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Changing attitudes in the church of football

Changing attitudes in the church of football

The story goes like this: A prayerful quarterback is rewarded by God with a winning pass. Or, God will favor the faithful athlete with “good health and success.”

At the same time, many Americans who are both religious and love football think that players should be banned from the game for domestic violence and that teams should draft openly gay players.

Robert Jones, CEO of Public Religion Research Institutetold RNS “One in four Americans believe there will be a 12th man on the field, and that the hand of God will be seen before the final whistle blows in the Super Bowl.”

The survey of 1,012 U.S. adults, conducted by PRRI in partnership with Religion News Service, measures how people interweave team spirit and spirituality — and moral wrath, too. Nearly one in three Americans would slap a lifetime ban on players convicted of domestic violence, even for someone on their favorite team.

Among the findings:


And 53 percent agree God “rewards athletes who have faith with good health and success…”

Domestic violence:

“I was surprised at how seriously Americans are taking domestic violence in sports. Nearly one in three (29 percent) would support a lifetime ban for a player convicted of domestic violence,” said Jones. “That’s a heavy penalty.”

Most (59 percent) would allow such a player to return after a temporary suspension.

But few would make that easy. Nearly two in three Americans (64 percent) would oppose a professional sports team’s hiring a player “who has been convicted of domestic violence but is not in current legal trouble.”

Equal access for gay and lesbian athletes in professional sports:

Survey respondents greeted the issue with a shrug: 73 percent say they would favor a team’s drafting a gay or lesbian player.

Even so, there’s an overwhelming sense that this is not an easy road for these athletes: 88 percent, including majorities of every major religious group, say gay and lesbian athletes face discrimination  in professional sports.

The survey was taken before the current flap about the Patriots and football inflation, so we can only guess at the theological implications.


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Jay Croft

This has been picked up by, which is based in football-crazy Alabama.

Mary Ayers

This looks like a transactional theology rather than a relational one. “If I do this for God, then God will do that for me” is a sadly shallow kind of relationship. I much prefer divine gift exchange as a model. Isn’t that what Grace is all about? God gives God’s gift of God’s self to all. How do we interact with God’s gift of self and bring it to our relationships with all others?

Weiwen Ng

This article misses a point. We should prayerfully consider whether the game itself should be classified as a blood sport, like boxing and ultimate fighting.

Given the injury rates among athletes, the overuse and abuse of prescription painkillers, and the issue of dementia from chronic concussions, you can make an objective case that much more attention needs to be paid to the athletes’ health and safety.

From there, it’s worth asking if the sport itself is inherently too dangerous to allow kids to play it. After all, it is based on tackles hard enough to require protective gear – but the problem is, even with the protective gear, kids still suffer concussions, and professional athletes are exposing themselves to the risk of long-term brain damage. It selects for large, strong athletes – thereby increasing the force behind tackles.

Given the above, I won’t watch football, and I will strongly advise my kids not to play football (not likely that they will, as I am much more an endurance athlete). I do consider football a blood sport, and a lot fewer people should be watching it or playing it.

And back to the original question, no, God won’t favor one team over another regardless of the difference in the number of prayers. It’s fine to ask God to keep you from being injured, to help you to concentrate, to help you be at your best physically, and I’ve definitely made those prayers before my events. I don’t believe God will help me enough to slant the playing field, just that God will help me be at my athletic best. Which is admittedly a First World problem.

David Streever

Is it just me, or does the idea that God rewards a sports player for praying (an act which directly negatively impacts the other sports players) present a really troubling theological view of God?

Does this imply that losing players are not prayerful enough?
Does it imply that God intervenes in sports games?

I’m pretty sure this is a specific heresy, does anyone know the term for it?

Elouise Weaver

Prayer brings us closer to God, and the purpose is to align ourselves with His Will. Not ours. God values humility, kindness, hospitality, sacrifice, giving, love — so, those are the results one could expect from a sincere prayer. I think asking God for protection, stamina, & endurance would also be heard by God. (King David asked for those things). [But not ….’Let me win’.] Either way, sending up a prayer is a way to praise Him. Which is always a good thing. Both teams should say lots of prayers. :-)…and all the spectators too.

Rod Gillis

The Simpsons episode, Dead Putting Society, at the mini-golf tournament Homer says to Flanders,

“Hey Flanders, it’s no use praying. I already did the same thing, and we can’t both win.”

Rod Gillis

David, you can thank Matt Groening and Co., lol! ( :

David Streever

oh, that’s excellent; I’m going to steal that in the future! Thank you, Rod!

Rod Gillis

“Drop kick me Jesus through the goal post of life.”

Rod Gillis

Realize the youngsters on this site probably don’t know about this, so here is link to Bobby Bare’s song.

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