Football and Religion: Or, the Religion of Football

I grew up in small town Ohio. Football in the seventies was not an industry. Basketball was still more important. I played in the marching band, cheered on my high school team, though it wasn’t particularly successful. Basketball mattered more, so much in fact, that the traditional rivalry with the closest town had to be suspended in 1968 because passions ran so high. We didn’t pray before games; I don’t think anyone believed that God cared whether Archbold or Pettisville won the game, no matter how much it mattered to us.

I’ve probably posted about this before, because over the years I have become less and less interested in sports contests. Yes, in part it was because I found myself teaching at colleges that had athletic programs. And at those institutions, the values always seemed skewed. For example, one year, members of the volleyball team couldn’t make it to the first class of the term because of an away game (I’ve actually been surprised by my wife’s experience teaching at UW Madison with starting players from the football team in her class).

But the whole Tebow thing takes it to another level. No, God does not care who wins a football game. As the prophet Amos makes clear:

I hate, I despise your festivals,
and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies.
Even though you offer me your burnt-offerings and grain-offerings,
I will not accept them;
and the offerings of well-being of your fatted animals
I will not look upon.
Take away from me the noise of your songs;
I will not listen to the melody of your harps.
But let justice roll down like waters,
and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.

Let’s face it. An NFL game, or a college bowl game, is as close to a festival as we get in the USA.

It’s pathetic that identification as a Christian seems now to be connected with a mediocre quarterback who makes ostentatious display of his piety:

‘And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

2 thoughts on “Football and Religion: Or, the Religion of Football

  1. My preferred understanding of our relationship with the Lord is expressed by Micah,

    “With what shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?” He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”

    Much as I dearly love football – some of my earliest memories are of Bart Starr & the Packers on a beat up tv at my Grandma’s house – the Lord doesn’t care one way or the other about football. Fortunately, there are those some out there who are a bit more humble in their relationship to the Lord and are the ones who can still make it a pleasure to watch the American game.

  2. Having also taught at several universities, I heartily agree that it is hard to get very excited about the outcome any college sporting event. But after seeing the Broncos rally in overtime to win their game last Sunday, I don’t think I would write Tebow off as a “mediocre” quarterback. He is very young and still inexperienced and he is the product of a culture that, for whatever reason, makes a lot fuss about demonstrating piety. Presumably that helps him perform better, whether or not it means anything to God, who surely has better things to be concerned about.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.