Are sports the problem? Mark Householder, president of Athletes in Action, Benjamin J. Chase, a former lacrosse player at Wheaton College, and Ted Kluck, author The Reason for Sports: A Christian Fanifesto, respond to CT's cover story on "Sports Fanatics."
Can sports pose problems for Christians? Absolutely. But abolishing certain sports would probably reflect a Gnostic view of the human body. I fully agree that Christians should do some soul-searching in how we approach sports. I also suspect that God's design is for us to conduct our analysis in the very throes of competition.
Obviously, there is a danger for Christians in sports. We may fail against athletic standards or to be Christ-honoring. But such risks are no different from those faced in business, media, or any other career. I doubt that we can learn how to do sports rightly without struggle in that world.
We need Christians participating at all levels of sports, from youth leagues to the pros. Even at the collegiate level, there are many tiers of athletics, ranging from Division I to Division III, from intramurals to pickup games. In general, the lower you get, the less money is involved, which allows more people to play for pleasure and to enjoy a sense of community.
I played club lacrosse at Wheaton College, and we paid to play, raising an annual budget smaller than the ticket revenues many Division I lacrosse teams make in a single game. As a club team, we relied on community and creativity to meet our budget. We sold merchandise at games, did work projects, and often slept in churches on the road. We didn't have trainers, shuttles, or chartered flights. But we bonded more in petty adversities than we ever would have in luxuries. (Last year, we missed going to nationals by one game—a one-point loss to Division I Missouri State.)
College lacrosse forced us to wrestle with issues of faith and athletics in the midst of competition. Were we above reproach in everything? No, but we loved each other, prayed and talked together, often apologized to and prayed for other teams, and told many players about Jesus Christ. Other teams never saw perfection when they looked at us, but I do believe they saw Christians: people who are highly complex, just like them, yet moving toward redemption. I believe they saw people who can be honest and humble about their failures, since the grace of God fills these gaps too. I don't know what else Christians anywhere—on the field or off—can do or be.
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Benjamin J. Chase recently graduated from Wheaton College. Mark Householder and Ted Kluck also responded to CT's cover story on "Sports Fanatics."
CT also published a cover story on "Why We Love Football" in 2007.
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