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In Salon today, Mary Elizabeth Williams shares her discomfort with Gabby Douglas's outspoken religious fervor at the Olympics.  Williams says of the gymnast:

As a Christian myself (albeit one of those really freaky papist kinds), I’ve often wondered what it is about Christians like Douglas that unnerves me so. The closest I’ve been able to figure it is that Douglas and her ilk seem to espouse a faith based on what is commonly referred to as “The God of Parking Spaces.” It’s the deity that grants wishes to those who ask nicely. Douglas is a girl who has described God is the figure who’s “waking me up every morning and keeping me safe in the gym every day.” She told People Thursday, “I was on the bus and it was raining and I thought, ‘It’s going to be a great day.’ My mom used to tell me when I was little, ‘When it rains, it’s God’s manifestation, a big day’s waiting to happen.’ I texted my mom, ‘It’s raining. You know what that means.’” It means that Russian girl is going down, I guess.
While I also don't buy into the concept of God as a gumball machine or wishing-well, I'm also not sure how comfortable I am with criticizing a 16-year-old's comments, made right after she won a gold medal.  Thoughts, anyone?

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Comment Preferences

  •  Edited to add: (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    tytalus, chimene

    The rest of the Salon piece is here.

  •  Yah, "I'm not sure how comfortable I am with (21+ / 0-)

    criticizing a 16 year old's comments, made right after she wins gold". If God works for her, then long as she isn't using her religion to hate anyone. I was proud of her for her victory!

    •  I was proud, too. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      oldliberal, davidseth, PinHole

      Bob Costas, of course, had to point out that she's the first African-American woman to win the individual all-around gold.  Actually, she's only the fourth American WOMAN to win the individual all-around gold.  Then Bob proceeded to say that those racial barriers were long-since broken except for those "imaginary" ones that girls might place on themselves.

      NBC: Even when they're trying to be magnanimous they sound tacky.

    •  Give her time. (6+ / 0-)

      She got the medal for her gymnastic ability, not her logic or intellectual prowess.  I wouldn't criticize her during her moment -- hopefully when she gets a little older she'll stop believing that the rain is Jeezus talking to  her, cuz that's just embarassing.  

      •  What a totally offensive thing to say (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        OIL GUY, melissaf

        you think there is no intellectual and logical prowess involved in gymnastics? Did you hear yourself as you typed that out? It is downright offensive.

        If you are a non-believer that does not give you the right to reduce someone's achievement to the old stereotypical "she's only using her body, not her mind" nonsense. Cut it out!

        "What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them." -- Pres. Obama (1/20/2009)

        by zizi on Fri Aug 03, 2012 at 02:24:21 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  What offensive crap you're spewing. (4+ / 0-)

        Gabby Douglas is clearly a very intelligent young woman, with incredible drive and skill. No one gets a gold medal  without great discipline, determination and maturity.

        Who do you think you are to criticize her religious beliefs, especially when all you know about them are some words uttered in the midst of a great celebration of her achievement.

        I'm an agnostic myself, but I feel strongly that everyone is entitled to their own beliefs. Someone else's views may seems silly to you, but let me assure you that your beliefs are hilarious to a lot of other folks.

        So we are all best off to mind our own theological business and hope that others will do the same.

        Here's my take on it - the revolution will not be blogged, it has to be slogged. - Deoliver47

        by OIL GUY on Fri Aug 03, 2012 at 03:24:56 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  I did a little flinch when she said the bit about (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Prof Haley, melissaf

      god, but I agree with you. If it's a comfort and a source of strength, why not?
      Although I remember a great interview with a veteran of WWII who was the only survivor in a foxhole after a battle. The interviewer asked him if he felt god had protected him and he answered that it would be awfully conceited to think god helped him but not the other guys.

      We're not perfect, but they're nuts! -- Barney Frank

      by Tamar on Fri Aug 03, 2012 at 03:20:21 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  The Evangelical God, and In Some Ways Catholic God (9+ / 0-)

    are very literally gods of routine supernatural intervention in our daily lives that is easily knowable by the faithful. Knowing God's actions and his wishes about everyday matters with ease is a cornerstone of evangelicalism at least.

    All liberals and intellectuals should attend an evangelical service a time or few and also listen to the people converse before and after.

    It's not just about the Bible.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Fri Aug 03, 2012 at 12:36:53 PM PDT

  •  I think it shows humility and a good-hearted (13+ / 0-)

    sincerity. I also think it shows the mind of a young person who hasn't hit a lot of rough sailing yet.
    What will happen with the smple-minded media is that the Christian fascists will attempt to own her and make her a pawn in their game as they did Tim Tebow.
    I hope she's able to steer clear of being used in that way.

