Jason Elam speaks on his new book and faith
Last fall, Denver Broncos kicker Jason Elam — one of the best kickers in NFL history, a three-time Pro Bowl player with two Super Bowl rings — invited two of my boys and me to speak at a chapel service for Broncos’ players and coaches, and then attend a Monday night game against the Green Bay Packers. We had a great time and got a chance to spend some time getting to know Jason, a devout evangelical Christian and a real kindred spirit when it comes to blessing the people of the Middle East with the love of Jesus Christ. Jason had become acquainted with me by reading I had just read an advance copy of his first political thriller, Monday Night Jihad which I thoroughly enjoyed and immediately endorsed. The novel is now out, and as part of his book tour, Jason just returned from encouraging U.S. forces in Iraq. Here’s an interview I did with him via email.
ROSENBERG: You were just in Iraq. Why did you go? What did you see?
Four years ago I went to Kosovo with the same organization, so when I got a call from them again in January I jumped at the chance. Although, my whole reason for going was to encourage the troops; not surprisingly, I was the one who ended up encouraged. Seeing our military sacrificing so much for us can’t help but make a person feel proud and incredibly patriotic.
ROSENBERG: What’s your take on how American forces are doing in Iraq? Are we winning? Are we making progress? What’s the status?
ELAM: Since the surge, we’re definitely winning. Prior to that, I heard from some troops that they had some definite concerns. The morale of the military is good, although the Army seems to be suffering a bit with 15-month tours. One very encouraging sign is that the Iraqi army is definitely improving. Also, many of the troops told me that the civilians are finally realizing that we are there to help them. Until recently, most felt we were there to destroy or occupy their land. A vast majority of the troops I spoke to want us to stick it out to the end.
ROSENBERG: I loved your novel, talk about why you wrote it and what the gist of the story is.
ELAM: Fifteen years ago, my brother started a journal of all my funny and crazy football stories hoping that someday I’d turn them into a book. I, on the other hand, had no desire at that time to write a book – especially one about football, which I lived, breathed, and slept six months out of the year. But then one day I got this wild thought about what it might look like if I wrote a book that combined these goofy stories, current events – particularly terrorism and the Middle East – and, something I’m really passionate about, my faith. Eventually I connected up with a good buddy of mine, Steve Yohn, and we wrote a book that covers all three of these topics in a fun, thrill-ride kind of novel.
ROSENBERG: How serious, in your view, is the threat of radical Islamic extremism inside the U.S. today?
ELAM: It’s very serious. Unfortunately, radical Islamic extremism is here to stay. My fear is that our society is getting lulled into complacency. If you think about it, even if only 10% of all Muslims are extremists, that still amounts to over 100 million. I truly believe that only the return of Christ will solve the problem.
ROSENBERG: Are you taking flack for talking about this threat, particularly inside the NFL?
ELAM: No, not yet. The Broncos organization, as well as the players, has been very supportive of the project. Although the threat is very real, it was still very important to Steve and me not to demonize anyone. We wanted to point out the differences between Christianity and Islam, but we strove to do it with honesty and integrity. From the very beginning, we felt this was something that God wanted us to write, so we made sure to do it in a way that would make Him proud.
ROSENBERG: Tell me a little about how you became a follower of Jesus Christ and how that has shaped you as a husband, a father, and a football player? ELAM: When I went to the University of Hawaii, I was pretty wet behind the ears spiritually. Suddenly, I was dumped into this hotbed of religious diversity. I realized that I better figure out exactly what it was I believed and why I believed it. So, I spent the next few years dissecting Christianity from the ground up. Finally, I got to the point that I could confidently say, “I am a true Christian, and this is why…” It’s hard to define how it affects my various roles in life, because it is just who I am. “Christ in me” defines every aspect of who I am. If anyone is interested in a fuller story, they can read my testimony via a link on ROSENBERG: What’s your life verse of Scripture and why has it been important to you?
ELAM: 1 Peter 3:15 and Colossians 4:5-6 really define my purpose in life. I believe that God has called me to defend the faith, but to do it in the right way. Too often people are confrontational about their beliefs. Scripture, however, tells us to be prepared to give an answer for our hope, but to do it with gentleness and respect. True evangelism is born out of intentionality, prayer, love, and sacrifice, not confrontation. ROSENBERG: You’ve been on several ministry trips to Turkey and Gaza, plus this recent trip to Iraq. Why do you go? What do you hope to achieve?
ELAM: My purpose with these trips is two-fold. First, I want to encourage believers. No matter if they are in Turkey, Gaza, or Alaska, God’s people need to know that their brothers and sisters love them and are praying for them. Second, these trips give me opportunities to engage with non-believers. The fact that I am there usually earns me a right to be heard, which I’m able to use to plant seeds on issues surrounding who is the real Jesus.
ROSENBERG: Based on your experience in the Middle East, what are some specific ways my readers can be praying for the people of the epicenter?
ELAM:God is real and active everywhere. He died for all people. Too often people are marginalized because of their beliefs or their actions. We need to leave retribution in the hands of our God and our government. Our job is to pray for the salvation of these people who have been so deceived. We need to pray that God brings light into the spiritual darkness. We need to pray that God intervenes in the spiritual battles within these governments. We need to pray that God moves in the hearts and minds of all who don’t know Him.
ROSENBERG: Thanks, Jason. God bless you, and welcome to the world of being a novelist! Hope you’ve got more to come.