Each week in The Holy Huddle, Doug Hankins takes a look at the goings on of the sports world from a distinctly Christian perspective.
The secularization thesis, as defined by sociologists, economists, and psychologists, argued that the value of religion would gradually decrease in the minds of a more sophisticated, emerging society. After all, no thinking person could continue to consider religious belief in an age of enlightenment.
Apparently Weber, Marx, and Freud forgot to consider the vast influential force that sports would play on the American national conscience.
Sports, and the athletes that play them, are one of the more influential forces on American culture. A sports figure’s endorsement of or participation in social causes can literally capture national attention and turn the popular media conversations on their head. I would argue that, at present, athletes, specifically Bible-believing, Gospel-bearing sports figures, are some of the main players (pun intended) in the furthering of the Gospel in American culture.
With this fact in mind, I thought it might be helpful to highlight the statuses of the leading Evangelical sports figures in American culture.
Josh Hamilton, CF, Texas Rangers (MLB) — Josh is currently playing with a .365 batting average, 21 Home Runs, and 56 RBIs (all tops in MLB). The Rangers lead their division by 6.5 games. Oh, and he is widely perceived as the best player in Major League Baseball. How’s that for influence?
Albert Pujols, 1B, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (MLB) — After starting off the season with 0 home runs, Albert has cleared 8 homers in the month of May. And he is still one of the best defensive first basemen in baseball. His Angels trail only Josh Hamilton’s Rangers in the standings.
Allyson Felix, Sprinter, U.S. Track and Field — Allyson just won 100m events in Japan and Qatar with a personal best of 10.92 seconds. There is also much speculation about which events she will run in the 2012 London Olympiad. She is already a defending world champion in the 200m, a 2-time silver medalist in the same event, and a gold-medalist in the 4x400m relay. Oh, and her dad, Paul, is a New Testament prof at The Master’s Seminary in California.
David Robinson, Retired PF/C, San Antonio Spurs (NBA) — How can we check in on a retired sports figure? Because the Spurs are quietly the best team in the NBA and have not yet lost in the playoffs. And because David Robinson is the reason for this culture of wisdom/excellence. J. A. Adande writes, “Robinson doesn’t get enough credit for establishing the template (for San Antonio’s success). He’s the founding father of the team’s locker-room constitution.”
Tim Tebow, QB, New York Jets (NFL) — Tim has been practicing with the special teams since his arrival in New York. And, as always, Tim has displayed a wonderful attitude and freakish athletic abilities that have won over teammates and coaches.
Baylor University (good at all sports) — The Baptist university’s sports program just set a new record for most collective wins in a single year (124), won a Women’s NCAA championship, won an Equestrian national championship, won the Big-12 Baseball championship (by going on a 26-game win streak), earned a Heisman trophy, advanced to Men’s basketball Elite-8 and the CaPC Theology Hoops Tournament Championship, ETC. . . . In short, Baylor is awesome and they are supporters of the local church.
Bubba Watson, Pro Golfer — Bubba has had a pretty solid 2012. He won The Masters tournament on Easter Sunday, two weeks after adopting a baby boy. He also tweeted one of the better sports tweets mid-tournament saying, “Thanks everyone for the support! 3 reasons tomorrow will be #awesome, 1. Jesus has risen 2. See my new baby boy & my wife 3. Masters Sunday.”
What does the world of sports communicate about religion and American culture? I think the larger message that professional sports communicates about religion, specifically Bible-believing Christianity, and American culture is this: Without Jesus, many athletes would not succeed. Hamilton, Pujols, Felix, Lin, Tebow, and Watson are able to succeed because of Jesus’ work in their lives.