Nick Hall - Talking Religion With Strangers: Ep.36

Hosted by Rabbi Dr Ari Lamm

July 20, 2021 00:38:10

We live in a society where it’s considered impolite, gauche, or just downright unsophisticated to talk about God and religion in public spaces, or with strangers. So what would it take to ignore all those social conventions? What kind of person does the “weird” thing and talks about God with others? And how might other people, from totally different traditions, get comfortable doing the same as well? This week, Rabbi Lamm broke this down with evangelist, and Founder of Pulse, Nick Hall.

Episode Transcript

Introduction [00:00:11] 

This is Good Faith Effort with Ari Lamm, and here’s your host, Rabbi, Dr. Ari Lamm.

 

Ari Lamm [00:00:21] 

Hello, hello, and welcome to Good Faith Effort, The World’s Most Dangerous Bible podcast, the podcast where we show you how the values and ideas of the Bible can illuminate the most important conversations in society, from politics to pop culture and beyond. And today, Good Faith Fäm. We have with us a super exciting guest, the founder of PULSE, Nick Hall, and we’re going to talk about making yourself vulnerable in the name of something important. So this past week was the anniversary of the destruction of the Jerusalem temple. It was actually destroyed twice, both times on the same day, believe it or not, first by the Babylonian empire, the second time by the Roman Empire. Now, there’s actually an ancient tradition, thousands of years old, to spend the next seven weeks reading from the Hebrew prophets of old, especially Isaiah, who speak words of extraordinary hope about the future, for the people of Israel and the world at large. And this tradition really gets at why I think of all the figures in the Bible, really the ancient world as a whole, from kings and princes to priests and elders, the prophet is my absolute favorite. I mean, think about it. Every other public figure in the ancient world saw it as their role to court public favor. Right. At least in some way. Kings needed the support of subjects, or at least their aristocrats. Priests were part of a larger religious establishment. Elders had students. But prophets? Well, the prophet’s job by design was to be willing to seem absolutely crazy, but all for a higher purpose. Right? I mean, think about what it must have been like in the days and years after the destruction of Jerusalem. Right. So no people in all of recorded history had ever survived the destruction of their main, let alone their only, temple and subsequent exile from their homeland. It had never happened. The people of Israel, as any sane person could have told you at the time, were done. But then along came prophets like Jeremiah and others preaching these messages of hope, restoration, redemption. And as you can imagine, these people were ridiculed and they often suffered much worse than mockery. I mean, talk about being countercultural. But that’s why we need prophets in the first place, because no society worth anything at all can survive without having the capacity every now and then to believe and maybe even achieve, crazy things. And the only way we get that is by making space in our lives for people who are willing to be like the first lunatic to speak an important truth. And this is especially critical today when we live in an age that is, or at least more accurately thinks of itself, as hyper-rational or at the very least, hyper skeptical. Right. We’ve so accustomed ourselves to cynicism and irony that we’ve become intolerant of people who put themselves out there or who earnestly, honestly believe in something. Right. So if you ask me, one of the most important things we need nowadays is just people who are willing to take that leap, believe in something, don’t be afraid to seem or be a little weird. After all, as we talked about on the episode with Hollis Robins, it’s the weirdos who are going to save us all. So to talk about all this, I brought on an amazing guest who spent most of his life since he was a teenager putting himself out there and believing in something. He’s relentless, driven and really insightful. And he’s also the founder of PULSE and sits on the leadership team of the National Association of Evangelicals. He’s Nick Hall. Nick, thanks so much for being here.

 

Nick Hall [00:03:36] 

Hey, it is so great to join you. Man, this is exciting, I’m fired up just listening to your intro. I’m in.

 

Ari Lamm [00:03:42] 

