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Norway's Minister of Culture and Church Affairs criticizes church prayers for soccer
Earlier this week, Lars Sperre, pastor of Trondheim, Norway's Tempe Church, told the national television network that he's praying for Rosenborg Trondheim, the soccer team that plays near his church. The team has dominated the league in recent years, with 11 straight titles. Now an Oslo team appears set to dethrone it.

"I have noticed that Rosenborg is struggling in the elite division and all who struggle need prayer," Sperre said. Besides, he added, when Rosenborg loses, his parishioners become very depressed, so why not petition God on such a matter?

Sperre may have been kidding, but his comments have elicited reaction from players, fans, theologians, fellow churchmen, and now even the government. (In Norway, those aren't necessarily separate categories: The Lutheran Church is the state church, and is officially headed by the Norwegian king.)

"First, football matches don't mean that much, second, then one has to pray that things go badly for the opposing team," Rosenborg player Fredrik Winsnes, a former missionary, said. The team's assistant trainer was even more critical: "I don't think God accepts such thoughts and attitudes."

More critical still is theology professor Jacob Jervell, who said, "Praying that your team will win is nearly blasphemy."

Even the government's Minister of Culture and Church Affairs has weighed in. Praying for soccer is "too banal," she told the newspaper Dagsavisen. "I don't want to meddle with what people pray for in private, but I think this is a bit flippant in regards to prayer in church." (That's according to the Oslo paper Aftenposten. A television station had a slightly different translation, calling it "absurd" ...

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