Southern Religion

Beyond hype, hope for spirit-minded sports

Nothing demonstrates the outrageous devotion of sports fans like the overwhelming hype of Super Bowl week.

This year’s version has a particularly religious flavor with Focus on Family buying some of the famously expensive commercial time with an anti-abortion ad featuring University of Florida quarterback Tim Tebow. And just a little more than a week before the big game, Phoenix Cardinal quarterback Kurt Warner announced his retirement by thanking God for the opportunity to play.

But amid the hoopla, Shirl James Hoffman, emeritus professor of kinesiology at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, encourages a different approach to sports. His article in Christianity Today, is called “Sports Fanatics: How Christians have succumbed to the sports culture — and what might be done about it.”

Hoffman has spent 40 years in sports as an athlete, an official, a coach, a professor and an administrator. He sees an evangelistic fascination with sports like the call, “Onward Christian Athletes,” and the seemingly omnipresent “skin-deep evangelism.”

Christian evangelicals, he says, “have been quick to harness sports to personal and institutional agendas,” but also points out that organized sports too often bring out the worst in people. He believes that Christians have a “duty to seek the redemption of sports, and to point society toward a better way of playing.”

Hoffman cites numerous difficulties, including that the “big-time sports culture lifts up values in sharp contrast with what Christians for centuries have understood as the embodiment of the gospel.” Nonetheless he calls for a Christian view “that sports are derivatives of the God-given play impulse—intended less to test our spiritual limits than as times and places to recover our spiritual centers of gravity and to rehearse spiritual truths, dim images of the real game that will begin when we leave this world behind.”

The piece is well worth the read for sports-minded Christians and spirit-minded sports fans.

February 6, 2010 Posted by | Cultural | , | Comments Off on Beyond hype, hope for spirit-minded sports