God Goes For It On 4th Down

God must be some kind of couch potato, flipping through channels on  Sunday afternoons with a plate of heavenly buffalo wings and a six-pack of He’Brew. He seems to love American sports, judging by the praise, thanks and post-touchdown recognition He gets from some of our most prominent athletes. Florida’s Tim Tebow, most notably, cites scripture on his anti-glare patches and missionizes in the Philippines.  Is that so far from the pre-game “Our Father” in little league? In USA Today, author Tom Krattenmaker explores the “faith surge that has made big-time sports one of the most outwardly religious sectors of American culture.” It’s worth a read.

Jesus’ representatives in sports aren’t just practicing faith. They are also leveraging sports’ popularity to promote a message and doctrine that are out of sync with the diverse communities that support franchises, and with the unifying civic role that we expect of our teams. Typifying the exclusive creed taught by many sports-world Christians is the belief statement published by Baseball Chapel, which provides chaplains for all major- and minor-league baseball teams. Non-believers in Jesus, the ministry declares, can look forward to “everlasting punishment separated from God.”

Without denying the altruistic thrust of much Christian ministry, Krattenmaker examines the

exclusiveness [that] sometimes morphs into a form of chauvinism and mistreatment of non-Christians. Witness the incident with the Washington Nationals baseball team in 2005, when the Christian chaplain was exposed as teaching that Jews go to hell. Then there was the New Mexico state football team, which was the target of a religious discrimination lawsuit in 2006 after two Muslim players reported being labeled “troublemakers” and were kicked off the team by their devoutly Christian coach. The case was settled out of court and the students transferred.

All this is in preview of Krattenmaker’s new book, Onward Christian Athletes. Which we’re looking forward to reading while praying for a first down, and maybe an opposing-team fumble, on Sunday.

(via Tom Kuntz’s Idea of the Day.)