Heck, yeah. Let’s rock and roll. OK, so you’re an evangelist, which for listeners that don’t know, is someone whose mission is to win converts for Christianity. Now, I am an Orthodox Jew and I also happen to be a rabbi. So like on the one hand, I’m squarely in the demographic that’s like not interested. But here’s why I actually think what you’re doing is really cool. So we live in a culture that just refuses to take anything seriously, like we don’t want to impose our choices or even suggest our choices on anybody. And I remember growing up, I would tell my younger sister things like Destiny’s Child is bad, like objectively bad, and Led Zeppelin is like objectively good. And that was considered to be like in very poor taste, like I would get in trouble for that. And that ends up extending beyond sort of silly arguments like that, although I’m not even convinced they’re that silly. But it ends up extending to some of the most important things in life. So in American culture, God traditionally is this sort of like very, very, very private choice. And it’s considered bad manners to speak about it in public. And it sort of gauche, right. Beyond just like the political reasons. We’re a liberal democracy and we don’t want to impose our choices on everybody, which are all good things. But it’s just considered like socially impolite to talk about the important things in life and actually try and convince people of those things. So for that reason, I kind of feel like if an evangelist tries to convert me to Christianity, then personally, my response, again, just personally, is no thanks, hard pass. But oh my God, can we be friends? Like, tell me about this conviction in your life. Right. Why don’t we have more people who take their faith seriously like this? And what did it take for you? How did you get on this journey where you felt comfortable actually going out into the world and saying, yes, religion and faith is something that’s not only important, it’s actually so important that it would be crazy for me to not talk about it in public with you. Like, how do you get on that journey and how does that manifest in your life? And how do we get more people like you?

 

Nick Hall [00:05:40] 

Come on, I like you. So first things first.

 

Ari Lamm [00:05:44] 

I realize that’s like a weird setup, by the way.

 

Nick Hall [00:05:45] 

No, no, no. This is awesome. This is awesome. So if somebody runs into you on the street, do they call you rabbi? Do they call you Ari? Do you have like a hip hop name you go by? Like what’s kind of the, what is the proper…?

 

Ari Lamm [00:05:59] 

Ari is cool. If it’s good enough for my wife, it’s good enough for everyone else.

 

Nick Hall [00:06:01] 

Well, you know you know, I tell people I follow a Jewish rabbi, so I’m fine with the,.

 

Ari Lamm [00:06:05] 

Right. Right.

 

Nick Hall [00:06:05] 

I’m fine with the term rabbi. And man I love who you are and everything you’re saying. Yeah, I think you’re right.

 

Ari Lamm [00:06:11] 

There’s this rabbinic phrase, by the way, from the Rabbinic Literature, Gadol MeRaban Shmo, more important than your title is your name. So you got to have a good name. So there we go. Ari is good.

 

Nick Hall [00:06:20] 

A good name is worth more than gold. Right. So, yeah, it’s an interesting question. And I’m the same way as you all actually. You know, I go to a Middle Eastern Muslim barbershop. It’s mostly guys from Iraq and Jordan and it’s next to the mosque here in Minneapolis where I live. And it’s really fun. Like I went there kind of confronting my own, in some ways, like racism and views. I was watching a show called 24 on Fox. They tended to portray everybody that was Middle Eastern in a very negative light. So when I first walked into this barbershop, I actually closed the door and ran away. And as I was running away, I just felt this conviction of saying, man, I’m supposed to be living this faith that is marked by love. And if people need Jesus, isn’t that where I should be if they don’t know Jesus? And so literally, even in me, confronting my own fear and stigma has resulted in me just having this beautiful, wonderful friendship with Ahmed and a number of other, you know, gentlemen that are in this barbershop. And we spend the whole time trying to convert each other, you know, and it’s just this awesome, you know? And so I respect, if you believe something enough that you’re willing to actually stand on what it says. And so I will always respect somebody more who tells me, hey, I think you’re lost. You know, I think you need to change. And so for me, it’s a question of do I believe in the things that I was taught, that Jesus actually said? And if I believe those things, then that should change my life. And so I just would say that my whole life is a wrestling match between the truths I claim to be the anchors of my life and whether my life matches up. And so I hope it’s not just in my words. I hope it’s in the way I spend money. I hope it’s in the way I love my neighbor. I hope it’s in the way I care for the refugee or the poor, the immigrant, whatever. It’s like, is my heart in line with the teachings of this book? Whether it’s the Torah, you know, whether it’s the Prophets, whether it’s the Gospels. Right. Or whether it’s the Epistles, you know. So for me, it’s like it is my life matching and that that is a battle.

