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'Love is the greatest tool that we have': Boise State football team chaplain on finding love and hope

Mark Thornton explains how he's discussing George Floyd's death with the Broncos and how to help people of color during these times.

BOISE, Idaho — It almost feels trivial even trying to talk about sports right now with everything going on in our country at the moment. I know I'm not alone in saying it's been a heavy week, hasn't it? 

On the surface level and my skin color, I cannot feel the same depth of pain that my brothers and sisters of color are experiencing right now. 

In that regard, on one hand, I do feel somewhat limited as to how I can help right now. On the other hand, I am reminded, that there is no limit on empathy, no limit on compassion, no limit on caring for the broken and the suffering. I wanted to have a special conversation, so I spoke with one of the pastors of my church, Pastor Mark Thornton, Mark is also the Boise State football team chaplain. 

I reached out to him for advice and help on how I and others can be helpful right now.

Editor's Note: The following interview has been edited for grammar and clarity.

Will Hall: Pastor Mark, what has this week been like for you?

Mark Thornton: Pretty hectic, there's been a lot of emotions, there's been a lot of anger, there's been a lot of hurt, a lot of disgust. There's some things that this video has done, it's awakened people to some stories that maybe they have heard about and some experiences that African Americans over the course of years that people don't really realize, like oh no, that would never happen. It's a reminder that we are not as far removed from segregation and oppression as we think we are and that racism really exists.

Hall: When you see what's transpired this week and the video of George Floyd, what helps you move forward with love and forgiveness in your heart?

Thornton: My definition of love is that love is an unconditional commitment to an imperfect person. So when I say I love my culture, I understand that even within my culture, there will be things that maybe I don't accept or like, but I say I love them, so I have to act like I love them, and I have to prove it with my actions. Even though I maybe don't experience some of the things that other people are experiencing, I can empathize with them. We need to acknowledge that this is a problem in our country, and we actually need to be compassionate about those that are going through it, even if we can't fathom going through that ourselves.

Hall: I felt a little helpless in regards to trying to help out my brothers and sisters of color right now, how best can I help out my brothers and sisters of color right now?

Thornton: The reassurance that you love me for who I am. You value me for who I am, because as a pastor, this is what I believe, that everybody should be loved biblically, and everybody should be valued equally, I believe those are the principals that are shown in the bible, for my part, for your part, for everybody, so lets value everybody equally. Because of this pandemic, we've seen how one contagious person can make a big impact. What if we were contagious for love for our fellow man? What if we were contagious in sharing our lives and saying, you know what, I don't know the pain you are going through, but I'm here for you. If I can be of help in any way, just being available. Just being there, I don't have the words to say, I'm here. If you need an ear, I'm here, if you need a hug, I know we're not supposed to hug right now, just being available.

Hall: Pastor Mark, what have your conversations been like with the Boise State football players over the course of the last week?

Thornton: I actually got to talk with Coach Harsin, at length, yesterday. I loved it, his approach was I need to take care of my team, first. Like anything, it's like let me take care of my family. We've got a lot of players, they're young, they've never experienced a lot of these things, they've seen it happen and so they've got questions and so what I love is we have the opportunity to dialogue. The vessel of sports allows some of those walls of racism or segregation or prejudice, it allows some of those walls to come down.

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Hall: How important is love right now?

Thornton: Love is the greatest tool that we have. And we all have the ability to love well. There's not a single person on the earth that doesn't have the ability to love well. We choose whether we are going to love well, or not, but we all have the ability to. If we just let love shine through and make a loud noise, then the hatred, the racism, all of those different things, then love will win. What's the old song? All you need is love.

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