pool not far from the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, Calif., and was baptized in the Christian faith.
In the water with him was Kisik Lee, the head coach of the United States archery team and a Christian who has become a spiritual guide for Ellison, 19, and the larger group of athletes who train and live full time at the Olympic Training Center. He has also served as a sponsor in the baptism of three other resident archers.
During the Olympics, Lee and at least three of the five United States archers who qualified to compete in Beijing met every morning to sing hymns and read from the Bible, and to attend church together in the chapel at the Olympic Village.
Oh and in case you’re wondering–Lee absolutely doesn’t play favorites in his coaching:
Lee said coaching was more of a challenge for him when members of the team did not share his beliefs.
“I don’t want to have any favorites,” he said. “I would love to be fair for everyone. But sooner or later, if they can see through me God, that’s what I want to try to do. I’m not God, and I can’t drive them to God, but I can pray for them.”
It appears that a gold-starved U.S. Olympic Commitee is willing to overlook such egregious behavior if it might lead to medals for its athletes. But even the U.S.O.C. isn’t aware of how relentless is Lee’s evangelizing:
Lee was warned by U.S.O.C. officials, who oversee the center, not to pressure athletes to participate in religious activities.
“The U.S.O.C. explained that athletes are free to choose their religious preferences and it cannot be a condition of participation on any team or camp,” John Ruger, the athlete ombudsman for the U.S.O.C, said in an e-mail message. Ruger said that he identified the issue while looking into other matters of “team dynamics,” and that no athlete had formally complained.
“Some athletes do have an athlete-generated daily Bible session at the O.T.C., but participation is voluntary as far as the U.S.O.C. knows and the coach does not attend,” Ruger said.
Yet Lee said he had continued to pray with the Christian athletes in morning sessions at the center.
Certainly makes you wonder what else the U.S.O.C. doesn’t know, or doesn’t want to know, about this coach’s behavior.
And it isn’t often that a reporter is gifted such a interviewee who damns himself with so little prompting:
To be an effective archer, Lee said, athletes must learn to clear their heads and focus. “If you are Christian,” he said, “then people can have that kind of empty mind.”
Well, you know what he meant to say but still, it’s instructive in its way. The religious intolerance of Lee comes across in the following:
Asked if people of other faiths could learn to focus in the same way, Lee said he was not sure.
“Maybe,” he said. “But for me this is the best answer. So that’s why I’m encouraging people to be the same as me.”
The word “clueless” comes to mind. I don’t blame the coach. He’s a creature of his own habits. But I do blame the U.S.O.C. which clearly cares very little about what its coaches do with their charges as long as they win medals. Note: not a single U.S. archer scored any higher than fifth at Beijing. Serves us right. Get Jesus out of the Olympic training center!
This post has been cross-posted at Huffington Post.
You know, there is an outfit here in China which claims that Jesus has been re-born in China, as their founder/leader, of course. I hope these two meet!
Are you actually suggesting that the USOC ban athletes from communicating about shared religious beleifs? Should athletes and coaches be banned from attending the same places of worship, or if they do happen to meet at a place of worship, should keep the topics only to athletics.
The athlets are all aduts and don;t need to be protected from free expression. The fact that there were no complaingts and the USOC premptivly provided clarifications to all, says that no one is being “forced” into anything and speaks well of the USOC and the coach.
It sounds like the athletes are indeed making free choices with no pressure in an environment where speach on religious topics to not banned.
Richard Silverstein says
The coach & athletes don’t just “happen” to share a religion. The coach is PROSELYTIZING. He’s pressuring them to adopt his own religious views. That is not acceptable.
They are athletes in a subordinate relationship to a coach. They are not adults like you & I. If your boss pressured you to attend Bible study or his church and you didn’t want to but you knew you would lose out on a promotion, how would you feel? That’s the relationship that these kids have to this coach. It is not a “free choice” and has nothing to do with “free expression” either, though I can imagine an evangelical like you would need to see it that way.
Your article is pretty defensive – there is nothing wrong with sharing one’s beliefs of any religion, and that IS what a Christian does. Nobody is ever forced to accept God. If you bothered to read the Bible, Jesus never forced anyone to accept him – he spoke the Word and left it to people to accept or reject him – really simple. You are making this more of an issue than it is, simply because this man has more faith and guts than most people do. Most teenagers I know speak their own mind and are not a bunch of babies who need to be molly coddled – esp. American teenagers.
Richard Silverstein says
That all depends how you define “sharing.” Many religions are very circumspect about proselytizing and “sharing” their religious beliefs. They are humble & not at all aggressive about it. That’s as it should be. Christian evangelicals, Mormons & others are much more aggressive & obnoxious about it. Even Chabad among Jewish sects is similarly oppressive though they mostly seek out secular Jews to “convert” to their cause. No one asked Christians to get into the faces of those who aren’t interested in “receiving the Word.” A little humility goes a long way in these things.
That’s an offensive statement & I don’t cotton to such obnoxiousness fr. anyone esp. those like you who are guests here. So if you want to enjoy my hospitality you won’t insult me. If you do insult you won’t be welcome here. I DO read “the Bible.” But that’s my Bible, not yours. Unfortunately Jesus is not at all like those who follow him today. Jesus was humble. Evangelicals largely are not. They know the Word, they know the Truth. Blah, blah. Not interested in such hubris.
I’m making as much of an issue as I think is warranted in my view. Which isn’t yours. So you go yr way & I’ll go mine.
Kisik is one reason why I compete in National Field Archery Association, versus USA Archery. The team loses many talented archers by engaging in high pressure religious conversion.