IVP - Strangely Dim - Underdog World

October 15, 2004

Underdog World

By David A. Zimmerman

I always root for the underdog. If you’re likely to lose some contest, I’ll be waiting for you to win. When I’m feeling particularly daring or noble, I’ll set myself up as an underdog by taking the most challenging of a set of options or declining to use resources made available to me. Underdog was even one of my favorite cartoons when I was very young.

It may be because my namesake, the biblical David, was a willing underdog in the classic sense. David raised sheep—arguably the most defenseless and indefensible animal on the planet—and fought lions and wolves on their behalf with nothing but a sling and stone.

David took that same sling and stone set to a battle with a giant warrior, Goliath, who had given an entire nation the willies. And he did so not after Goliath jumped him in an alley but after being told to go home by his brothers and being offered the king’s armor for protection.

David later refused to fight back when the king abused and persecuted him, he refused to use his authority as king to squelch a rebellion by his son, he refused to use his power to destroy someone mocking him on a bad day. He even refused to drink the cup of water his underlings brought him because, in fetching him a drink, they had risked their lives for his sake.

Perhaps it’s self-absorption that makes me hold a special affection for underdogs—some vague sense of calling associated with my naming. When I was a kid, my uncle (a priest; I call him “my uncle the father”) had me reach into a bag and pull out the name of a biblical character, which he would then use to preach a sermon illustration. I pulled out my own name, and though in effect I was doing nothing for him but manipulating his congregation with my boyish cuteness, in that moment I felt a profound sense of identification with King David, and the more I learned about him, the more, subconsciously I think, I committed myself to the calling of the underdog.

Underdogs can appear foolish because they set themselves to tasks that are clearly beyond their capacity, or they refuse means readily at their disposal to take on such tasks. But on some secret level we’re all rooting for the underdog, aren’t we? The underdog who does the impossible proves that everything is possible, that there’s no limit to the hope available to us. The world’s troubles, the abiding presence of evil that can be tasted and seen, seem like insurmountable challenges that we might as well ignore or acquiesce to, but the underdogs among us are equal parts crazy enough and courageous enough to look such goliaths square in the face and knock them over.

Some say God made the world and left. Others say the world’s evil is proof that God is either evil or incompetent. But imagine that God made the world his Israel and sin his Goliath, and has refused the armor offered him by the world’s Sauls. Perhaps throughout creation God has stood on the battlefield with stone and sling in hand, taking on all comers no matter how big, proving that “it is not by sword or spear that the LORD saves, for the battle is the LORD’s.”

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I've now got a direct line to my book page: www.ivpress.com/zimmer-man. The book is less than a month away from being in print!

Look for a discussion guide based on the book and all my favorite superhero movies, coming soon to ivpress.com/zimmer-man and www.intervarsity.org.

E-mail me at dzimmerman@ivpress.com.

Posted by Dave Zimmerman at October 15, 2004 9:25 AM Bookmark and Share

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Behind the Strangeness

Lisa Rieck is a reader and writer who likes to discuss good ideas over hot drinks and gets inspired by the sky. She takes in all kinds of good ideas as a proofreader for InterVarsity Press.

Rebecca Larson is a writer/designer/creative type who has infiltrated IVP's web department, where she writes and edits online content. She enjoys a good pun and loves the smell of freshly printed books.

David A. Zimmerman is an editor for Likewise Books and a columnist for Burnside Writers Collective. He's written three books, most recently The Parable of the Unexpected Guest. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/unexpguest. Find his personal blog at loud-time.com.

Suanne Camfield is a publicist for InterVarsity Press and a freelance writer. She floats ungracefully between work, parenting and writing, and (much to her dismay) finds it impossible to read on a treadmill. She is a member of the Redbud Writers Guild and blogs at The Rough Cut.

Likewise Books from InterVarsity Press explore a thoughtful, active faith lived out in real time in the midst of an emerging culture.

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