Sports, Religion and Rationale

Posted by John Lindsay on 12th January 2012 in Christian Articles, Christian Arts and Entertainment, News, Producers

Last Sunday night, I was pleasantly surprised to tune in to catch a bit of hopeful folly at the end of a BBC update about Denver Broncos’ Tim Tebow. Julian Keane, co-host of BBC’s The World Today and sports journalist, Mike Carlson, were engaging in a lively volley on the subject of the fickle nature of fans as it pertained to Tim Tebow, whose professed belief in Jesus Christ has graced him and his team to victory seven out of eight of their last games. Keane had at the ready a quote from David Silverman, the president of American Atheists, whose opposing view was that familiar inoffensive hypothetical retort, and please forgive me for paraphrasing, “If there was a God overseeing the complexities of the universe, do you really think he would be concerned about who won what?” Keane concluded to say, “What does rationale have to do with sports and religion?” This was obviously not meant to be a slight on faith, religion or Tebow fans, nevertheless Silverman’s quote and Keane’s closing comment each struck a nerve.

As enjoyable as it would be to make a defense against any subtle attack on Christianity by using scripture and personal testimony, God, and the principles embedded in his word which have stood the test of time, need my help defending them about as much as the sun needs my help to rise. I feel, instead, inspired to get out of my easy chair and refute the claim, “rational thinking has no place in sports and religion” not from the Christian perspective, but from the sports fans’.

First of all, I’d like to point out sports fans and Christians have much in common. They believe what they follow is fundamentally pure and good, and, even though the Bible clearly states iron sharpens iron, this concept is probably better understood and appreciated by the sports enthusiast than the average Christian. The Bible also states without faith, it is impossible to please God. Faith is by definition believing, especially when evidence does not sufficiently support it. But if there was a picture further describing the definition of faith today, it would not be of a renowned pastor or even some Christian mogul with a rags to riches story. It would be of a loyal Detroit Lions fan who endured their drought a decade longer than Israel did before entering into the Promised Land.

St. Augustine reminds us, “the greater the peril of the battle, the more the joy of the triumph.” And who knows more than a fan how important it is to maintain hope to the very end? No one had to teach them hope is dependent on belief in their team. They understand this principle because they have heard tell of miraculous comebacks and hung white knuckled on every word of these legendary events which do not pass frequently enough from father to son. How is this irrational? You can say the sports world is fraught with superstition and I do not disagree, but if superstition is used as a tool to maintain faith, how is it detrimental? There is no more rational explanation for a winning streak than there is for divine intervention. And preach the law of averages until you are blue, even experienced gamblers know never to bet against one.

Anyone who can say with conviction the creator of the universe doesn’t care about the outcome of a game does not understand the nature of a good dad – and the only people who truly understand this are those who have had good fathers and have raised sons. These rare individuals take great pride in seeing themselves in their offspring, especially when they see the traits of self-restraint and graciousness in their children in spite of the intense pressure of competition. What’s more, a good father has the capacity to believe in his son far more than the son has the ability to believe in his father. The father sees from a more mature perspective and knows the value of the investment which was instilled in the child. This is why it is so important a father to drive those qualities into their son. A son can hardly be blamed for his limited view of his father’s potential based on his youth. So, if a good father cares more deeply than a son whom he did not choose, how much more is God capable of caring for the sons of his choosing? What is the danger of having a lack of faith in a good father? By believing God’s potential is limited, we limit our own potential as his offspring.

We all agree success in sports is due, in no small part, to psychology which can be further broken down to confidence, self-control and will, none of which are physical. Furthermore, if physical strength, speed and endurance are finite, it is the intangible (spiritual) attributes which are greater contributors to our achievements because they are limitless in their application. Have you ever noticed why there is always one individual who stands head and shoulders above the rest? I’ve previously articulated the benefit of setting goals beyond the professional level by striving for the higher platform of artistry. I’ve also commented about the advantages one receives from both maintaining a teachable spirit and being self-taught, but there is still something more. Like a streak, this paradox is counter-intuitive in nature and unexplainable. The Judeo-Christian community calls it an anointing.