 

Ari Lamm [00:08:20] 

It’s amazing. So when you think about what it looks like to live a life where you actually takes something seriously. Yeah. And you actually take the most important things in your life seriously. I think it was Stephen Colbert who has this thing where he talks about what it was like to get into the kind of comedy that he has, because if, you know, people recall when he was coming up on The Daily Show and eventually in The Colbert Report, right. His whole thing was just saying outrageous things with a very straight face. And in his case, you know, at least in The Colbert Report, and to an extent on The Daily Show, it was saying things that he didn’t believe with a straight face. But the way that he talks about learning how to do that is so fascinating. Right. He talks about how in the wake of I think it was his, he lost his father at a young age or maybe even lost other family members as well, and kind of coping with that tragedy by feeling like he just needed to feel things. And so he would say, you know, I would go into, I think it was he would go into an elevator crowded with people and just say something totally outrageous just to see what the reaction would be and see if he could keep a straight face because that was a way for him to feel something. And I feel like whether you’re an evangelist and you’re trying to persuade somebody, or whether it’s myself or people in the community that I grew up with, you know, you have to regularly tell people that you do something crazy, that I do something crazy, right? Like, Oh, I’m sorry, I can’t speak to you for the next couple of days because I’m going to be living in a hut in my backyard because the Book of Exodus told me to. I feel like that’s uncommon, right? We treat that kind of ability to speak that way, you know, in 21st century America as odd.

 

Nick Hall [00:09:58] 

Yeah.

 

Ari Lamm [00:09:58] 

Why is that? Why do we live in a society that’s like that and how do we change that? Or should we want to change that?

 

Nick Hall [00:10:05] 

Yeah, I hope so. I think a person has to ask the question of is my faith giving me, you know, what I desire? You know, for me, it’s impossible for me to read the pages of scripture and not have a tension build up in my heart, in my mind, in my life, of saying that if I believe this, then what? You know, because it’s like it’s one thing just to have a cultural faith. And a lot of us even grew up under that, you know, whether it was a mosque, a synagogue or a church or a temple. Right. And it’s like they say they believe something. But then when we get home, it looks really different, right.

 

Ari Lamm [00:10:41] 

In the Jewish community. The phrase for that lately that was coined was like social Orthodoxy.

 

Nick Hall [00:10:45] 

Sure. Yeah. And we call it cultural Christianity. Right. And in so many ways, people outside of the West have labeled Christianity as this because, oh, America is a Christian nation and you guys are going all over the world bombing places and exporting filth from Hollywood and, oh, so that’s Christianity. No, thanks. And I think the same is true where a lot of people have experienced people that are incredibly mean, incredibly cynical, incredibly judgmental. And these are people who in their bio on Facebook or Instagram or Twitter is like, oh, I love Jesus. And it’s like, man, like our worst examples are the people who claim to be followers. And so it’s like save us from ourselves. And so I do think there is just this question of saying, so, Jesus. And I’ll just say, as a Christian, Jesus is the leader. He claimed to be the Messiah. Sure. So C.S. Lewis used to say, kind of great author of the previous generation, used to say,

 

Ari Lamm [00:11:40] 

Oh you should know Orthodox Jews have like a very deep soft spot for C.S. Lewis.

 

Nick Hall [00:11:45] 

I love it. And he says, right, either he’s the Lord or he’s a lunatic or he’s a liar.

 

Ari Lamm [00:11:51] 

Or he’s the devil. Right?

 

Nick Hall [00:11:52] 

Right. Yes. And so it’s like you just can’t say those things. Like either you’re true and you are God, and my life should line up to that or you’re a crazy man. You know, if somebody walks into the center of Times Square, where I’m at in Minneapolis, in the center of the city and says I am God, those people are generally treated and thought of a certain way, you know, and it’s like if that person proceeds to predict their death and resurrection, die and then accomplish their resurrection, like I’m generally of the mindset, we should do what that person says.

 

Ari Lamm [00:12:26] 

You know, that’s, that’s fair.

 

Nick Hall [00:12:28] 

You know, it’s like and so so for me, it’s like and that’s both like as a profession and as a personal experience, like I have experienced the life-changing power and freedom of forgiveness of my sins. Of love, the love of God and just the love of God for me and my family, and that I can be a child of God and then that God wants to invite me into his life-changing work. And so that is a daily experience, though, of saying, am I connected? And I think in our world there is a lot of social orthodoxy, cultural Christianity, nominal, you know, people who are of faith by name only. And I think we live in an age where we’re so busy. And so I just think people just have to choose, like, what is it that you want? And if you want to reject it, then reject it. But don’t call yourself that and really be a bad representation for everybody else, because, man, that’s not helping any of us.

