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Chariots Not-So-On Fire

Posted by admin in February 10th, 2020
Published in faith, Social Issues, Uncategorized

Remember the Academy-Award winning film, “Chariots of Fire”? It’s the true story of Olympic athlete and gold medalist Eric Liddell, known as the Flying Scotsman. Liddell had the eyes of the world on him when he refused to run his best event, the 100 meters, at the 1924 Olympic Games in Paris. He held the world record for that event and in global competitions, he’d never lost. But on a hot summer’s day in 1924, Eric Liddell refused to run. Why? Because the 100 meters race was held on a Sunday and Liddell wouldn’t run on the Lord’s Day. Eric Liddell was a true evangelical and the world took notice as he made a stand for his faith and refused to compete on the Sabbath. It was awesome! I still cry just thinking about it. After university and the Olympics, Liddell returned to his birth place of China, where he continued his parents’ missionary work in the northeast. Eric Liddel died in a Japanese concentration camp during WWII. He refused to be evacuated with other expats. As a result he was imprisoned and there he spent his life ministering to his fellow prisoners until his death in 1942. Eric Liddell is a true hero; he is a man of faith. Eric Liddell is a brilliant role model of what Christianity should look like. (I think I know where she’s going with this…)

Since 1990, the National Football League (NFL), has been playing its games on Sundays. I don’t know when the Church changed its attitude about sports on Sundays, but I do know that I have seen a dramatic shift just in the last 20 years. Kids sports were never played on Sundays. Even for those who didn’t consider themselves “church goers” Sunday was usually reserved for family and yes, a day of rest. But I watched uneasily as public schools’ and city leagues’ sporting events started encroaching on the Sabbath. I remember the discomfort I felt when our pastor, at a very large evangelical church, announced from the pulpit that his wife and daughter were missing service so their daughter could participate in a national gymnastics meet. Sports over church had made a full inroad and we all forgot about the Flying Scotsman.

Super Bowl LIV

On Super Bowl Sunday, our associate pastor stood up to deliver his message. Behind him, on the big screen, was a giant picture of Patrick Mahomes in his red jersey and trademark headband. That picture of Mahomes stayed on the big screen as the young pastor described Mahomes as a hero, as an icon, and yes, a celebrity much like Jesus. He compared how crowds wanted to touch them and hug them and to feel as if they knew  them–Jesus and Patrick Mahomes.

References were made to the big game and at one point, tongue-in-cheek, the preacher smiled and claimed a Chief’s victory, “In the name of Jesus!” Yes. I struggled with that.

Twitter, Facebook, news programs, and online newspapers were reporting Mahomes great faith and how Christianity plays a major role in the Chief’s franchise. In fact, one of the articles I read made it sound like God anointed the Chief’s for football.

And then there was the half-time show.

Several congregations in our area played the game at their churches. They actually hosted Super Bowl parties and cheered and made it an “everyone’s welcome” event. How did they handle the half-time show? How did they explain to kids watching the game that, “Yes, we support and watch football, but what happens at the half-time show isn’t appropriate, so we turn it off,”? Doesn’t that seem a bit inconsistent? What did born-again Believers do who had forked out the big bucks to attend the live game? Close their eyes? Notice I’m not mentioning the children in cages who actually participated in the pole dance extravaganza. And we wonder why pedophilia and sex trafficking is on the rise.

(Take a look at this Washington Times article if you want to see the dark underbelly of the NFL. https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2020/feb/1/super-bowl-sundays-sad-and-seedy-sex-trafficking-s/?fbclid=IwAR33N0KhYOabloZjIn_Hi0nu3_ML66goP0T20-ag3CB6uuvsg7Hi94SCQU4)

Many were crying out against what happened this year, 2020. But Janet Jackson and her wardrobe malfunction in 2004 demonstrates a long-time history of sensuality and not-family-friendly programming supported by the NFL. The Black Eyed Peas sang “Pump It” in 2011, and don’t forget creepy Madonna in 2012.

And then there’s the cheerleaders who once were not even allowed to show their belly buttons on national TV. My how times have changed. I have heard the new standard of cheerleading described recently as, “Sex on the sidelines.” I’m honest enough to say that I feel sorry for young Christian boys who have to struggle with temptation anyway, and then have those images flashed in front of them each NFL Sunday. No matter what you think about this, you have to admit it does send a mixed message to evangelical youth, right?

It’s more than just a sport.

