Pesky Personal Pronouns

The Ohio State University ‘Buckeyes’ football team won a national collegiate championship game last Monday night. Officials certified that the Buckeyes managed to accumulate more points than their opponents, thus securing that team’s right to exuberantly boast, “We won!” That particular expression had a remarkably contagious quality to it. When the final gun sounded ending the game, the same phrase was echoed by multitudes in the arena itself, as well as homes and bars around the city and throughout the nation. The pronoun ‘we’ would indicate linguistically that the ones using it were included among those actively engaged in the contest. That, then, would seem on the surface to suggest an incredible expansion of the OSU football team. That was not the case, yet the term “we” was adopted by scores of thousands who never played football at all, much less for Ohio State. Men and women of all ages, and even kids, openly boasted the same way as those who were a part of the squad on the field. These detached and uninvolved interlopers attached themselves to the victory as though they were teammates with the guys who were actually in the game. They celebrated as proudly as if they had been shoulder to shoulder with those young men running around down there in the freezing cold in short sleeved shirts, butting heads with huge angry people, and falling down a lot—only they really weren’t. Of course, that inconvenient piece of reality had no power to quell their enthusiasm or affect their choice of pronouns in broadcasting the news of the victory. In their minds, it was ‘we’ who won, not ‘they’.

Image by Sam Howzit

Image by Sam Howzit

That phenomenon is not unusual, is it? But we have given it an arbitrary and selective quality—and made it conveniently totally one-sided. Consider this. CBS reported that following the game, police in riot gear had to be called to the area. Uncontrolled throngs of people were running wildly through the streets, blocking roads, starting fires, damaging property, engaging in drunken brawls, and other inappropriate and antisocial behaviors that were, in many cases, criminal. Tear gas and pepper spray had to be employed in the attempt to stop the frenzy. A segment of the crowd even forced their way back into the stadium and proceeded to tear down at least one set of goal posts. The riotous aftermath was clearly initiated by OSU ‘fans’, but here’s where it gets one-sided. Prior to the riots, those making up the destructive mob had been in the stands vicariously connecting themselves to the exploits of the team on the field, and lavishly employing the ‘we’ pronoun in reference to the whole event. In spite of that, there didn’t seem to be a ‘quid pro quo’ offered by the OSU team toward them. When the ‘fans’ turned into a destructive mob on the streets, the team didn’t step up to boast about a oneness with them. Players weren’t so quick to connect themselves to anarchy, and say things like, “Hey man, did you see the move ‘we’ put on that cop when ‘we’ broke that car window?” or “That was some awesome stuff ‘we’ burned up tonight, huh?” “Go Buckeyes!” No. When it came to the mob in the street, the popular associative descriptor was “they”, not “we”.

We can be curiously selective in our use of pronouns. The fans-turned-rioters, had been swift in adopting the ‘we’ term regarding the team. The guys played well, and being one of them, or one with them, was desirable. So, with no basis beyond the compulsion to be part of something they weren’t really a part of, and to seize an opportunity to artificially inflate their self-image and create a sense of acceptance, ‘we’ flowed from their lips unhindered—however short-lived and empty all of its benefits might become.

This expression of our human proclivities might be harmless if restricted to a game which will, in the course of significant human events, remain meaningless, but it is telling in ways that do matter. Since 1973 in this country, there have been some 50 million babies purposely killed in their mother’s womb. To grant some perspective, the total number of Americans killed in all the wars this nation has ever fought amounts to less than ‘3’ million. The truth about abortion is both real and staggering. Under the euphemistic term ‘clinic’ over 3,300 babies are slaughtered every day in this country. I have a question. When we relate to those statistics, is it a ‘we’ thing, or a ‘they’ thing? Is there a basis for picking our preferred pronoun, or just like identifying with the football team or the riotous mob, is it only a matter of what feels better for us at the time?

Upon hearing of the devastation that had befallen God’s disobedient people, Nehemiah was shocked, overwhelmed, and dismayed, so he began to pray and confess the sins of the nation. Notice his choice of associative pronouns:

“I pray before you now… and confess the sins of the children of Israel which ‘we’ have sinned against You… ‘we’ have acted very corruptly, and have not kept the commandments, the statues, nor the ordinances which You commanded…” (Neh. 1:6-7)

For Nehemiah, it was we, not they. He was a responsible party—not a detached observer.

There is always a basis for belonging, whether in reference to a football team, or a riotous mob, or to those who follow Jesus. Really belonging to the team is the basis for being included in its victories—and for sharing the responsibility for its heartbreaking defeats. Let’s be clear. God didn’t send a bunch of bloviating politicians and agenda-driven bureaucrats to promote righteousness, protect life, and counteract the evil that underlies the abortion industry. He sent the followers of Jesus, the only ‘team’ He has. If you’re a part of that team, then in regard to the hellish work of the abortionists, and the pervasive climate of irresponsible sexual obsession that supports it, ‘we’ have lost. We have lost, and continue to lose, miserably and shamefully—and our loss is in terms of human life, not just points in a game. Going to church to see the show, and shouting ‘we’ in the songs of victory, while choosing ‘they’ regarding the moral devastation around us won’t fly with God.  We cannot pick and choose to suit our mood. Christianity is not a spectator sport for vicarious self-indulgence.  We are either on the team or not. If you’ll forgive me for being blunt, it comes to this . . . It’s time we either suit up and take the field or shut up and go home.

© 2015 Gallagher’s Pen, Ronald L. Gallagher, Ed.S.  All rights reserved.

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About Ron Gallagher, Ed.S

Author, Speaker, Bible Teacher, Humorist, Satirist, Blogger ... "Right Side Up Thinking ~ In an Upside Down World" For Ron's full bio, go to
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3 Responses to Pesky Personal Pronouns

  1. Jackee says:

    Another gripper! Thank you Ron.


  2. Nancy says:

    God, forgive us for shedding innocent blood. We are undone as a society. Help those of us who love You make a difference and touch lives with the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, Amen.


  3. Ellen says:

    Wow, you scored again with me. Just this afternoon, when UVA won and my husband said. “We won,” I said “We? Were you playing?” But it takes your deep thought to connect my mere impulse with the the way we fail to connect or divorce ourselves from the cultural norms with which we should be adamantly disagreeing. Thank you again, Ron, for your thoughts!


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