Is sport the new religion?


Back in December, I wrote this piece.  It was about how Christianity and life in Christian community (Church) does not even have the status of a club and society.  Rather it is seen as something less than all other hobbies and activities.  Where once Christian identity ordered life, hobbies and activities are the new religion that order the Christian life.

Then back in May this year, I wrote post titled  'Salvation by Recreation'.  Using the book by Dominic Erdozain 'The Problem of Pleasure', I explored how our sports and activities have become the most virtuous things we can engage in.  We don't entertain ourselves to death but play our way to virtue.  "The most virtuous way to bring up our kids is to ensure they have access to all sports, hobbies and leisure, for that is the way that true identity is formed, and anything less is tantamount to abuse. "

With that in mind, and the football world cup taking place with various friends easy joking how 'football is more important than religion' I came across this book, by Shirl James Hoffman, 'Good Game: Christianity and the Culture of Sports'.  

In it James explores some of these dynamics, with his own particular thesis/twist.  This review captures the essence of the book:

"...tackling the relationship between faith and sports from a more ideological perspective. Hoffman suggests that while Evangelical Christian groups are forging connections with sports (because sports is a high-profile platform), they really don’t understand the nature of sports. He explores the fundamental paradox of joining sports (which encourages and celebrates success) to religion (which “consistently stresses the importance of losing”). The essential problem, he says, is that, in harnessing itself to sports, the Christian community doesn’t really have a clear sense of its goal or a coherent plan to achieve it. As a result, sports are becoming, in many ways, a mockery of Christianity, a superficial set of rites and behaviors with no spiritual or philosophical foundation. Many readers may disagree with the author’s thesis, but even they will agree that he supports it abundantly and argues it well. --David Pitt"

It's a very American book, using examples from sports there, but with Churches rushing to host world cup matches on big screens in their facilities, we might take heed from his suggestions over here.