Wanna know what I’m sick of? Joyless Christians. Christians should be funny. Christians should be enjoyable to be around. Christians should be the life of the party (yes, party, didn’t David dance before the Lord with all his might?) because they have something no one else has: unexplainable joy that’s only found in Christ. That’s why I love Bubba Watson. Yes, he’s a Christian. And yes, he lives a life with moral boundaries. But he also lives a joyful life, a funny life, a stupid life, a life replete with ridiculous stunts, hilarious videos and laughter.
Back in the fall, Watson was gracious enough to give me 35 minutes of his time for a phone interview, and this concept—the epidemic that Christians are plagued with boredom and lifelessness—is exactly what we talked about.
“I didn’t grow up in church,” Watson told me. “I didn’t know much about it. All I knew was that Christians were boring and not fun…. Now, knowing the little that I do know, that’s nothing what the Bible says. God wants you to have fun.”
Take the Golf Boys’ “Oh Oh Oh” music video, for example, featuring Watson and fellow players Ben Crane, Rickie Fowler and Hunter Mahan. If you haven’t seen it, all you need to know is Watson’s costume (or lack of one).
He is barefoot and shirtless—showcasing his woolly nest of chest hair that screams, “I’m a man!”—and wearing an undersized pair of overalls that gives him a Frodo Baggins/Johnny Appleseed stylish touch. When Rip Van Winkle woke up from his 20 years of sleep in the mountains and wandered down into the village, I’m sure he looked a lot like Bubba Watson in “Oh Oh Oh”—rugged, hair disheveled (head hair, not chest hair) and worthless.
It’s hilarious. And yes, also somewhat frightening.
“I have to have fun and joke around,” Watson says. “I don’t want to be the weirdo that just reads the Bible. But I’ll let people poke fun of me because I wore overalls in a video.”
Just spend a few minutes on YouTube or Twitter. You may see Watson pressuring his caddy, Teddy Scott, to jump the burn at St. Andrews during a wind delay (he did), riding a jet ski 70 mph in a colorful turquoise dress jacket and pants, playing golf in a Santa Claus suit (he calls it “Bubba Claus”), riding a scooter off the diving board, filming trick golf shots to get on Ellen DeGeneres’s show (inside the house, over the patio, over the pool, into the red bucket—he made it, by the way), or obsessing over Justin Bieber on Twitter.
His best friend, Judah Smith, said that when they vacationed together they challenged one another to jump off their hotel balcony into the ocean. So they did.
“We’re 16-year-olds trapped in 33-year-old bodies,” says Smith, who pastors The City Church in Seattle. “Bubba is very self-entertained. He can make anything fun…And I think Christians should have the most fun on the planet.”
PGATour.com created a video at the end of 2010, highlighting the character of Bubba Watson. So they interviewed his peers, searching for adjectives to describe him. Ryan Palmer just laughed. So did Bo Van Pelt. Kevin Streelman smiled and said he was “funny.” Justin Rose said he was a “quirky, crazy character” who was “unorthodox on and off the golf course.” Ben Crane said he was an “interesting guy with a great sense of humor” that also wore “pink socks.”
The point is this: When you mention the name “Bubba Watson” to his peers, they laugh. Even though he’s constantly talking and tweeting about his faith (“Christian” is the first thing listed on his Twitter bio…then “husband”…then “pro golfer”… then “Justin Bieber follows me on Twitter”), you didn’t see his PGA friends roll their eyes, shrug indifferently, and say that he’s anti-gay, pro-life, conservative, opinionated or judgmental—as is the painful description of many Christians. (Not to say I don’t necessarily agree with these things, but shouldn’t we be known for love?)
Rather, they laughed. Because he lives a comical, appealing, attractive lifestyle marked by love.
“God wants you to party, well, not party, but I call it party,” Bubba laughs. “We have the best God in the world, so why not have fun?”
That’s my question for every rigid, judgmental, joyless Christian. That’s my question for myself.
Why not be known for love instead of politics? Why not be known for joy instead of judging? Why not have fun?
This column was published in the Vol. 26, No. 1 issue of Sports Spectrum. Stephen Copeland is a staff writer and columnist at Sports Spectrum magazine. His column tackles sports and faith from another angle, whether it’s humorous, personal or controversial. Follow him on Twitter-@steve_copeland or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.