Sadly, the NFL is not just about football. It’s not JUST about the sport. If it were, pro athletes wouldn’t be paid such exorbitant salaries AND they wouldn’t TAKE those salaries. So it’s never just about the love for the game.

It’s about the money.

It’s an old expression, but it’s a true one. If you want to get to the root of something—follow the money. One of the primary problems I have with the NFL is its sponsors. NFL sponsors of the 2019-2020 season kicked in a combined total of $1.1 billion.

#1 contributor was Anheuser-Busch with $230 million dollars this season. I’m not going to touch that. Just let that stand on its own.

Nike chipped in $120 million this year. You remember Nike don’t you? They pulled from the shelves their 4th of July sneakers in 2019, with the Betsy Ross flag because Colin Kaepernick felt they were too “white supremacist” for his taste. Betsy Ross? She was a Quaker for pity’s sake and opposed slavery and never owned slaves and preached against slavery every chance she got. Can you believe it?!?

And good old Caesar’s Palace, Las Vegas. Yes, the casino. They chipped in $30 million this year to sponsor the NFL. Good. Family. Fun. A report I read, published in 2009, states that, “Gambling, specifically Las Vegas, is the backbone of organized crime.” Pause and let that sink in. I had to.

Injuries that change lives.

Over the years, the NFL has become less of a sport focusing on the most skilled and talented players and more of a league of gladiators. It seems to me the players are pounding each other into the ground for the viewers’ amusement—isn’t that gladiator like? While the NFL has become undoubtedly more popular over the past few decades, there is a major downside to the sport: serious, life-altering injuries.

Injury data just for the 2017 season showed a season-over-season increase in concussions suffered by players—a severe injury that can result in life-long problems for these men. Data compiled by an independent third party showed a 13.5 percent increase in diagnosed concussions for the NFL from 2016 to 2017 (243 to 281). Nearly half (47 percent) of all concussions were being flagged by players’ doctors and independent neurological specialists because players didn’t want to report symptoms fearing an end to their careers.

Darryl Stingley’s career in the NFL ended in 1978 when he was hit so hard by another player that his back was broken. Stingley never walked again. Dennis Byrd collided with a player and broke his neck. That resulted in a career-ending injury and paralysis. Byrd died in 2016, at 50. Chuck Hughs, died on the field in 1971. Estimates are that 20 players a year (nationwide and at all levels) are paralyzed in football related injuries.

Domestic Violence

Incidents of domestic violence in the lives of NFL players is 54 percent higher than for any other professional athletes of any sport. In fact, there are an average of 80 domestic violence arrests each year of NFL players, making it by far the NFL’s worst category of crime.  https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/the-rate-of-domestic-violence-arrests-among-nfl-players/

Serious injury, disrespect for the nation that gives these professional athletes the opportunity to earn millions playing a sport, sponsorship from companies with less than family-friendly ethos, domestic violence, and the exploitation of women both on the sidelines as well as in recent half-time shows—all this makes me wonder why are Christians so gung-ho for the NFL?

NJ.com, an online magazine, ran an article to coincide with Super Bowl LIV, “Super Bowl: Religion Runs Deep for Many NFL Players and Teams.”

“It’s everything for us,” said Seattle’s Chris Maragos, “We understand that we can’t do any of this on our own. You look at what guys have been able to do [in football] and the strength that He gives us — that’s really where we draw everything that we have. That’s a cornerstone of what we rely on.”

“Faith and football — with themes of adversity, dedication and striving to improve — have always seemed tied together. Players and pastors frequently use themes of war to describe the physical and spiritual battles they encounter on the field and against sin. The NFL and faiths such as Christianity and Catholicism share Sunday as their marquee day,” according to sports writer Matthew Stanmyre.

“There is a sense that ‘We have to fight,’ and football provides the best metaphor in all of sports for that,” says Seth Dowland, an American religious history professor at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma. “There’s something about the adversarial nature of the game that appeals to Evangelicals who have for decades, if not centuries, felt this sense of being in a war, whether it’s a spiritual war against Satan or a cultural war against forces of secularism.” Forces of secularism? In my opinion the NFL IS A FORCE of secularism!

So, as I caught glimpses of the heroes’ Super Bowl parade here in Kansas City, I couldn’t help but notice Mahomes chugging beer after beer and slamming the empty cans onto the ground below the team’s bus. Even news commentators talked about the awkwardness of being with their kids at a “no-alcohol allowed” event while players were imbibing and the use of MF in live interviews. One of the guys I listened to, “It was horrible. I finally had to take my kids home. I got tired of trying to explain to them a second set of rules.”

