SEARCH THE ARCHIVE

? SEARCH TIPS
Exact phrase, enclose in quotes:
“keyword phrase here”
Multiple words, separate with commas:
keyword, keyword

Sportianity” 

In the April 10, 1978 issue of “The Christian News,” an interesting article appears with the above title and written by Clyde Kaminska. He points out rather dramatically some of the impact and effect of sports in the world and especially upon the Christian. Some of his solutions and conclusions are wrong. But his evaluation is worth considering. He writes:

Has “Sportianity” replaced Christianity in America? 

“Sportianity” is a word seemingly coined by Sports Illustrated. This magazine printed a series of articles describing the influence of Christianity on athletics and vice-versa. Some claim that “sport has become the religion of America.” 

In October 1976 President J.A.O. Preuss wrote about sportsmania in his column in the LUTHERAN WITNESS. He pointed out that, because of growing sports interest, in some congregations evangelism and stewardship drives cannot be scheduled for Sunday afternoons; church boards cannot meet on Monday or Friday evenings; house calls or other activities must not clash with sporting events. 

Sunday once was a rather tightly structured, well-defined day of peace; worship in the morning followed by a good dinner and family fellowship and then rest and relaxation with the family. 

Now Sunday has changed so much that dinner, for many, is replaced by the takeout Big Mac and family fellowship by the 19-inch Sony. And the journey from the house is often to see a game rather than to visit a church. . . . 

In a sense, organized sport also has a “religious” structure. It has a body of beliefs and rules accepted by great masses of people, perhaps best expressed in “what sports have done for me” testimonials. 

Coaches and officials perpetuate the sanctity of sports. There is almost a saint structure of departed souls such as Knute Rockne, George Gipp, Babe Ruth, and Vince Lombardi.

There are ruling patriarchs best exemplified today by Johnny Wooden. Superstar athletes have a special charisma with the fans. High councils and conventions debate rules, make legislation, and even hand down punishment. 

Yes, there are even FANatics—those true believers who flock to games in which an idolized team is playing. 

Sport has shrines—the National Halls of Fame—and houses of “worship”—the stadia, gyms, pools, and courts. 

Sport even has its symbols: the trophies and the game balls, awards, retired jerseys, and the like. Sport offers enough ritual and celebration of human achievement for even the most dedicated follower. 

Sports competition seems here to stay and a force with which the church must deal. . . .

And what are some of the solutions?

Adjustments in worship schedules may be made to lessen the temptation to neglect worship. For example, some congregations offer Saturday afternoon or Monday or Wednesday evening services so members of the parish can get in a full 18 holes or be on hand for the kick-off off Sunday. This is not an ideal solution, but an attempt at solving the problem. The church has even placed “missionaries” at race tracks to reach and serve thousands who need to hear the Word. True, sport today is more important in our culture than previously; however, religion has moved to “where the action is.” 

But so far sport seems to be having a greater impact upon religion than the other way around, and we need to overcome this effect. 

The choice between sport and Christianity is a matter of priorities. The Christian constantly reevaluates the way in which he spends his time and talent, whether in sports or in other matters. We must help people become more aware of the challenges and the stumbling blocks in this area of living. Sport need not—must not—become Sportianity. 

to reach and serve thousands who need to hear the Word. True, sport today is more important in our culture than previously; however, religion has moved to “where the action is.” 

But so far sport seems to be having a greater impact upon religion than the other way around, and we need to overcome this effect. 

The choice between sport and Christianity is a matter of priorities. The Christian constantly reevaluates the way in which he spends his time and talent, whether in sports or in other matters. We must help people become more aware of the challenges and the stumbling blocks in this area of living. Sport need not—must not—become Sportianity.

Though I would sincerely believe that we, within our churches, do not face such a serious challenge from sports, we are not very slowly moving in that same direction. One hears disturbing reports of time spent before the t.v. on Sunday afternoons watching certain sports activities. Sports have done far more to build up the “school spirit” within our own schools than anything else. The churches find it increasingly difficult to have any night which can be used for spiritual activities. One hears far more discussion of the latest football or baseball game than the Sunday sermon. Complaints are heard sometimes about the length of a sermon—and perhaps by one who is willing to sit for hours on a hard bench watching a football or other game. Perhaps some serious reevaluation is necessary by us too. 

The Gospel Razzmatazz 

Christianity Today, April 7, 1978, contains an editorial which comments on some of the activities within the churches which are “full of sound and fury” but “signify nothing.”

