Friday, January 30, 2009

Theology of Sports

An Associated Press article points out the unprecedented role faith is playing in this upcoming Super Bowl:
But the depth of convictions from evangelical Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner to the Steelers who will do their best to plant him face-first into the ground on Sunday has put religion squarely in play this week. All of a sudden the G-word is in vogue.
Tangentially speaking, Jim Evans, in an entertaining opinion piece, points out the theological logic within sports. When an athlete hits a homerun or scores a touchdown, he/she oftentimes thanks the heavens. Yet, when the the athlete strikes out, misses the field goal, or duffs a shot on an open goal, the athlete doesn't rebuke God for God's supposed absence. Therefore, theologically the argument goes:
When you win, God is with you -- but when you lose, you are on your own.
Yet, in light of a recent high school basketball game, this theology needs some nuancing. Two Christian high schools, the Covenant School and the Dallas Academy, played a girl's basket ball game, and the final score was Covenant School 100, Dallas Academy 0. Yes, no typos there, 100 to zero. This led to some public criticism against the un-Christian-like behavior of the Covent School's team for their lack of sports(wo)manship; Jesus, of course, wouldn't run up the score. So, in terms of theology, winning should happen with grace:
If you have success in appropriate portions, God is with you. But if you flaunt your abilities and run up the score, God is not with you. Or: If you lose, you are on your own -- unless you lose in such an egregious fashion as to invoke the oppressed-people syndrome in which case God is with you.
But, as cool as this theology sounds, we truly understand that God doesn't concern Godself with the outcomes of athletic competitions. God is the God of both sides, neither team elevated to an elect status. As such, Evans concludes:
God does not take sides. God doesn't care who wins or loses. Like all things in life, God is mostly concerned about the way we play the game.
It would be fun to see a 100-0 Steelers victory though. Amen.


James said...

good piece and much to think about

Matt F. said...

I must point at that athletes incessantly thanking God for their victories on the field does grate on my nerves.

However, my main reason to post is to help Drew out. I know he would never point this out, lest we think he actually did have a man crush, but my wife notified me that Tom Perriello is one of five finalists on Huffington Post for sexiest new Congressman. The bad news is that he is fourth out of the five in the online poll (not the best pictures in the world). So go vote, and make your voices heard one more time. And don't vote for that 27 year old Republican, even if he is dreamy and younger that all of us.

Drew said...

To the Huffington Post piece, I did notice it yesterday when they put it up. And it pissed me off. I mean, there would be legitimate outcry if it was a contest for the hottest freshman chick congresswomen, right? We would be objectifying women and treating them like sex objects. So, I was angered by the double-standard, and felt that if I posted the link, I would be endorsing it.

Darren Staley said...

What I really loved about this story was the money quote:

"God doesn't care who wins or loses. Like all things in life, God is mostly concerned about the way we play the game."

If there is a God, I think He dealt us a hand to see how we play it.

I do not feel that He punishes or rewards, in this life at least, those who played it wrong.

We are not His grand design, we are His grand experiment. He probably had many experiments before us and will have many after us.

Was Job not an experiment?

Matt F. said...

Really, Drew? It pissed you off? I thought it was fairly tounge in cheek and silly. Have a sense of humor, which I know you do. And by the way, if we were rating the hottest new congresswomen, how many would we have to choose from? Probably not 90. Listen to how men talked about Palin during the campaign. Turnabout is fair play, and it is not like this was a piece suggesting that they would be better congressmen because they were good looking. It was a harmless exercise. Just because there might be an outcry about one thing doesn't meand there should be an outcy about another. Relax, sir. This is officially the least significant thing that I have ever felt the need to argue about.

Drew said...

I guess I didn't know until now we were arguing. Just saying it upset me.

Katie said...

Drew: I allot you 150 Cool Points for your use of "Godself."

Inclusive language is important. Go you. :-)

Drew said...

Katie, as the Catholic theologian, Elizabeth Johnson says, "The symbol of God functions." She's right.

Matt F. said...

What does she mean by "the symbol of God functions?" Sounds interesting, but I am not sure I can figure it out out of context.