On Tuesday night of this week, I was privileged to attend the Indiana Family Institute's (IFI) Annual Banquet. Tony Dungy, head coach of the Superbowl Champion Colts, was there as he was awarded IFI's Friend of the Family Award. As you can see, my daughter and a few of her friends were able to get their picture with Mr. Dungy.
Being a practicing "Sabbatarian" (see my previous blog An Unlikely Hero), I had to give up watching pro football years ago except for the occasional Monday Night game. So I have not watched much of the Colts, though I do know who Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison are. However, I did not know the punter for the Colts was named Hunter Smith, who was at the banquet. He played music and gave a warm testimony of Mr. Dungy's Christian influence on his life.
Watching people's reaction in the presence of fame and football was interesting. A Colt's helmet signed by the coach sold for $9000 in an auction. The program was arranged like a football game, complete with a two-minute warning. Autographs were sought eagerly. A minister in his opening prayer started by praising the Lord, but then turned to addressing Mr. Dungy right in the middle of his prayer: "Tony Dungy, you are a great man. Thank you for blessing us with your presence tonight..." Yikes! I had to lift and shake my head at that. I trust it was nervous enthusiasm rather than an attempt at deification.
Yet far and away the evening was a delight. We enjoyed wonderful food, attentive service, and fascinating conversations. Hearing of progress IFI has made on issues impacting the family and of the attention Mr. Dungy gives to community service were encouraging. Clearly the chief highlight was when Mr. Dungy received his reward and responded. His humility and desire to honor God rather than be honored were seen in his easy manner and gracious speech.
After sharing anecdotes from football and explaining his concern for the family, toward the end of his speech Mr. Dungy spoke to the controversy that arose in the days prior to his accepting this award. As this article from the Indianapolis Star explains, pro-homosexual groups protested his appearance at this "homophobic, right-wing" organization. Many were pressuring him not to come to the banquet or to accept the reward. Yet not only did he come, he spoke right to the issue in a powerful way when he could have easily sidestepped it.
Mr. Dungy explained the pressure he had been receiving from these organizations and the media, and then told of how this reminded him of the Biblical account of Joshua meeting the armed figure outside Jericho. When Joshua asked this man whose side was he on, Joshua's or their enemy's, the man responded, "I am the captain of the Lord of hosts." At this Joshua fell down in worship and submission. Mr. Dungy said that the question is not whose side are you on, but whether or not you are on the Lord's side. He claimed, "I am on the Lord's side," and embraced IFI's position on marriage as representing the Lord's views expressed in the Bible.
Though our trust cannot be in man and certainly we cannot pray to him, I thank the Lord that a man of Mr. Dungy's stature is taking this bold stance for Christ.