Why Lolo Jones Is for Real

Why Lolo Jones Is for Real

CLEARING LIFE’S HURDLES: Lolo Jones on Aug. 6, 2012, during an Olympic preliminary race for the 100-meter hurdles. She hopes to prove wrong the critics who are asking whether she’s more flash than substance. (Photo: Splash News/Newscom)

On Twitter, Lolo Jones sports a playful sense of humor, making jokes about her love life and Olympic adventures, and sometimes sparking controversy.

Her Twitter following skyrocketed after she talked about her decision to save sex for marriage in a May interview on HBO’s Real Sports, gaining herself about 20,000 more followers in four days. Jones has said her purity commitment is rooted in her Christian faith.

As she competed in the women’s 100-meter hurdles this week, Jones found herself in the spotlight again, and media outlets haven’t forgotten the buzz surrounding her virginity. The New York Times wrote about it this past weekend in a controversial article, provocatively titled “For Lolo Jones, Everything Is Image,” which suggested Jones was playing up her virginity, beauty, and poor upbringing for undeserved media attention. That piece has since come under fire.

But despite doubts that her athletic ability warranted attention, the 30-year-old track star came just shy of a medal on Tuesday, August 7, placing fourth in the 100-meter hurdles. Of course that fourth-place finish held little consolation for Jones, who had come so close to a gold medal four years earlier in Beijing before clipping the second-to-last hurdle and falling out of medal contention. Many viewed London as her chance for redemption — or at least that was the narrative that the media played up. Time magazine, for instance, recently featured her as one of three Olympians on the cover of their Olympics special issue and wrote about her trip-up in “Lolo’s No Choke.”

Unfortunately, Tuesday’s outcome fell short of a storybook ending. “I’ll definitely be reading my Bible and try to grasp the positives and see what God has to teach me from all this,” Jones said after the finals. “That’s the only way I feel I can get rebalanced right now, because I am so broken-hearted.”

Without fail, crude jokes about Jones’s virginity lit up Twitter and other social media following her loss.

Faith in the Public Eye

The New York Times wasn’t the first to criticize Jones for talking about her virginity or using sex appeal. TMZ made fun of her virginity. Others also questioned if her ESPN body issue photo compromised her values. On May 25, Jones tweeted in response:

“go to a museum & look at naked pictures/statues of ppl & its considered art but what I did is not? u see no parts exposed” and later, “Ryan hall is another christian. He’s done missions in africa & posed in latest issue. Shall u judge him as well? John 8:7”

Some suggested she date fellow Christian virgin Tim Tebow, to which Jones had a witty tweet: “Ask Tebow if he wants a glass of milk. If he says yes, ask him if he prefers chocolate. if he says no, then no more Tebow date suggestions.”

Jones is African American, Native American, French and Norwegian.

COLORFUL PERSONALITY: In interviews and on Twitter, Jones has been known to be outspoken and irreverent in her comments, which has sometimes landed her in hot water. (Photo: Walter Bieri/Newscom)

Even before this current New York Times controversy, Jones had been stirring things up in the media while awaiting her race in London. Her recent tweet about the Olympic skeet shooting competition drew criticism in light of the Aurora, Colorado, shooting: “USA Men’s Archery lost the gold medal to Italy but that’s ok, we are Americans… When’s da Gun shooting competition?” Jones later tweeted that she had been referring to Americans’ experience with hunting.

Sometimes Jones tweets about her faith, such as on July 26: “As I arrive in London for the Olympics, I’m overwhelmed with emotions. Thank you Lord for another chance and for holding me as i waited.” She thanked people for praying for her on July 22, but after criticism, clarified that her prayer was “to be an inspiration & to honor God,” not to win a gold medal.

“I never have prayed to win a gold medal at Olympics and never will,” Jones tweeted. “The Lord is my Shepard and I shall not want. May His will be done.”

Bonding Through Struggle

In her Real Sports interview, Jones said saving sex for marriage has been “the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life, harder than training for the Olympics.”

But outside the spotlight, Jones tells how her Christian faith has sustained her through her struggles, and how her sister Angie Jefferson has encouraged her along the way.

Jones wrote about her older sister in an essay for the O.C. Tanner Inspiration Award, which recognizes a person who has inspired an Olympian to succeed. In it, Jones quoted Romans 9:12, “The older will serve the younger,” and wrote, “Angie is my reminder from God to stop at never.”

Growing up poor, Jones learned how to shoplift TV dinners and make a quick escape if she needed to, according to Time. Her family moved around frequently, and was at one point rendered homeless, living in a Salvation Army church basement.

Money was tight, but Jones has told stories about how her mother and sister helped her succeed. In a Procter & Gamble video series, “Raising an Olympian,” Jones said, “My mom would always try to do by any means necessary to make sure that we had what we needed. I definitely do not think I’d be going for this dream had I not seen her pick herself up so many times and keep fighting for us.”

STOPPING AT NEVER: Jones credits her sister for helping her develop a persevering spirit.

