Other "Thinking Drafts" and writing by Keith Drury --http://www.indwes.edu/tuesday .
This weekend we wrapped up one of the great high seasons of the year offering all the great themes of human emotion: agony, commitment, love, suffering, sacrifice and victory.
I'm writing about the Final Four NCAA division I playoffs, not Easter. This year's playoffs coincided with Easter, making it difficult for many men to focus on the resurrection of Christ. Luckily there was no game on Easter Sunday itself, for many men would have had to choose on that day which god they would serve.
Why is it that most of us Evangelicals are so silent about the powerful grip the god of sports has on American men? We attempt to help men break their habits of drinking, smoking, and some denominations even try to persuade their men to quit the Masons because of the pseudo-religious nature of secret societies. But we say little about the most powerful competitive god of all -- American Sports.
Sociologist-turned-General-Superintendent John Williams (Ohio yearly Meeting of Friends) warned us 25 years ago in Eternity magazine. He argued that sports would eventually edge out Christian commitment for evangelical men. He predicted the future for many men. Sports is a great religion! It has all of the character of a good competitor for Christianity. It gradually captures a man's mind, heart, and soul until he gives himself over to it with total commitment and fidelity. Left to its own, the god of Sports will fully posses a man and force the true God into second place. God doesn't like to have other gods before Him.
But, it's no wonder this god has made such headway in our culture. It offers so much that is similar to the real thing. We have our Holy seasons of Christmas, Easter and Pentecost, but the god of Sports offers the World Series, the Super Bowl and the Final Four. Few men think, talk, and meditate on Pentecost as much as the Super bowl. A ticket to these high day events is harder to purchase than a medieval indulgence. If you aren't rich, you must gather before the Television like the Cathedral's Leper's Peep of 500 years ago. The really dedicated adherents of the god of Sports memorize and recite the Mighty Acts of the saints, now canonized into their respective halls of fame. Some fans even take the pilgrimage to these hushed galleries to admire their wax figures, and many trade their faces on trading cards like holy icons . Sports has its relics too, displaying footballs, baseballs, bats, uniforms and basketballs in glass cases in these hushed and holy spaces.
There are mysterious rituals like face-painting and end-zone dances. Hey, Sports has all the elements of a great religion! Sports offers high emotion, stories of grit and determination, pain and sacrifice, victory and defeat. And it all occurs in a gigantic structure in the center of town, reminiscent of medieval insistence that the local cathedral be the highest building in town, thus projecting its importance and might.
Some churches don't fight the competition from the Sports god. Some, like Solomon, even bring it into the church and fashion an amalgam of syncretism. And, I admit that most church folk have never thought of Sports as a competing god (well many women have). We've heard so many speakers who worship at both shrines that we assume the two religions are compatible. And, perhaps to an extent, they are. Perhaps God doesn't mind us keeping a backup god hidden in our footlocker. But, when the Sports god begins to take *first* place in the life of a man (or woman), it is time for ministers to honestly call a god a god.
I think, for some men, Sports is a major competitor with the true God. What do you think?
So what do you think?
To contribute to the thinking on this issue e-mail your response toTuesday@indwes.edu
By Keith Drury, 1996. You are free to transmit, duplicate or distribute this article for non-profit use without permission.