God and Sports

From Dan Merica at CNN.com:

There are a variety of influences here, including a Calvinist meticulous sovereignty theme, a Deuteronomy theme, an interventionist God theme, and others… what do you see?

Washington (CNN) – With millions of Americans set to watch the Super Bowl on Sunday, a new survey finds more than a quarter of Americans believe that God “plays a role in determining which team wins” at sports events.

The survey by the Public Religion Research Institute also found that more than half of Americans believe “God rewards athletes who have faith with good health and success.”

“In an era where professional sports are driven by dollars and statistics,” said institute CEO Robert P. Jones, “significant numbers of Americans see a divine hand at play.”

Asked if they believe God plays a role in who wins, 27% of Americans said yes. Poll results varied among regions and religions: 36% said yes in the South, 28% in the Midwest, 20% in the Northeast and 15% in the West.

Among nonwhite Christians and white evangelicals, 40% and 38% said yes, respectively; 29% of Catholics and 19% of white mainline Protestants also responded that God plays a role.

Jones said these figures reflect many Americans’ belief in a very active God.

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  • If I had a powerful uncle, and that uncle took an interest in my high school soccer games, and suddenly players on opposing teams got injured more often, missed the bus, got caught cheating on their girlfriends by the school newspaper — and it was all my uncle’s doing, that would not only be considered cheating, but I would be very upset with my uncle for interfering with the sportsmanship of the game. How can a win be worth anything if it’s influenced by factors not on the field?

  • Chris

    I believe God plays a role in sports in the sense that He cares about participants in all sorts of seemingly menial activities, but I don’t believe He causes one team to beat another. I do think it’s a good thing to see players give God glory in post game interviews and some of them do this better/more appropriately in how they frame it than others.

    I think it’s interesting that only 40%-ish of Evangelicals say God plays a role in who wins, I’d have thought that figure to be higher.

    What about individual sports vs team? Does He at times favor a Christian shot put thrower vs a non-Christian one? Teams are obviously tougher since there are Christians on many teams.

  • NateW

    I guess what I see is the same projection of man’s desire for power upon God that led to Christ being rejected and crucified. We desire a savior who’s strength is made prefect in power rather than in weakness. We want a king who’s power enables us to avoid defeat rather than one who’s power is to grant us peace as we follow him into crucifixion.

  • Andy W.

    Nate @ 3

    Bingo! To many want the Deus ex machina, not Christ on the hill of Golgotha, crucufied!

  • For the sake of argument, let’s say God does determine, in the words of some, “the course and outcome of all events”. That still does not tell us WHY He has one team win or lose a game with another team. The Gospel tells us the rain falls on both the just and the unjust, and that rain comes from the hand of God. The secret things belong to God and as C. S. Lewis wisely reminded us He is not a “tame lion” we can manipulate or in some fashion “buy off”.

    In my life time there have been a number of great and successful athletes in both team and individual sports. Some modeled Christian virtue. Others modeled much the opposite. Is the real issue, the one NateW alluded to, the pop-evangelical tendency to idolize the “Christian” Superstar with a less then Biblical pop-theology that has little to do with the hard realities of life in a fallen and broken world?

    Most of the world is not living in the atmosphere of success, but of struggle, poverty, and the brokenness of a fallen world. I need a God and theology that helps me live in that reality, not a pseudo-god and pop-theology of an American materialistic view of value and worth.

    In the words of the Apostle John, “Little children, keep yourselves from idols.”