Meanwhile, her sister Angie Jefferson, then a teenager, recognized her talent and bought Jones her first running gear — which Jones said in her essay saved her the embarrassment of wearing old clothes.

When Jones moved across the country to go to Louisiana State University, Jefferson was again there for her sister through visits and tearful phone calls.

“Life was hard because the ghosts of my childhood were still there,” Jones wrote in her essay. “But thankfully, so was [Angie] — constantly reminding me there wasn’t anything I couldn’t overcome and survive with God’s help.”

Now, Jefferson serves as Jones’s manager. She encouraged her when Jones faced spine surgery a year ago. “It’s going to be okay,” Jefferson said, according to Jones’s essay. “I have a peace about Dr. Bray and his ability to help you. We are going to pray for God’s favor and trust God to take care of you.”

Jones wrote that she remembers seeing her sister with her prayer journal before a January 2012 race. It gave her a sense of peace. After Jones’s victory, the sisters hugged and cried together.

“It was a moment that words can’t express, a bond that together, can overcome anything,” Jones wrote.

On Monday, before her qualifying race in London, Jones was seen mouthing Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Even after Tuesday’s disappointing result, one suspects she’ll continue to hold onto that truth.

Editor’s Note: This article was updated to address the results of Jones’s finals race on Tuesday, August 7.

White Supremacist Kills Six at Sikh Gurdwara

White Supremacist Kills Six at Sikh Gurdwara

The man who shot and killed six people at a Sikh house of worship in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, yesterday was “a frustrated neo-Nazi who had been the leader of a racist white-power band,” according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Numerous media reports initially implied that the shooter, who had a prominent 9/11 tattoo on his arm and was killed by police, mistook the Sihk worshipers for Muslims. “Ever since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Sikhs have been victim to — by one count — more than 700 incidents of violence and murder at the hands of people who wrongly assumed they are Muslims,” The Week reported.

No solid information has yet been reported to conclude that he was targeting Muslims rather than Sikhs. Amardeep Singh, Associate Professor of English at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, said in a blog post that after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the Sikh community realized “it wouldn’t do to simply say, ‘Don’t hate meI’m not a Muslim.'” The community has generally avoided that kind of rhetoric, he said. “The Sikh advocacy organizations that were organized shortly after 9/11, chief among them the Sikh Coalition, were very emphatic on the point that they were opposed to hate crimes directed against any group based on religious hostility,” said Singh.

Sikhism, “the world’s fifth most popular religion, is a monotheistic faith that believes in equality and service to others, Sikh officials told CNN. “Most Sikh men don’t cut their hair and wear turbans and beards,” the article said.

“Sikhs are not Muslims and Sikhs are not Hindus, but jumping to clarify difference leaves the unfortunate, if unintentional, perception that there is something wrong with those ‘others,'” said Paul Brandeis Raushenbush, senior religion editor at The Huffington Post. “Sikhs are not interested in being identified as ‘not Muslim.’ American Sikhs would rather their tradition be understood for what it is, rather than what it is not.”

A second “person of interest” who may have videotaped the slaying is being sought, The Wisconsin Journal Sentinel reported. Heidi Beirich, director of the SPLC’s intelligence project, told JS that SPLC had been tracking the shooter since 2000, when he tried to purchase goods from a “well-known hate group” called The National Alliance. Its now deceased leader wrote “The Turner Diaries,” a book that “depicts a violent revolution in the United States leading to an overthrow of the federal government and, ultimately, a race war.” Beirich told SJ that the shooter “attended ‘hate events’ around the country.”

Last month, at The Huffington Post, Dr. Raj Persaud, a psychiatrist affiliated with the University of London, and Ramón Spaaij, a terrorism expert at La Trobe University in Australia, said there is evidence that mass killings are contagious. Citing a study that was published in the journal Archives of Suicide Research that tracked mass murders in Australia, New Zealand and the UK between 1987-1996, Persaud and Spaaij said there is “a complex web of multiple influences between the different incidents on the perpetrators, especially influenced by the colossal media coverage each tragedy received.”

Working from evidence that media reports on suicide can lead to a copycat phenomenon, the researchers concluded that “the same guidance and restrictions [recommended for suicide reporting] should now apply to media reporting of mass killings” because “of all kinds of mass murder, this type might be the most sensitive to and encouraged by media coverage.”

“It’s beginning to look like such blanket and graphic reporting is in fact encouraging some of the disturbed and disaffected all over the world to try their own hand at infamy, and a warped sense of power,” Persaud and Spaaij siad.

With this in mind, UrbanFaith is not reporting the shooter’s name. Instead, we’ll leave you with the Journal Sentinel victim list and ask you to join us in prayer for their families: “Satwant Singh Kaleka, the temple president, was killed Sunday after attempting to tackle the gunman. Kaleka’s brother-in-law, Deepir Singh Dhaliwal, identified the other victims Monday as: Sita Singh and Ranjit Singh, who are brothers; Subage Singh, Parmjit Kaur and Parkash Singh.”

What do you think?

Does it matter what group the shooter was targeting?

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