    You can't make this stuff up.

    by David54 on Fri Aug 03, 2012 at 12:37:58 PM PDT

  •  I didn't see her laying the religion on strong (8+ / 0-)

    any time I ever saw her speak. It was always about how happy she was and how much it took to get her there.
    Otherwise, I'd have been turned off to her myself. I just haven't seen it.

    A USA swimmer, Clary, pointed upward in the pool right after he saw he won an event, and I automatically assumed it was a "Tebow moment."

    It wasn't. When he was interviewed afterward he said it was for his coach. I was pleasantly surprised.

    I was seeing what Adam had seen on the morning of his creation - the miracle, moment by moment, of naked existence. --The Doors of Perception, Aldous Huxley

    by Wildthumb on Fri Aug 03, 2012 at 12:41:15 PM PDT

  •  Williams is an idiot (15+ / 0-)

    and her writing style sucks.  Takes a real piece of work to go after a 16 year old.  Let me guess, she was also one of the ones who criticized Gabby for her hair.


    " My faith in the Constitution is whole; it is complete; it is total." Barbara Jordan, 1974

    by gchaucer2 on Fri Aug 03, 2012 at 12:41:58 PM PDT

    •  To be fair, (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Williams, who is battling cancer, did point out that she doesn't think God gave her cancer to punish her or allowed her to live in reward for something, which is usually the corollary to the wish-granting God model.  But I agree that 16-year-olds are not exactly fair game in making larger points about religious doctrine.

  •  I think she's adorable, and she seems sincere in (8+ / 0-)

    her faith. (Not saying I like athletes doing the God thing as they win, but that's just me.)

    It just begs the question, what about all the other girls in that competition who believe in God and pray and wanted to win?

    Does faith say that Gabby's faith is the best, the strongest, because she won?

    So, what about the others? Was their faith not strong enough? Because that view of religion that says we succeed by God's help seems to be saying everybody else didn't succeed because they didn't believe enough or weren't good (Godly good) enough or didn't pray enough. And that just doesn't work for me.

    •  Exactly. What about the others? (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Brooke In Seattle, skwimmer

      The point is not that we're piling on a 16yo for having shallow theology; people 3 or 4 times her age also often express the same belief that God loves them better than, say, those other cancer patients who didn't get better no matter how much they prayed.

      "Think of something to make the ridiculous look ridiculous." -- Molly Ivins

      by dumpster on Fri Aug 03, 2012 at 05:30:43 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Yeah, I hate that about the God people. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        If you have a crappy life, does that mean God doesn't like you? Judged you and found you lacking? That you're doing something wrong?

        What if you're doing the best you can? And you're exhausted and sad and just can't do any better at the moment? Is God just frowning down at you, shaking his head, thinking you're getting what you deserve? That's so many people's version of God.

        I had an aunt who was a devout believer. She made one big mistake in her life. (And it was a crappy life.) And she was sure God would never forgive and she was going to hell. Broke my heart.
        She got cancer and was terrified of dying. Terrified. And she died an agonizingly painful, stress-filled death, fighting it all the way, because she thought hell was waiting for her.

  •  And did you know that if you re-scramble (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    davidseth, Tamar, skwimmer

    the letters of her last name it spells USA GOLD See - it was all pre-ordained....

    Gravitation cannot be held responsible for people falling in love. - Einstein

    by moose67 on Fri Aug 03, 2012 at 12:55:24 PM PDT

  •  Intolerance (4+ / 0-)

    Funny how it's another "Christian" who is so intolerant of this young woman's faith.

    Pay attention to your own faith, nurture it and grow it as you see fit. Leave other's faith alone.

    Ridicule is the only weapon which can be used against unintelligible propositions. Ideas must be distinct before reason can act upon them - Thomas Jefferson 30 July, 1816

    by Roiling Snake Ball on Fri Aug 03, 2012 at 01:06:29 PM PDT

  •  Not Gabby, but the general case (4+ / 0-)

    I don't think challenging a 16-year-old's religious views is profitable. Maybe it helps if you think God is on your side. Then again, what to think when you lose? I find it repulsive for mature athletes to thank God for, say, scoring a touchdown, as if God is in control of every player and play.
     When someone thanked God that her sailboat was not damaged in a hurricane, I suspected that such a sentiment implied that God had something against most of the boat owners whose craft was on the east side of the eye as the blow came ashore!
     When George Whitfield thanked God for his gracious treatment by Ben Franklin, Franklin commented that the visiting preacher might have thanked his host as well!

