Idol Chatter

“And I’d like to thank God Almighty,” reads the headline in a current USA feature.
“In big-time sports, God often gets a prominent place on the field of play,” it goes on to say. “A shout-out here, a prayer there.”
In pointing out how much October is a sports fans’ buffet (baseball playoffs, NFL and NCAA football in full swing, hockey and hoops starting up), the article also points out that fans “can’t help but notice something else that often competes for our attention amid the passes, pitches and home runs: religion.”
“Players point skyward to the Almighty after reaching the end zone or home plate, star athletes voice thanks and praise to their savior after a big win, and sports heroes use their media spotlight to promote the Christian message. These are the outward signs of a faith surge that has made big-time sports one of the most outwardly religious sectors of American culture.”
One picture shows NFL players from both teams praying in a circle after a game. It actually takes place at every single game, but network cameras are instructed to ignore it, and they actually stand with their backs to the circle while recording other post-game handshakes and dialogues.
So what do you think? Do these outwards signs of faith inspire you, encourage you, offend you or don’t do much of anything for you?
I think it’s great. Well, for the most part.
Whenever it comes to young people, cameras and an audience, there is no way, of course, to guarantee that every expression is sincere. Some NFL players I know have told me that many of their teammates were superstitious, meaning that their kneeling in the endzone or pointing to the sky was about as significant as being sure their cat didn’t walk under a ladder. Or a mirror. Or whatever it is.
The chaplains, though, have told me that players are asking significant questions, and most of what is seen as a faith testimony is legitimate. Lee Corder, former chaplain for the Washington Redskins, told me that the athletes he’s known “want to know that they’re more than modern-day gladiators,” that there is a higher purpose in life.

The story goes on to ask questions about the legitimacy and appropriateness of these kinds of public actions, suggesting an evangelical “agenda” that is judgmental towards other religions, or at least disrespectful of them.
I believe that any young person who is authentically seeking God and seeking a higher purpose in their life is modeling a faith journey that is oh, so much more important than the results of any game. Further, that is the kind of role modeling that young people need to see. In today’s headlines, there are reports of athletes’ violence off the field, athletes cheating with banned substances and other kinds of ethical problems. Those athletes who’re pursuing their faith is a great example for fans to follow, and the fact they may not have it all figured out is as much an affirmation of the journey as anything could be. Don’t we all need that kind of encouragement?!

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