 

Ari Lamm [00:13:29] 

You know, one of the reasons that I think this kind of attitude that you’re describing or, you know, the attitude of saying, yes, I should take something seriously because it makes serious claims, so to just affiliate with it culturally is sort of, you’re not getting any of the positives and you’re getting all of the negatives of, you know, bad associations. Yeah, it’s such a good point. And I think it gets at why if I’m thinking, again, just civilizationally, let’s say, about America. Stepping back from religion for a moment, one of the challenges that we have is that we think very small. Right. We used to sort of have big ideas. We invented penicillin. We landed somebody on the moon. We fought a world war to stop a genocidal maniac. So we did all these great things. And not only is there this sense in this narrative that we’ve slowed down, but you can actually see it in some of the statistics. Startup formation is down. People are moving across country less than they once did. The economist Tyler Cowen, I think, points out in his book on this, The Complacent Class, that I think it’s something like people are driving fewer sports cars than they used to, right. We’ve just become very complacent. And one of the things that I’ve always really admired from afar, but that I’ve admired about Christian conversionary activity, you know, Judaism is not a proselytizing faith. And I’ll come back to that in a moment. But one thing I’ve always admired about it is that it’s actually just a huge idea. It’s a super ambitious idea to be like, yeah, we’re going to go out to Malaysia or we’re going to go out to Idaho, or we’re going to go out to wherever, to Kamchatka. That’s like my Risk reference. We’re going to go out to all these places and we’re going to meet people who don’t know us and we’re going to convince them of something that they’ve never considered in their lives. Yeah, that’s a huge, really ambitious idea. And I think Americans have, by and large, just like culturally lost the ability to think big. So how can we learn from those kinds of big ideas and absorb those into the culture? How do we convert the kind of energy, no pun intended, I suppose, but how do we translate the energy of the kind of people like yourself into cultural pursuits that I think in very different ways, but that also bring a lot of good and virtue to the world. Right, being able to heal the sick en masse in ways that humans have never been able to do. Like that’s a huge, I think, worthy project, one that’s worth pursuing as a civilization and one that we should be very proud of. How do we translate that kind of energy into getting other big ideas, like good big ideas?

 

Nick Hall [00:15:55] 

Yeah, well, I’ll meet people all the time and they’ll tell me why they’re not religious or why they’ve given up on God or why they hate X people of faith, you know, and because I’m a Christian and I’m an evangelist, people often tell me why Christians are awful people. And I will tell them, you know, it’s interesting. You know, Jesus also had problems with religious people. You’re not unique if you’re frustrated by judgmental religious people. Like that’s that that story is as old as time. Right. So the question is, it’s like, how do we have purity of faith? How do we go after something that is at the heart of God? And even going back to Genesis, you know, God is the God of creativity. He’s the God of order. He’s the God of beauty. He’s the God of creativity. And so it’s like there is something about this divine DNA, even if you’re to go back to like the Renaissance period, and you have like some of the greatest art, you know, undisputed in the history of humanity, is being birthed from people of faith. And you think of poetry, literature, science, all of these industries, like faith, is often very connected. So this kind of like sacred, secular divide that has happened where we say, oh okay, you want to be a professional, you want to dream big, you want to be creative. That’s this lane. Faith is over here. Keep it to yourself, private, personal. Well, that’s not really the norm. And it certainly hasn’t been the norm in the Christian faith, even for people that say, oh, where do you get this evangelism heart? I say, man, I get it from Jesus. Like Jesus was on a mission. And he said, the son of man came to seek and to save that which was lost. And then he literally sent out his disciples to go village by village, street by street, not to bring condemnation. In fact, Jesus himself said the son of man didn’t come to condemn the world, but to save it. Jesus came to offer life, to offer hope, to offer healing. Ultimately, what religion inevitably says is try harder, and if you work hard enough, you can get to God. Jesus says there’s nothing you can do that can get to me. So I’m going to make a way to get to you. And if you put your trust in this name, you don’t even have to leave necessarily your faith. Like there’s people all over the world that are trusting in Jesus and trying to follow Jesus and knowing there’s power in the name of Jesus. And so for me, it’s like when I plug into that faith, that creativity, that God, you know, I was even reading this morning from the Book of Joshua, where God says to young Joshua, who’s afraid he’s just lost his role model. And it’s like, hey, be strong and courageous. Be strong and courageous. Right. Do not let this book of law depart from your mouth, but meditate on it day and night so that you will be prosperous and successful. And so this idea that faith is separate from big dreams. No, I would say faith is at the core, like if you want to dare greatly, if you want to dream big. And man, I will say, that said, you can’t say that you’re following God while you’re taking advantage of people. You can’t say that you’re following God while you’re running over people. That is where this Judeo-Christian ethic of morality from the Ten Commandments to even the ways that you love your neighbor. These are things that you can see throughout society that have had great lasting change and develop some incredible societies. But we have to get outside the box.

