Ravens’ Benjamin Watson: Gospel Can Heal Racial Divide
Baltimore Ravens tight end Benjamin Watson wasn’t looking to go viral on social media. But more than 850,000 people “liked” the raw emotion he shared in a 2014 Facebook post about racial strife in America.
The NFL player’s honest conversation about the division between races connected with people. They shared his post more than 460,000 times and tens of thousands of people left comments.
From that post a book was born: Under Our Skin: Getting Real About Race—and Getting Free from the Fears and Frustrations that Divide Us by Benjamin Watson with Ken Petersen. Watson, who won the 2005 Super Bowl while playing with the New England Patriots, was at the Billy Graham Library Saturday in Charlotte, North Carolina, to sign copies of his first book.
Which is pretty cool, considering his dad, a pastor, prayed to receive Christ while watching Billy Graham preach on TV.
Dozens of people waited in line to meet Watson and get their copy signed. For many, it was exciting to hear and support an NFL player who’s not afraid to talk about race. Or to put his faith out there.
“As believers, we have this book called the Bible that we need to filter all these ideas through. even the concept of race,” Watson said on Saturday, sounding much like a preacher.
“Is race even really a thing, or is there just one race? And with that, how do we as believers inject ourselves into a culture that is telling us to be separated, that is telling us to hate each other, that is telling us not to repent of our sins and is telling us not to forgive others of their sins?”
Waiting their turn, Julie Adkins and her football-toting son were new Benjamin Watson fans. Julie had never heard of him until he spoke about racial unity on a recent radio broadcast.
She felt an instant connection.
Julie, too, has a burden to see people of different backgrounds come together and talk, and has since she was a teen.
“I just want to tell him thank you and meet someone who has that same passion as I do.”
She’s also on board with Watson about the role faith plays in the nation’s healing. “As a Christian, I feel like the church is the only hope.
“I think [racial reconciliation] has got to be a God thing,” she said, noting the courage it took for an NFL player to take a strong stand for Christ, and to get people talking honestly about their fears and true beliefs about racial relations.
‘God’s Got Jokes’
In his 2014 post and also in his book, Watson wrote about his feelings of anger, frustration, fear, sympathy, confusion, hopelessness and hopefulness, among others.
At the end, he penned, “I’M ENCOURAGED, because ultimately the problem is not a SKIN problem, it is a SIN problem.”
“I’M ENCOURAGED because God has provided a solution for sin through His Son Jesus and with it, a transformed heart and mind. One that’s capable of looking past the outward and seeing what’s truly important in every human being.”
“I’M ENCOURAGED because the Gospel gives mankind hope.”
Watson couldn’t ignore the irony of how God used him—but not in the way he expected.
In a video promoting his book, he said, “I spent 20 years of my life trying to play football.”
Thinking his claim to fame would be as an NFL tight end, Watson was amused when God had another plan—through his 2014 Facebook post.
“And [then] I’m known for a tackle on—really defense, because it was an interception—in a Facebook post.
“And I’m like—God’s got jokes.
“I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that it was Him. … The Gospel is the equalizer that promotes unity,” said Watson.
Since his now famous post, Watson continues to use social media and his blog as a platform for sharing hope through the Gospel.
He writes about life’s issues as he sees them—through a Gospel-centric worldview—supporting traditional marriage, the sanctity of life, and persecuted Christians throughout the world, among other things.
And that is something Franklin Graham can get behind. Graham, President of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, tweeted this about Watson in 2016: “I appreciate so much his boldness and the stand he takes for the Gospel.”
Graham also wrote an endorsement for Under Our Skin, saying: “Benjamin Watson has been an outspoken advocate for racial unity based solely on the fact that Jesus Christ died for all people.”
In his book, Watson wrote, “I know that the real humanity, the soul and spirit under our skin, is what makes us who we are.”
And when it comes to faith and racial unity, Watson puts it all out there.
“I want us to see that we are the same under our skin. and that our skin, especially in the context of America, our skin has been a great dividing factor, but the Gospel makes everything level at the foot of the cross.”
He uses his platform to talk about both and runs with it.
“God uses you at different times in your life for different things, and you kind of just go along for the ride.”