I reflected on all the FB articles and Twitter feeds hailing Mahomes and other players as faith-filled, faith-influenced men. And I remembered the gigantic big screen picture of Patrick at my church as the young associate pastor compared him to Jesus.

I don’t know. I wish the NFL didn’t play on Sundays. I wish that pastors didn’t make sports analogies or make heroes of football players in Sunday morning sermons. I wish I didn’t hate that half-time stuff and all the crud on the sidelines. But I do.

I went to a women’s prayer group once where one of the ladies had a ministry to the Chief’s cheerleading squad. The woman spoke of how godly the girls were and how wonderfully they all got along. And then she prayed for the Chiefs. The Lord as my witness, this is what she prayed, “Lord, I thank you for the Chiefs and how their uniforms reflect You and Your kingdom: the red for the blood of Jesus, the white for us being washed white as snow, and the gold representing the streets of gold we will walk on one day.” As you can imagine, I have a history of problems with the NFL.

Eric Liddell’s sister asked him once why he insisted on racing. He answered her, “God made me fast, and when I run I feel His good pleasure.” Eric Liddell refused to run on a Sunday, even though he would have certainly taken the gold. He was an Olympic Gold Medalist (he ran the 400 meters in Paris and won) who used his platform to preach the Gospel and would never accept a public appearance unless he had the freedom to speak Jesus’ name and give the plan of salvation.

Church, where have we gone? What has happened to us? Are we so eager to love the things of this world that we are willing to make heroes of people who are not really heroic? I mean Patrick Mahomes lives with his girlfriend. Remember when we used to call that “living in sin?” How’s that an example for young people? How’s he an example in a sermon?

A long-time friend of Daryl’s, just an old-time country preacher, wrote this last week. I want to end with Rev. Charles Hayton’s words:

“My observation, the real heroes in America are not the few men kicking, tossing, and carrying a football in front of an excited America, but the 300,000 men and women who are dedicated to the ministry of the Gospel. A Gospel that saves people from sin and hell, gives them wisdom and guidance as they attempt to navigate through a life that is sometimes confusing and difficult. A Gospel that gives comfort amid the sorrows of life. Most live in relative obscurity, exist on sub-standard salaries and live in sub-standard housing. Struggling to provide for their family. They will never be honored in a parade attended by a million people. But, they will have a grand welcome into Heaven someday to hear from God Himself, ‘Well done good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of the Lord.'” Peace.

4 users Responded In This Post

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53981. Stacy said,
February 11th, 2020 at 8:41 am

Great article Teri. Very thought provoking. Regarding Patrick, personally I don’t look at him for moral guidance, I look for him to score touchdowns so in that respect I am in awe of his talent. I also admire how he treats people on an off the field. Something that many “moral” Christians don’t practice. I think it’s also good that he doesn’t deny his faith when asked. But I don’t think he puts himself out there as a spiritual role model like Tim Tebow for example who has the lifestyle to back up such claims. I do agree that the churches needs to stop holding him up as something even he doesn’t claim to be. Again great article!

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53984. Greg said,
February 11th, 2020 at 10:38 am

Thank u Teri. Well researched and well written. It really bothers me a lot about how Patrick comes across as praying and being such a good guy and yet he’s living with his girlfriend and everyone just shrugs it off like so what. And as u mentioned alot, not all, but a lot of the players actions off the field are absolutely atrocious. I have been referring to the NFL as the National Felons League in the last year, and will do so from here on out.

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53986. Jamie said,
February 11th, 2020 at 4:31 pm

I agree with Stacy. Good article, T!

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53991. Cheryl said,
February 12th, 2020 at 8:02 am

Thank you so much for speaking the truth and crying out against sin. It is so blatant. I could not even believe your pastor said those things, and it borders on blasphemy, in my opinion. People, even ministers, are losing their fear of God and saying things from the pulpit that are so irreverent and flippant when speaking of our dear Lord. God will not hold him blameless who takes His name in vain. There are more ways of taking God’s name in vain than just swearing/cursing. We do not watch the Superbowl, and there is an easy solution for all Christians. Get back to the Bible and start living holy. Stop watching anything that condones such filth and degradation. Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. Teach your children to look unto JESUS as their one and only hero – He is the only One who is worthy. Come out from among them and be separate and live up to the calling of being God’s peculiar people. Jesus told us to go out into the world, but sadly, the world has, quite literally, come into the church. It is heartbreaking to me, and it is a burden that lays continually heavy upon my heart.

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