 

Ari Lamm [00:19:14] 

So that’s such a great point. And by the way, this is why one of the cool things about this podcast is we’ve had on so many kind of major figures from Silicon Valley who are increasingly taking religion very seriously and are themselves very religious. You know, we’ve had on Katherine Boyle, Trae Stephens, and we’ve been in conversation with some other really cool people. One of the things that’s emerged from those conversations is exactly what you’re saying, which is that there are no, I think, two more natural allies in the world than some of the really fantastical thinking technologists in Silicon Valley and deeply traditionally religious people, because we’re speaking similar languages. Right. We’re dreaming huge dreams, taking on big ideas. So that actually segues into a question that I’ve been dying to ask you, which is I think both civilizationally and Jewishly, that it would be fantastic and just one of the great spiritual adventures of our time for us to explore space and maybe even find other intelligent life out there in the universe. I think it would be a fulfillment of God’s words in us to Genesis, that he’s created a world for us, not just Earth, but he’s created a world for us. And we are called to subdue it and to investigate it. You know, there’s a wonderful story about a very well-known German rabbi of the 19th century, Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, who goes on a trip to the Alps. And he sort of was asked by his students, like, why are you bothering with the Alps? Like, you could be studying Torah. And he responds to them and he says, well, when I die and I come before God, he’s going to ask me, Samson, did you keep my Torah? I’ll say, I tried to the best of my ability. Samson, did you treat your neighbors with kindness? I tried to the best of my ability. Samson, did you see my Alps? And he wants to be able to answer and I want to be able to answer. Yes, I did. I saw. So I think it would be just straightforwardly an amazing thing, civilizationally and Jewishly for us to explore the reaches of space. I actually have this suspicion in the back of my head that one of the really powerful parties that should be part of the larger coalition for that push should be Christians who should be pushing for space exploration because there might be intelligent life out there that you would want to reach. So, A, is that a thing? I’ve always wanted it to be a thing, but is that a thing? Has anyone thought about that? And why isn’t there more of that?

 

Nick Hall [00:21:37] 

You know, that’s a good question. I think it should be a thing. I agree with you.

 

Ari Lamm [00:21:42] 

Like, I think that would help make it happen.

 

Nick Hall [00:21:45] 

We need some more motivation. Well, I would say I think that Christians, you know, it’s hard enough. And I would just say, like, we all have our issues. Like I think one of the challenges in Christianity is getting people, and this is, this isn’t unique to Christianity. This is everything. But it’s like getting people to have a heart and to care for those outside of their circle. So I just think that proximity of life. So Americans tend to care for Americans. You know, people in different parts of the world tend to care for people who look like them, act like them, sound like them, like that’s what we do as a world. We silo, we segregate. We even put up walls and we say protect yourself from those people. But my Christianity tells me that those people are actually the people that Jesus died for and that my call isn’t to judge them, condemn them, or hurt them. My call is to save them, even lay down my life for them. It’s like, oh, by the way, like you’re following the guy that even though he could have torched them all. Right. You know, he died instead. And so that’s your example. So good luck. You know, go to your, go to your cubicle and remember that your job isn’t to say, you know, screw the man. Your job is to say, no, I’m called to die to this person as well, to love them, to serve them. And so to your point, like, does that extend to the outer reaches of the galaxy? I say absolutely. Why not? You know, I used to have one of my good buddies when I was in college was a rodeo cowboy, and he had a radical conversion. He was in Wyoming and literally he’s reading in the Bible and it says preach to all creation. And so he would go out into the fields and preach to the cows.

 

Ari Lamm [00:23:21] 

I love it.

 

Nick Hall [00:23:22] 

And he was just like it told me to preach to all creation. And so who am I to discern which creation? And he’d be like, Brother, you wouldn’t believe it. Those cows, they were nodding. And I’m pretty sure I see that nod. I see that nod, you know, but that passion.

