Ray Lewis was born and raised in Bartow, Florida.

Lewis is a devout Christian, and attends an African Methodist Episcopal church. Beyond being a devoted follower of Christianity, Lewis sees himself as a spokesman for God and a martyr of sorts.1 You see, as you may already know, Lewis has had a little trouble with the law, including a suspicious murder charge involving a disappeared suit and the victim’s blood in Lewis’¬†limousine. In a deal with prosecutors, charges were dropped. And then Lewis found religion.2

As of the writing of this article, rumor has it that he plans to take up a career behind the pulpit now that he’s retired from the NFL.3 (You all will have to keep us updated in the comments.) But that’s not to say he hasn’t already started. A 2006¬†article in Sports Illustrated described a speech he made in front of a 2,000-member congregation at an AME church in Baltimore. Speaking about his “enemies,” or those who believe him to be guilty of murder, Lewis said to the crowd,

Church? I’m going to tell you something about God, now. . . . When Mr. Lewis walks out, child, I hear everything from ‘Murderer,’ I hear everything from ‘Nigger,’ I hear everything from ‘You shouldn’t be playing football!’ . . . Church: Every time I step on the football field, He’s prepared a table for me in the presence of my enemy! And every time they think they want to say something to me? Every time they think they want to boo me? They have to pay–to come see me.4

He believes his story to be one of persecution and redemption, and he’s willing to share that with whoever wants to listen. Which, incidentally, is a lot of people. He has plenty of critics, to be sure.5 But Lewis isn’t just proselytizing at high-profile gigs. He preaches to, blesses, and counsels both his teammates before games, and players on other teams.6

Although he admits that he is concerned his enemies will take their revenge on him–he’s received his fair share of death threats–he’s not going to retreat from the spotlight. He’ll keep preaching the Word until the end. He said,

God has me to do what people are afraid to do: tell the truth. Yes, racism does exist. Hatred exists every day. I’m not afraid. The worst thing that could happen to me–and I don’t see it as the worst–is to be killed and go to heaven.7

What do you think about Lewis’ take on religion? Is it just another manifestation of his ego? Has God chosen him to spread His gospel? Is his story one of persecution and redemption, or an indication that our justice system accords the rich and famous special privileges, even in the most cruel of circumstances? Let us know in the comments.

Politics? Naw, let me tell you about God instead.

Ray Lewis apparently doesn’t have nearly as much to say about politics as he does about religion. I suppose it doesn’t fit very well into his narrative. A person could assume that as an American black man, he was happy to see his country elect its first black president in 2008, but he never publicly endorsed Obama as far as I could tell.

He hasn’t entered the debate about any other political issues either, except the debate about what, if anything, to do about the safety risks of playing football. Responding to President Obama’s claim that he would have reservations about letting a son play football in light of recent research, Lewis said,

I would tell him, Don’t shatter kids’ dreams. We’ll figure out the safety part.8

Maybe that betrays a little libertarian bent, that he doesn’t believe government should regulate such things. But more likely, he isn’t too concerned with politics.

  1. Ray Lewis has a story to tell, of persecution and – 11.13.06. Sports Illustrated. []
  2. Ray Lewis has a story to tell, of persecution and – 11.13.16. Sports Illustrated. []
  3. Ray Lewis retirement party: Is linebacker’s legacy greatness or murder? KDVR. []
  4. Ray Lewis has a story to tell, of persecution and – 11.13.06. Sports Illustrated. []
  5. Why Ray Lewis Is Just Too Much. Operation Sports. []
  6. Ray Lewis has a story to tell, of persecution and – 11.13.06. Sports Illustrated. []
  7. Ray Lewis has a story to tell, of persecution and – 11.13.06. Sports Illustrated. []
  8. Even on media day, Lewis gives 110 percent. SFGate. []