Skip to comments.Is Football a Sin? (Author says "yes" because Christians shouldn't try to triumph over others)
Posted on 02/03/2003 8:09:40 AM PST by mountaineer
DALLAS--In the wake of Superbowl XXXVII, theres the pain of loss, the agony of post-game quarterbacking But the toughest fact to confront on Superbowl Monday may be that the whole business of sport is really a sin, from the Christian point of view, says Kevin Orlin Johnson, Ph.D., author of many best-selling books on Christian beliefs and practices.
In his Rosary: Mysteries, Meditations, and the Telling of the Beads--hailed by National Reviews literary editor Michael Potemra as "the best book I have yet seen on this subject"--Johnson reveals the surprising history of sport to clarify the story of Christs "Agony in the Garden" before the Crucifixion, an episode traditionally meditated on as part of the Rosarys prayers.
The term "agony" is from the Greek word for sport, Johnson says; its applied to the internal struggle that Jesus felt before going to his suffering and death. Thats the essential struggle, the "good fight" of every Christian, but struggling with other people in sport is something else entirely. "I hate to be the one to say it, but the Church has always taught, from the Gospels, that any sport--any contention in which you try to triumph over somebody else--is completely opposed to everything that Christ teaches," he says.
It seems obvious when you put it that way, but its still a shocker. Sports fans always ask, "Are you serious?" and come up with all kinds of excuses about sportsmanship and teamwork and the like. Sorry, it wont work, Johnson says, because sport is what it is--obviously--and theres also a huge body of Christian literature that knocks down every pretext you can think of.
Thats because the Church worked so hard to remind Christians that theyre not supposed to go around hitting, fighting or tackling other people ("Turn the other cheek," remember?) and certainly not to try proving themselves better than others. St. Paul himself used the image of an athlete in his first letter to the Corinthians (9:24-27) when he catalogued everything that a Christian is not supposed to do. All of the Fathers of the Church preached fervently about the sinfulness of sport, and some even wrote whole books about it. Eventually the point got across and the stadiums fell into ruin, but it had taken 600 years. "Evidently the early Christians were even denser about it than we are now," Johnson says.
Of course, those games were often fights to the death, with hundreds of human beings slaughtered in gladiatorial combats or even footraces. But it wasnt just the bloody murders that the Church objected to. Long before anybody gets killed, the Fathers of the Church said, sport always involves the sins of strife, superstition, sedition, pride, vainglory, contention--"how many ways do we need to prove that not one of the things associated with these sports is pleasing to God?" the 2nd-century convert Tertullian asked. No sport, he said, fails to inflict spiritual damage, because in sport there is always "eagerness, which adds spice to pleasure. Where theres eagerness theres the taking of sides. Where theres the taking of sides, theres rage, and bile and anger and pain and all the other things that follow from them, which like them are incompatible with spiritual discipline."
After the stadia closed down, sport still erupted informally among the less-educated classes, but the Church was always there to remind them. By the time St. Thomas Aquinas catalogued the vices that sport expresses in his 13th-century Summa, sport was widely understood as a violation of Christian principles of life, and in fact as sin.
(Excerpt) Read more at pangaeus.com ...
For me...I'll continue to watch football. :)