 

Ari Lamm [00:23:38] 

By the way, there’s actually this also old Rabbinic tradition that each member of creation or each species in creation sings its own song to God, the birds sing their own song, the cows sing their own song. I love that idea.

 

Nick Hall [00:23:49]

All creation testifies. Right. Right. That’s straight from the Old Testament. Right. So I think it’s true. Yeah. But I think that heart. You know, again, you take that same guy and that heart that was cultivated with a spirit of, you know, whether it’s the Alps, you know, the rabbi you’re referencing, or this rodeo cowboy out in the country of Wyoming. But you take that same person and you transplant them. And I think we were in inner-city Harlem at the time, and this was 20 years ago. Harlem wasn’t, you know, what it is now. And he ended up in the center of this gang activity and he felt like these people were yelling and angry and he was like going away in fear. And then he was like, but perfect love casts out fear, is a scripture that we’ll often reference. And God didn’t give us a spirit of fear, but of power and a sound mind. And this is what I’ll say like if a Christian is mean, like you, anybody who’s not a Christian has every right to say, where is this judgmental spirit found anywhere in your Bible? You know, it’s not. And so you could use that against them. Like that is nothing like Jesus. But this friend of mine goes into the center of these gangs and says, hey, you know what’s going on? And ends up saying just straight face to face with one of these young men, do you know that God loves you? And literally, this fight turns into these angry teenage boys, like weeping because they didn’t know what it was like to be loved by a father. And so all of a sudden now this conflict has gone away. The other gang runs away, they’re thinking, this is super weird, what’s going on? The other gang leader’s balling. And I just think this is what our faith is supposed to be about, is stepping into difficult situations, dreaming dreams, imagining possibilities that don’t exist, you know, and we’re called to live by faith. You know, that’s the whole heart of this. And so faith rarely matches with safe. You know, like if you’re always playing it safe, you don’t need God. And so I think that’s one of the challenges of the Western faith, is we all make plans that don’t really even have room for the divine. And so is your plan too small? Are your dreams too small or are you living in such a way that you’re saying, God, I need your help? That’s also why crisis is often the catalyst for people with faith, because it takes them getting to the end of themselves to feel the touch of the divine. And I just would say, why wait for a crisis? Why not have every day be an adventure where God can speak and lead and you can experience this transforming love? And I think that will birth more creativity and who knows? You know, maybe you and me Ari, we’re going to go to Mars and let’s go. Let’s let’s find them.

 

Ari Lamm [00:26:22] 

I’m excited. I’m excited. So to really, to really shift gears, to close it out. So if I’m not mistaken, you kind of, before you go on this journey, you were thinking of, you know, you’re going to go to college, you’re going to play basketball. Right? Am I right about that?

 

Nick Hall [00:26:40] 

Yeah. Business, money, basketball. Girls.

 

Ari Lamm [00:26:42] 

Right. So, right. Right. So here’s the thing. The New York Knickerbockers, God bless their souls, are in the playoffs. And, by the time,

 

Nick Hall [00:26:52] 

Barely lost, man, they’re close.

 

Ari Lamm [00:26:55] 

I know by the time this episode comes out, like, well, we’ll know a lot more. We’ll probably have experienced a lot more heartbreak by the time this episode airs. But growing up as a kid, I’m sort of like this, this rabid sports fan. And I and I continue to love sports to this day. And I just find it so fascinating that I’ve gone through all sorts of, I hope, spiritual and moral and religious growth in my life. And yet maybe not in the same way, like I’m not memorizing stats like I used to when I was in third grade, like there was a time where I could have told you, like batting average and slugging percentage of like everyone on the Yankees. Right now, I’m not memorizing stats, but I still find myself just so drawn to the drama in a Knicks game. And you could say, well, it’s diversionary. Everybody needs rest and relaxation. It’s a nice way to recharge so that you can do important things. But I don’t know, there’s something that just feels wholesome and wonderful about it. So have you given this thought in the course of your life as someone who’s just deeply invested in faith and religion and bringing those values into your life and out into the world? Have you thought about, you know, the place that sports and athletics plays in in sort of a wholesome, holistic, spiritual life? Like I’ve given this some thought, but I’m curious how you think about it.