An anointing is something awarded to you (Which is not to say every anointing is recognized or used to its potential). An anointing can be passed down from father to son as in the case of Isaac to Jacob, or mentor to apprentice as in the case of Moses to Joshua, or given directly by God as it was to King David. An anointing can also be lost if rejected or unappreciated by its host. It can also be established and maintained through tribulation. An anointing is something you walk in, (i.e. stagnancy can terminate it) or under (i.e. for protection).

Let us say life is a thread, and our life’s work and influence are equal to the time it takes for the energy we create to burn out. Let us now assume a family, team or even a generation, is the equivalent of weaving multiple threads together. A unified string, consisting of multiple threads, would burn longer and create considerably more heat and light than any single thread. However there is always a risk of collateral damage when something is burned in the wrong place, at the wrong time or for the wrong reason. Now, consider using something to enhance the string’s physical makeup. If we were to soak it in water, it will have great difficulty burning. If we saturate it in kerosene, it will flash for an instant but burn out as fast as it would have had it been dry. But, if we place the string vertically in wax, it will defy the laws of science by burning thousands of times longer than if it were not covered in its proper anointing.

Wouldn’t it be more profitable for Tim Tebow to take the credit for his own ability and performance rather than give the glory to God for supplying the anointing? But how long would such favor last once the anointing is forfeit? Is thinking you can lose your ability a superstition? As a softball pitcher I was anointed. I could do no wrong from the mound. What’s odd is I could do nothing right playing any other position. I could catch anything hit in my direction while on the mound. One game, a ball was hit to my far right side at chest level. I instinctively performed a truly impressive move with perfect karate-style form without thinking, and stripped the ball from midair. My teammates praised my dexterity and reflexes, but instead of keeping my focus on the game, I glorified myself. I took a moment to praise myself and called myself “Spiderman.” I didn’t catch a well-hit ball for the rest of the season.

Have you ever pulled a wick out of the candle and tried to put it back in again? A candle separated from its wick is just wax and a valueless piece of string.  For Tim Tebow to take credit and glorify himself is a surefire way of removing the wick from the wax. It is in the enduring of the discomfort of controversy which establishes the anointing in the first place.

The producers of what is sold to us as “news” take great pains to avoid being controversial. They prefer to deliver the more popular view and then butt an opposing view next to it in order to appear balanced and objective. It’s one thing to moderate while two opposing views go at it. It’s quite another to use a quote. What broadcasters would rather not acknowledge is by choosing a specific pre-established quote with which to refute an opposing view, they take on a partner’s responsibility for such an opinion.

Using our extremely limited understanding of God (and the universe he created and governs) in order to frame the notion he is not concerned about the little things, exposes a vast level of ignorance on our part. Unfortunately, we too often misplace our faith in science when we make it the end and not the means. Science is designed to humble us and draw us closer to God. We tend, instead, to educate ourselves beyond the level of our obedience and use knowledge to glorify ourselves, which draws us away from God and the truth we are so desperately seeking as well as our anointing.

All people believe in something. What we choose to believe in determines our longevity and value as well as the longevity and value of what we believe in. Fans believe their high expectations will lift their teams to greater glory and have been proven to be correct time and time again benefiting both fan and team. Therefore it is irrational not to have faith. A wise man long ago confessed, “It is customary the bride should wait to be given to the husband in order to create greater longing.” and summarized by saying, “Greater joy is everywhere preceded by the greater pain.” Now, if I told you these words were written by St. Augustine, atheist turned monk, would the words be easier to dismiss or believe? The damage is not done by what is true or false. The amount of devastation, or strength of a foundation, is determined by the force of influence promoting good and evil.

I don’t need to point out living outside of an anointed environment is restrictive or believing in man’s ever-fluctuating view of physical truth is a slippery slope, but, if someone sees something wrong and does nothing, they accept a partner’s responsibility for the injustice. The danger in saying there is no rationale in being a fan of sports or religion, is when the influence of the BBC acknowledges and promotes someone else’s lack of faith, they steal the potential for the fan’s greater joy. I sincerely hope limiting someone’s joy, either intentionally or unintentionally, is not something for which the BBC and the American Atheists want to be responsible.

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