  •  In a country that is so darn proud of (7+ / 0-)

    it individual rights, there is certainly an awful lot of people who get all crazy whenever someone says they believe in God.  I didn't see Gabby asks anybody to believe with her, she just simply thanked her God.

    If you got the right to kiss your lover everywhere and anywhere you want, why can't Gabby and I can't thank our God anywhere and everywhere we want to?

    Why does it bother you so?

    I thank God for the blue skies and the rain. I thank God for waking me up this morning. I thank God for all the manifold blessings that come my way. And, yes, I thank Him for any sufferings that come my way , too.  

    "He is no fool who forsakes things that he cannot keep, so that he might gain things that he cannot lose." - Jim Elliot

    by looking and listening on Fri Aug 03, 2012 at 01:11:31 PM PDT

  •  Here's the only problem I have with it (4+ / 0-)

    One of the gymnasts she defeated last night happens to be her teammate (and Team Captain, actually), Aly Raisman.

    Aly Raisman happens to be Jewish.

    Yes, she's sixteen, and obviously brainwashed by Mama (Rain is God's manifestation?????), and not old enough to think these things through. I agree with all of that. But going all Christian when one of your vanquished foes is a teammate who's Jewish, that bothered me a wee bit.

    "Maybe: it's a vicious little word that could slay me"--Sara Bareilles

    by ChurchofBruce on Fri Aug 03, 2012 at 01:35:08 PM PDT

    •  That's a good point. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Hadn't thought of that.  Then again, Gabby probably didn't, either.  I'm not sure that those with this type of faith think about the logic of their beliefs.

    •  She wasn't the one who beat Raisman (6+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Delilah, Tamar, gramofsam1, pmcmscot, Rooe, taffers

      Just. Cut. this. Crap. Out! Sheesh!!

      Raisman was several competitors behind her and Raisman's loss had zero to do with Gabby. Earlier during Raisman's final floor routine did you see Gabby on the sidelines jumping up and down cheering her teammate on and sometimes in a meditative gesture on behalf of her teammate?

      No but suddenly you find Gabby's acknowledgement of God to be a direct affront to Raisman's Yahweh?

      Absolute BS!

      "What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them." -- Pres. Obama (1/20/2009)

      by zizi on Fri Aug 03, 2012 at 02:30:48 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  actually, Raisman didn't get a medal because of (2+ / 0-)

        the stupid system that took a tie between her and the other Russian gymnast and turned it into a win for only the Russian.

        According to International Gymnastics Federation procedures, in the case of a tie, the lowest apparatus score is dropped and the remaining scores are added together. In that case, Mustafina finished .567 ahead of Raisman:

        Mustafina: 15.233 (vault) + 16.100 (bars) + 13.633 (beam) + 14.600 (floor) = 45.933

        Raisman: 15.900 (vault) + 14.33 (bars) + 14.2 (beam) + 15.133 (floor) = 45.366

        My husband pointed out that Raisman beat Mustafina in 3 out of the 4 rotations. in a tie situation, because of the mathematics, a person with a particularly low score will do better than their competitor whose lowest score is not as low (because less is removed from their total).
        I think that resolving ties this way is ridiculous. Why couldn't they have given out two bronze medals?
        WaPo says:

        Gymnastics used to award duplicate medals in the case of a tie at the Olympics, but the International Olympic Committee put an end to that following the 1996 Atlanta Games. However, the gymnastics federation simplified its tiebreak formulas in June, which could allow for shared medals in rare cases.

        We're not perfect, but they're nuts! -- Barney Frank

        by Tamar on Fri Aug 03, 2012 at 03:30:12 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Thank you (0+ / 0-)

          Tell that to the two bozos who responded to my comment below you.

          As you rightly said, instead of blaming the scoring system of the Olympics gymnastics board they find it stereotypically convenient to blame young teammate Gabby, whose win had zero to do with Raisman's loss

          "What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them." -- Pres. Obama (1/20/2009)

          by zizi on Sun Aug 05, 2012 at 08:57:50 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  God pushed Aly off the beam (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Brooke In Seattle, skwimmer, Catesby

        Don'tcha know. Pushed Aliya Mustafina right off it. (As an added kicker, that's a Tatar name, so Aliya might just be Muslim--I don't know for sure, but many Tatars are. Wouldn't that be quite the double for Jesus!)

