religion in sports

Recently on Under Score, the topic of religion in sports has come up. Last week, the host, Sarah Meehan, spoke to a Religious Studies professor named Joseph Price on this topic, as well as on the notion of sports as religion. And yesterday, she spoke to Dave Zirin about the politics of Evangelical Christianity and its influence on the world of sports. Very interesting stuff that can be listened to by clicking on the links to the online versions of the podcast on the Hardcore Sports Radio website.

I just sent a brief email response to the show, and thought I would post it up here to see if anyone had any thoughts.

Hey Sarah,

I have been really interested in the recent Under Score shows on religion in sports. First of all, let me put what I am about to say in context and let you know that the reason I am here in Aberdeen is because I am working on a Master’s in Practical Theology and Christian Ethics. Perhaps my take on all of this is a bit different that that of the average sports fan.

For me, as a Christian, my belief in God is not based on propositional truths or on any notions of moral guidelines that offer black and white versions of right and wrong. To really narrow it down, I believe it to be more about narrative truth, that to be a Christian is more about participating in the story of a God who is constantly inviting people to embody a different way of living in our world. From this perspective, there are some for whom their lives are so connected to this story [or at least striving along that way] that it can’t possibly be asked of them to separate what they do as athletes from who they are as participants in this story.

I believe we all align our lives according to certain stories – in North America, this often takes the form of seeking power, money and fame. These are dominant and widely accepted stories in the world of sports and all around us. Obviously Dave Zirin alluded to some of the dodgier sides of religion, which, sadly, are not uncommon within the history of Christianity, proving that no matter what you believe, we are all prone to falling into these things at some point in out lives.

However, the way I see it, if an athlete wishes to express his belief in God – whether by thanking God after a big game, pointing upwards after a home run, praying while a player lies injured on the field, spending an off day visiting kids in the hospital and on and on – it can be seen as an expression of the reality that their successes and failures on and off the field are played out within the scope of a greater story. This offers a healthy perspective, a different way of living in a world too often defined by other stories.

This is a huge issue, big enough for a PhD thesis [light bulb!], but I’ll stop it here.

Keep up the great work. The show is sounding great so far.

Ian in Aberdeen

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  1. Great letter. Seriously.

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