Former Patriots player Aaron Hernandez’s suicide last week has raised many questions about the man, including those regarding his decision to write “John 3:16” on his forehead.
Reverends Irene Monroe and Emmett Price joined BPR to talk over Hernandez’s faith and his attachment to that bit of scripture.
“Aaron Hernandez is kind of connecting to his salvific notion of believing in Jesus and believing in God, and although he in himself has taken his own mortal life, he will have everlasting life,” said Price.
The passage includes the words, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
Price explained that many Christians understand John 3:16 to be a summary of a major Christian tenet — that belief in Jesus will earn the faithful everlasting life in heaven.
Monroe took time to explain how football and religion have become inextricably linked, since “football has become the new religion.”
“I think it’s really wonderful on some level, because we’d like to believe that Hernandez is, at his moment and dark hour, he’s confessing, but the scripture is problematic. It’s washed within what I can best depict as patriarchal religiosity,” she said. “God, football and family has always been part of a ... muscular Christianity.”
She referenced Tim Tebow, who was reportedly an early mentor to Hernandez.
“We’ve seen 3:16 so associated with Tim Tebow,” said Monroe.
Price responded to her points, saying Hernandez’s religiosity and the motivators behind it are still largely unknown.
“We haven’t heard him speak,” he said. “We have no idea what his faith life was. We have no idea what his journey is.”
Price also mentioned that Hernandez had a number of other religious tattoos on his body, and said these might serve as evidence that he was “wrestling” with his faith beyond the football-religion link mentioned by Monroe.
“If this was the only scripture that he quoted, or more importantly, had tattooed on his body, then perhaps you’re right and I think then your pontification would be in vogue,” he said. “But I think the fact that he has a tattoo next to a gun that says ‘God forgives’ [is relevant].”
Irene Monroe is a syndicated religion columnist. Emmett Price is a Professor and Founding Executive Director of the Institute for the Study of the Black Christian Experience at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. To hear their interview in its entirety, click on the audio player above.