Questioning sports evangelism

In big-time sports, God often gets a prominent place on the field of play. A shout-out here, a prayer there. But this faith surge is being powered by a brand of conservative Christianity that is — like two teams competing on the field — very ‘us’ vs. ‘them,’ USA Today religion columnist Tom Krattenmaker writes.

Anyone who watches pro and college football or follows the drama of the baseball playoffs can’t help but notice something else that often competes for our attention amid the passes, pitches and home runs: religion.

Far less visible, but worth knowing about, are the infrastructure and strategy of the sports-world evangelicalism that powers these pious displays. Athletes’ expressions of Christian faith reflect decades of hard work by evangelical ministries to convert players and “coach” them to use their stature to promote a particular version of conservative Christianity.

Christian chaplains are embedded with all the teams in professional baseball, basketball and football — and many college teams as well — to provide religious counseling, Bible studies and chapel services. Given the misbehavior and self-seeking that plague sports, who could doubt the benefit of bringing moral guidance and a broader perspective to locker rooms and clubhouses?

But 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.

But should we be pleased that the civic resource known as “our team” — a resource supported by the diverse whole through our ticket-buying, game-watching and tax-paying — is being leveraged by a one-truth evangelical campaign that has little appreciation for the beliefs of the rest of us?
[…more…]

– Source / Full Story: And I’d like to thank God Almighty, Tom Krattenmaker, USA Today blog, Oct. 16, 2009 — Summarized by Religion News Blog

Krattenmaker is the author of the new book Onward Christian Athletes: Turning Ballparks into Pulpits and Players into Preachers

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Religion News Blog posted this on Friday October 16, 2009.
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