        I find acknowledgement of God in any athletic contest to be a direct affront to all opponents. Because THAT is what it means: God pushed her competitors off the beam.

        As I said above, I am usually inclined to cut a 16-year-old parroting that bullshit some slack. I cut her a little less slack because of Raisman's religion.

        When adults do this, I'm never this gentle. I'm being very very gentle due to Gabby's age. Hopefully she'll grow out of this bullshit.

        "Maybe: it's a vicious little word that could slay me"--Sara Bareilles

        by ChurchofBruce on Fri Aug 03, 2012 at 05:23:02 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  You are a moron (0+ / 0-)

          I said it. What has Gabby's expression of faith got to do with how other people perform? This is not a "prosperity Gospel" invocation that sees God in a punitive role towards one's competitors.

          Gabby was only expressing her gratitude, not seeking malevolence towards other teammates.

          you need to train your ire on the rulemakers whose stupid rules pushed Raisman off the medal stand, not Gabby who had zero influence on Raisman.

          unless of course you are proposing something even more sinister: the non-presence of Gabby in the first place. If that is what you wanted then be bold and say so, that Raisman would have medaled if Gabby was not even on the team in he first place. her absence would have opened up space?

          See how that kind of thinking that you spout can work? Silly.

          "What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them." -- Pres. Obama (1/20/2009)

          by zizi on Sun Aug 05, 2012 at 09:03:02 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Really? (0+ / 0-)
            This is not a "prosperity Gospel" invocation that sees God in a punitive role towards one's competitors.

            From the original article:

            I texted my mom, ‘It’s raining. You know what that means.’” It means that Russian girl is going down, I guess.
            Looks exactly like "prosperity gospel" to me.

            You, apparently, are too wrapped up in your fairy-worship to recognize it, however.

            I was rooting for Gabby. I'm glad she won. I love her gymnastics. She's just got to take credit for her own victory rather than thinking fairies made the "Russian girl go down".  (Komova didn't "go down", Gabby was just better. Mustafina did "go down", but Gabby's imaginary sky-daddy had nothin' to do with it.)

            "Maybe: it's a vicious little word that could slay me"--Sara Bareilles

            by ChurchofBruce on Sun Aug 05, 2012 at 04:43:34 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

      •  Raisman's loss (0+ / 0-)

        was because God didn't love her as much as Gabby.  

        You are right, it has nothing to do with Gabby's performance per se, just the fact that she had better prayers.

    •  And if Aly had won, (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      she could have praised Jehovah and quoted the Torah, and I'm sure Gabby would not have minded.

      If you can find money to kill people, you can find money to help people. --Tony Benn

      by rhetoricus on Fri Aug 03, 2012 at 04:07:57 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I'm not certain I understand (13+ / 0-)

    Williams' concerns, and she doesn't articulate them very well.  Williams says of Gabby " And that clearly authentic image of a hardworking girl with strong values makes her a natural icon to her fellow Christians, just as it makes the somewhat less faithful uncomfortable."

    I doubt that's true.  A hardworking girl with strong values shouldn't make anyone uncomfortable.  That Gabby attributes her success to God instead of her coach or herself shouldn't make anyone uncomfortable.

    And I don't think her comment about the rain is as superstitious or as supernatural as it is being made out to be.  She's 16.  Her mom told her God stories.  She's repeating them. She's proud of her mom, undaunted by the bad weather and expecting good things.  Why is that uncomfortable?  

    I don't know anything about Williams but I read the column and I thought it was petty and without substance.  She likens Gabby -- without reason -- to more right wing Christians, those who preach for a living, and people in Williams' own religious past who were superstitious.  

    That's a great deal of someone else's baggage Williams wants Gabby to carry.

  •  She's impossible to dislike... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    melissaf, rhetoricus

    ...and while I wish that everyone who was superlatively good at something or other would have opinions I care for, I suspect it is not to be.

    If I ever win anything I will be sure to quote Kathy Griffin.  But unless they make Precor ellpitical workouts an Olympic sport, I fear that is not to be.

    ...j'ai découvert que tout le malheur des hommes vient d'une seule chose, qui est de ne savoir pas demeurer en repos dans une chambre.

    by jessical on Fri Aug 03, 2012 at 01:47:20 PM PDT

  •  There's a difference (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    melissaf, doroma, Tamar, rhetoricus, Catesby

    between praying to God to help you win a contest, thereby making others lose...
    vs. praying to God to help you focus on doing your best so that whatever the result of the contest, you have no regrets.