Evangelists have never been so numerous; the impact of Christian values on society has seldom been less. Within evangelicalism itself, scarcely ever has there been so much activity, but seldom ever has it amounted to less. Is this, one wonders, a tale signifying nothing, though full of sound and fury? 

The current impotence of evangelicalism in the face of our secular culture can be analyzed from many angles, but one aspect that should not be overlooked is the level of spirituality within evangelicalism. It is possible, after all, that God might have got a bit lost in all the razzmatazz. That is a sobering thought. . . . 

What these engineers of men and causes actually succeed in doing, however, is dissecting the church’s inward and outward lives. They do so believing that if the outward one is managed, packaged, and streamlined properly then the inward one will take care of itself. Consequently, we have come to imagine that the saint and the intellectual are different people, that you can have faith without reflection, action without conscience, preaching without the Word, the Gospel without cost, and worship without God. . . . 

Given this kind of vacuum at the center of Christian life, it is never long before God, instead of standing in awesome majesty before the believer, is reconstructed in the believer’s image. The very attitudes that should then be challenged and changed are simply accepted as normal and given divine sanction. . . . 

We cannot call “God” by shouting “man” in a loud voice, Karl Barth rightly observed. God is not simply the magnification of our own evangelical mentality; he is, in fact, very different from it. The failure to recognize this, to see that God is often being colored by our own cultural norms and expectations, removes from our faith its real cutting edge. A cultural Christ can neither change those who follow him nor the culture of which he is a reflection. P.T. Forsytb observed that “the non-theological Christ is popular, he wins votes; but he is not mighty; he does not win souls; he does not break men info small pieces and create them anew.”

The above points out the terrible evil within the churches of failure to follow the command of God’s Word as presented by the apostle Paul, “For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” (II Cor. 2:2). That policy does not normally gain vast hordes of converts. It does not attract the attention of Madison Avenue. But God has surely promised that through the weak means of preaching, that is, faithful preaching, He will bring His chosen ones to repentance and confession. The cross is regarded as being without power and foolishness by men—but it has ever been the power and wisdom of God. He who understands that well, need not design all kinds of “Razzmatazz” in order to promote the cause of God’s kingdom. 

Pity the poor criminal?

The Presbyterian Journal, April 5, 1978, presents a news item which relates the desire of a certain group to reduce the punishment of criminals—and this, in the name of Christ. It is shocking how that the Word of God and work of Christ are used to “prove” the very things which the Word of God condemns. We will be hearing more of this sort of thing as the end of the age approaches.

A task force report on criminal justice which rejects capital punishment and calls for reducing long-term prison sentences and the elimination of imprisonment “as the principal means to achieve community protection and well-being” will be presented to the 1978 General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church US in June.

The report by the Task Force on Criminal Justice, which has been in the making for some three years, also calls for a rehabilitation system instead of a penal system which will not separate offenders “from the opposite sex or from their families . . . or otherwise deny them the opportunity of human life in community.”

Otherwise, the report says, the “system helps create and encourage the very antisocial behavior it is supposed to remedy.”

The task force, which asks to be continued with funding guaranteed by the 1977 Women’s Birthday Offering, says that imprisonment should be used “only to the extent that and only so long as the denial of freedom is necessary to protect (the criminal) and other people.”

It declares that “social defense and restoration of community should be the only concepts to rule the response of society to offender and offenses.”

Any system based on vengeance (by which the task force means punishment for the sake of punishment) “is counterproductive as it intensifies antisocial attitudes and further separates the human community. . . .

The task force bases its “findings” on theological presuppositions which see the “justice” of God as redemptive and forgiving only and identical with His love.

“God’s justice is openly biased in favor of those, who are weak, vulnerable and helpless,” these Presbyterians say at the outset.

In the Old Testament, “the hope for the Messiah” was precisely the hope for the exercise of “God’s justice in behalf of the politically and economically and socially weak.”

In the New Testament, according to the task force, social and economic concerns were expanded to include “justice for lawbreakers, disturbers of law and order.”

On Calvary, God took on Himself His own “annihilating wrath against sin . . . rather than let it fall on those who deserve it.” This means “the guilty are forgiven, set free, given new life.” Presumably this means all men, as the report denies distinctions. . . .

One can only add again, what terrible conclusions are made when the Word of God found in II Cor. 2:2 is ignored.