 

Nick Hall [00:28:12] 

Yeah, totally. Absolutely. You know, I’m from North Dakota. I live in Minneapolis now. Huge sports fan my whole life. You know, unlike New York, like New York at least has some history of winning in the past. Right. You know, Minnesota, there’s kind of no history. Right. So it’s like so. But I absolutely believe, I mean, there’s a ton of dynamics, and actually my son is you, he’s a second grader now. He knows every stat for every team.

 

Ari Lamm [00:28:40] 

Now we’re talking.

 

Nick Hall [00:28:40] 

And he’s just die hard. But but I think there’s absolutely something divine in sport. And I wouldn’t just say in sport. I would just say any activity that gathers a mass of humanity and stirs the emotions. Right. And I think at a sporting event, whether it’s a Knicks game, whether it’s a Giants game, whether it’s a Yankees game, whether it’s a Jets game, you know, whatever, Super Bowl, I think even even a Beyonce concert, for that matter. Like, I think there is something deeply spiritual about these type of events, because you have people from different backgrounds, different classes, different races that would never come together for anything else. And they are uniting with one voice, with one hope, with one desire. And I would say from a spiritual scriptural standpoint, like my faith tells me that you’re created to do that forever. Right. You are going to stand before the throne of God, every tribe, tongue and nation, and you will lift your voice. It’ll be different people, different backgrounds, different stories. One team. Now, the difference is in heaven, we’re all winning. You know, there is no, like, didn’t quite make it, but like, I absolutely think like it is a taste of the divine. That’s actually why I even work towards large-scale events, because I think there’s something in that that’s a glimpse of eternity that is sacred. Now, I’ll also use this to give, you know, my buddy friends some little arsenal with their wives of why the season ticket is worth the money and the investment. You know, honey, this is spiritual. This is for my faith, you know.

 

Ari Lamm [00:30:16] 

This is a scam I’m well-practiced in.

 

Nick Hall [00:30:18] 

Yes. But I do just think I think like man, you’re created and there’s something, the unity there. The, the tension, the drama, people uniting, the team uniting, the fan uniting, the classes uniting. I think that is all something that is very divine. I mean, just think about it in that arena. There’s Muslims, there’s Jews, there’s Christians, there’s atheists, there’s rich, there’s poor, there’s kids, there’s grandparents. And they’re all cheering for the Knicks, you know? And it’s just like, that is amazing. And I just think that is for me, it’s like that’s why I worship Jesus. That’s why I point to Jesus, because I say, man, the Knicks are always going to let you down Ari. They’re always going to let you down. It doesn’t matter if they win this year, they probably won’t win next year. Even the greatest dynasty.

 

Ari Lamm [00:31:07] 

They’re also not going to win this year. I’m, I just, I’m already at peace with that. 

 

Nick Hall [00:31:11] 

But I’m just saying that is the reality of like, this world will let you down. And that’s where God comes in. Right. Because where our worldly solutions are imperfect and temporary, God offers us something that’s forever. And if you can know that kind of God, why wouldn’t you want to? So for me, that’s not like me being judgmental.

 

Ari Lamm [00:31:29] 

Right, that’s how you approach it.

 

Nick Hall [00:31:31] 

That’s not whatever. And I’ll even say it like, listen, if you’ve ever wanted a second chance, because I want one, like every minute of every day, I have found the ultimate second chance is found in Jesus. And so if you want to join me in going towards Jesus, come with me. Just don’t get in front of me because I need it more than you do. But you’re invited, you know. And so that’s a different approach than I’m on a crusade to fix you.

 

Ari Lamm [00:31:53] 

Right, right, right.

 

Nick Hall [00:31:54] 

That’s not what I’m about.

 

Ari Lamm [00:31:56] 

One of my teachers who I think is the greatest living Jewish writer. His name is Rabbi Shalom Carmy. Just a brilliant, brilliant man. His theory of athletics and its spiritual benefit is that there needs to be a place for envy in a healthy religious life. And the paradox, of course, is that envy is also a terrible thing.

 

Nick Hall [00:32:17] 

Sure.

 

Ari Lamm [00:32:17] 

But you need to be able to find a way to admire and actually be envious of great spiritual accomplishment.

 

Nick Hall [00:32:24] 

Sure.

