Dear Theological Athletes:

Among the pleasant memories that remain from a somewhat misspent boyhood are those of the Saturday nights when we would station ourselves on the hill overlooking the Armory Auditorium in hopes of watching the wrestling matches without parting with a then valuable quarter. After a few minutes of the opening match the auditorium would become uncomfortably hot and some unknown benefactor would open the large window facing the hill, giving us a clear view of the arena.

Even then it seemed somewhat strange to me that the Swedish Angel could withstand the Masked Marvel jumping full weight on his stomach without apparent injury. Or that Indian Joe could batter Kid Curly’s head against the ring post without causing a concussion.

With the advent of television and its close-up of the ring action, my suspicions became confirmed. It’s all a fake. All the mayhem that appears to be happening is just sleight of foot. And only recently has the reason for the fakery become clear to me. Wrestling is not a hostile or destructive sport. In spite of all that wrestlers do to make it look vicious, it just isn’t.

Have you ever seen two small boys trying to establish rapport with each other? They wrestle. First there’s the playful nudge. Then comes the friendly counter push. And in a moment they’re on the ground puffing, giggling, and having a beautiful time. Wrestling is the original I-Thou relationship. (As proof of my point just recall Jacob’s famous match.)

It seems inescapable to me that the sport for today’s theolog is not the popular jogging but wrestling. In fact, I’d like to suggest that planners of theological curricula include wrestling in the seminary program, with credit, of course. Think of the mutual understanding ...

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