Home > John's Blogs > Theology and the Super Bowl

Theology and the Super Bowl

 Will you be watching the Super Bowl next week?  I will be, and am looking forward to it.  I love the NFL, and I love college football, and I love college basketball, and I love hockey…  I love just about any sport where you keep score or have a finish line (which rules out figure skating).

 Sports are such a part of our culture that we often don’t think about their role in our lives, or their role in God’s creation.  Christianity Today has posted a very thoughtful article about the role of sports in our culture, and I strongly encourage you to read it.  It may make you think twice about the Super Bowl.  Below are a few thoughts to whet your appetite.

 The NFL is beginning to seriously investigate the toll of professional football on the athlete’s bodies.  Football is an incredibly violent sport and injuries are routine (no surprise to football fans).  But the violence may be affecting retired players’ mental faculties, and there are many stories of relatively young retirees whose bodies have been greatly affected.

 While the Bible heralds the human body as the apex of creation, the vessel of the indwelling Spirit, and reflective of the Creator’s image, a large and expanding body of epidemiological evidence suggests that sports are an agent of its desecration; the latest investigations of Congress and others focus on the relationship between playing professional football and the risk of dementia.

What is the Christians response to this?  Do we have a responsibility?  Recently, Peter King (my favorite football reporter) asked a group of 5 or 6 athletes about the violence of the sport.  This is the quote from Carson Palmer, and King’s response to it:

At what point do we begin to change the culture of our sports world, rather than simply accepting it as a fact of life?  I believe that this paragraph from the CT article captures my own thoughts quite well:

It is worth remembering that sport’s entrée into Christianity in the late 19th century was largely conditional. Protestant leaders were sympathetic only to the extent that their communities would, in the words of Washington Gladden, a popular preacher of the day, “enter into them and pervade them and transform them by their own vital energy.” To these Protestants, sports evangelism was aimed at the institution itself. While sports evangelistic organizations deserve credit for their work with individual athletes, the social enterprise that tempts them—that pulls on their egos and frames their performance in violence and spectacle—is largely ignored. Evangelicals have “entered into” and “pervaded” sports, but have yet to seriously take on the burden of transformation.  (bold mine)

We are using sports outlets as a place to evangelize and transform individuals.  This is good, and right, and necessary.  But it is not the only thing we should be doing – our sports institutions need transformed as well.  Cheating in the NCAA is rampant and common, athletes are being used for their ability and then cast aside, violence is an integral part of the NFL and NHL.  Christians are everywhere in these sports.  It’s time we started looking at the sports themselves and taking seriously our entire cultural mandate.  Christ can transform people and institutions, if we bring him to bear on them.

For the record:  I still love football, and I will be hosting a Super Bowl party during which time I will watch the game.  But I might bring this up, too.  You?

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  1. February 2, 2010 at 10:31 am

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