 

Ari Lamm [00:32:25] 

Without allowing the pernicious elements of jealousy corrode your soul. And when you actually think about how to architect that, it’s almost impossible to actually do that in real life. Sports, however, is one of these areas where. Oh, and by the way, I should add, you know, in Jewish life, because study culture is so important, studying the Torah is the thing that we believe. You know, there’s an ancient Jewish tradition that has become sort of the pedagogical framework of so much of Jewish study today, which is that, you know, if there’s one moment where nobody was studying the Torah, the world would just cease to exist, which I think is such a beautiful tradition. So there actually is supposed to be room for envy in the study of Torah. Like, you should be able to be envious of somebody who studies Torah better than you and you should try to, you know, reach those levels of achievement. So his theory is that sports and athletics, that’s really the one area of life where we can experience just pure awe and admiration without feeling the negative, corrosive aspects of envy and jealousy.

 

Nick Hall [00:33:26] 

Sure.

 

Ari Lamm [00:33:27]


Right. Because here are people who’ve devoted their lives to honing a craft and perfecting a type of observance over the course of years so that when they’re on the highest possible stage in front of everybody, where it all counts, they can execute this particular maneuver to perfection. And because sports, at least in the American context, I know in Europe it’s probably a little bit different. But in an American context, sports is sort of a low stakes, it’s a game at the end of the day, but it is that area where we can feel that almost childlike in the best way, that childlike sense of awe and admiration for somebody. Yeah. Without any of the, you know, corrosive elements of jealousy, because at the end of the day, it’s a game. Yeah. And so that’s why sports are actually, sports fandom not just playing sports, but sports fandom is actually, can be a really wholesome part of a religious personality.

 

Nick Hall [00:34:20] 

For sure. And it shows you what’s possible. Yeah, that makes me even if I could never do that, it makes me feel like, but one of us can.

 

Ari Lamm [00:34:28] 

Yes, right. Exactly.

 

Nick Hall [00:34:30] 

And it like lifts everybody. And then even to your point of envy, though, because I think that’s true, like what makes those guys keep at it is that they aren’t undefeated. Right. Like, how long can you be the best? Somebody is always sharper, faster. And I’ll even take that to my friends with faith is I’ll say, man, if you’re always the most spiritual person in your circle, you need to expand your circle because like man, we all need somebody who’s pushing us a little bit, pulling us a little bit. And I think inevitably comfort says, oh, just get in the group where you can control it. And I just think for you, if it’s your rabbi that you admire and look to, if it’s me, some pastors, mentors, leaders, you know, even people from different faith traditions, it’s like we need that in the human experience to say, don’t settle. There’s more.

 

Ari Lamm [00:35:18] 

Amazing. I love it. Hey man, Nick, thank you so much for coming on Good Faith Effort.

 

Nick Hall [00:35:23] 

This was awesome, man. Thank you.

 

Ari Lamm [00:35:32] 

Like I said, I’m not in the target market for being evangelized. It’s a hard no for me. But Nick is absolutely the kind of person I want to be friends with. We want there to be more people who recognize clearly that ideas have consequences. If you actually take an idea whether it’s religion or anything else seriously, then it should permeate your life. It shouldn’t just be another curiosity to display on the shelf as a conversation starter for dinner parties or whatever. We want there to be more people, whether in our synagogues, our churches, our mosques or in our startups, biotech labs, or elsewhere, who dream big dreams and aren’t afraid of people thinking we’re nuts. And we want more big, ambitious, aspirational ideas with the power to change civilization. Like, to take the most obvious example, the faith of the Hebrew Bible, that shaped the world as we know it today. So instead of slouching towards the irony, cynicism, skepticism and complacency that characterizes so much of American life today, try taking something seriously, be a little weird, maybe a lot weird, and even better be part of a community that’s willing to be weird with you. Society may not thank you, but history will. Anyway, thanks so much for joining me today. And if you like what you heard, then the best thing you could do is give us a five star rating on iTunes or Apple podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts. And if you do, and if you review us on iTunes, hit me up on Twitter so I can let the world know how awesome you are. All right. That’s it for now. This is Ari Lamm making a Good Faith Effort. I’ll see you next time.

 

[00:37:11] 

Good Faith Effort was created and written by Ari Lamm. If you enjoyed the show, please rate and review us on Apple podcasts or your podcast app of choice, because it really helps others find the show. Our executive producer is Josh Kross. The show is produced and edited by Paul Rueste. This is a Joshua Network podcast presented by Bnai Zion. Follow us on Twitter @gfaitheffort. Follow Ari @AriLamm and sign up for our email list at thejoshuanetwork.com

 

 

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