American Culture

God works in mysterious ways. In front of strip clubs. At 2am. The Cleanthony Early story…

Early Wednesday a.m., six masked men with guns robbed 24 year-old professional athlete Cleanthony Early as he was leaving a birthday party at a strip club in New York. One robber shot him in the knee, which presumably was intended to end his career but didn’t, as somehow the shooter missed hitting anything important.

On the face of it, it’s not a very remarkable story.

Cleanthony Early was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Well, young men are stupid. When I was a young man I put myself in any number of extremely wrong places, that in hindsight could have resulted in me either getting badly hurt or incarcerated for a long time. To paraphrase a popular commercial, that’s what young men do.

And professional athletes get robbed with some regularity. One of Anthony’s teammates was robbed of $617,000 worth of jewelry only two days before by two women he met at a club and invited back to his home. Stephon Marbury, Jayson Williams, Gary Payton, Steve Smith, CC Sabathia, Eddy Curry are among dozens that have had their homes broken into or had people stick guns in their faces. It’s not hard to figure out why. Professional athletes often wear very expensive jewelry and carry lots of cash, particularly when going to strip clubs.

And professional athletes also often end up in altercations involving guns. Gilbert Arenas got chased out of the NBA for bringing a duffel bag full of guns into a locker room for a confrontation with Javaris Crittenton, who had his own guns. Crittenton is now in jail for murdering Julian Jones while trying to shoot Trontavious Stephens, whom Crittenton believed had robbed him. Another NBA player, Delonte West, was arrested weaving down the interstate on a motorcycle with two loaded handguns and a loaded shotgun. Yet another, Stephen Jackson, got in a gunfight outside a strip club and last month Aroldis Chapman was arrested for firing eight shots inside the garage of his Miami home. According to USA Today, 3 of 4 professional athletes own guns, more than twice the national average.

So this would be just another athlete/bling/gun story, were it not for this remarkable tweet afterwards.

Cleanthony Early tweet

Uhhh, Cleanthony, what is mysterious about getting shot in the knee? I’m assuming that you’re the type of Christian who believes that partying at a strip club is a sin, or at least not an activity to be proud of. Now I’m assuming here. Maybe you belong to some strange sect where strip clubs are used to commune with the Holy Spirit or something, I don’t know. But let’s assume not.

So if drinking in strip clubs is a sin, holmes, you come outside the club and somebody busts a cap in your knee, exactly how is that mysterious? That’s the exact opposite of mysterious. That’s the god of the Old Testament, the god who wiped out all of mankind except Noah and a handful of his family, who used to send angels to destroy cities the way most of us would swat mosquitoes. Now, if Cleanthony had been walking out of the club and one of the girls had stopped him to discuss the scriptures and as a result he’d come outside a few minutes late and seen the robbery go down but not been involved and as a result he’d decided to chuck the NBA and become a missionary in darkest Africa, etc, etc, that might be mysterious. But a bullet to the knee? Nothing mysterious there.

What is mysterious, and continues to be mysterious to those of us who don’t practice religion, is the ease with which religious people can reconcile their beliefs and behaviors that are in conflict with those beliefs. Thankfully, and I mean that sincerely, this episode isn’t that serious. Cleanthony’s obliviousness to the incongruity of chalking up an armed robbery to God and being grateful for it is just humorous. But it’s that same ability to separate belief and behavior that allows religious people to bomb abortion clinics and shoot up Christmas parties.

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