    Not just a difference, a BIG difference. And I think there is a lot of value in the second, no matter your religion. If it helps one concentrate and achieve one's best, I say GO FOR IT!!!

  •  To each their own. (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    doroma, Tamar, rhetoricus, melissaf

    Reporters ask her about her feelings...she tells them. What's to criticize?

    "Nothing happens unless first a dream. " ~ Carl Sandburg

    by davewill on Fri Aug 03, 2012 at 02:23:34 PM PDT

  •  Don't attack her. She's a hero. (8+ / 0-)

    And she's only 16.

    Goodness. She won the gold metal for gymnastics, not for philosophy, or theology, or rhetoric.

    And I don't find what she said to be so very offish, so offensive. Maybe somebody can quibble the language she uses, but she's just talking about her gratitude and that the world is is a marvelous place to her.  You could see why she might think that. Maybe if she quoted Thich Nhat Hanh on this point she'd get the cred she deserves? Maybe if she said, "The real miracle isn't walking on water, it's being on earth."

    Leave her alone.

    Please read and enjoy my novella, Tulum, available in soft cover and eBook formats.

    by davidseth on Fri Aug 03, 2012 at 02:26:34 PM PDT

  •  I don't know Williams... (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    doroma, gramofsam1, melissaf, pmcmscot, Rooe I don't really know where she's coming from. But I'm a little disconcerted that she can blithely dismiss a clear champion with so little effort. That's just being a bully.

  •  I don't care since she isn't (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    isn't making public policy.  Or, more precisely, promoting public policy based on her beliefs.

    Since her beliefs have utterly no impact on my life, why should I give a rat's ass what they are?

  •  Can someone post links to her actual gold- (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    winning performances on beam and floor?  I cannot find them on Youtube.  THANKS

    That's one more thing to add to my long list of small problems. --my son, age 10

    by concernedamerican on Fri Aug 03, 2012 at 03:04:26 PM PDT

  •  Whatever works for her. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    gramofsam1, melissaf

    If she wants to believe God is paving her way every moment, who am I to complain? Chick is fabulous!

    As long as she's not trying to mess with my civil rights in the name of religion, or using her platform to preach hate, she can praise who and whatever sky diety she wants!

    If you can find money to kill people, you can find money to help people. --Tony Benn

    by rhetoricus on Fri Aug 03, 2012 at 04:04:41 PM PDT

  •  She's just a kid. She's just parroting what she's (0+ / 0-)

    been taught.  Give her a break.  Maybe a cereal contract.

    Because stupid people are so sure they're smart, they often act smart, and sometimes even smart people are too stupid to recognize that the stupid people acting smart really ARE stupid.

    by ZedMont on Fri Aug 03, 2012 at 05:06:24 PM PDT

  •  A 16-year-old kid is supposed to quit the God talk (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    because it makes the author uncomfortable?

    Do we really want to go down that slippery slope?

    Fox News: Can't. Deal. With. The. Blathering.

    by pmcmscot on Fri Aug 03, 2012 at 05:23:14 PM PDT

  •  Oh, just leave her alone!! (0+ / 0-)

    (leave Britney alone!!!!!!!!!)

    Really, she was so excited, I'm certain she wasn't thinking,
    "gee, Raisman is Jewish, so I'd better say something universalist".  She spoke from her heart.  It's not something I would have said, and to be honest, it knocked me back for a moment, but she was so genuine and sweet.  She's the last person I would slam for the comment she made.

    No one man can terrorize a whole nation unless we are all his accomplices...Edward R. Murrow

    by maxcat06 on Fri Aug 03, 2012 at 05:48:43 PM PDT

  •  Gabby Douglas (0+ / 0-)

    You are completely wrong to take such a critical view of her God expressions or even understanding of God at this very tender age and in this moment.  Isn't that more about you than Gabby?

  •  I am immensly impressed with the young lady. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I picked her to take the gold after watching the first few events.  Her beliefs are non of my business and they are clearly part of who she is.

  •  She was amazing...If all of us were as (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    polite, humble and as driven to achieve whatever is important to us the way this young girl is, the world would be a better place.

    She took on the world and won, under pressure I could never understand. She thanked her coaches, family, teammates and (oh no) God.  Good for her!!!

    She represented herself, her sport and her country very well.  Other than feeling proud for her, and hoping she can handle the new pressures of stardom (I belive she will), no one is really in a position to criticize her.

    It says alot about who we are as a country that so many focus on a 16 yr old olympians hair or faith, instead of on what she just accomplished.  

    Go Gabby!!!  We need more young women like you in this world.

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