Inspired by the Jeremy Lin story, David Brooks wrote this piece. Below are some excerpts:
The moral ethos of sport is in tension with the moral ethos of faith, whether Jewish, Christian or Muslim.
The moral universe of modern sport is oriented around victory and supremacy. The sports hero tries to perform great deeds in order to win glory and fame. It doesn’t really matter whether he has good intentions. His job is to beat his opponents and avoid the oblivion that goes with defeat.
The modern sports hero is competitive and ambitious. (Let’s say he’s a man, though these traits apply to female athletes as well). He is theatrical. He puts himself on display.
He is assertive, proud and intimidating. He makes himself the center of attention when the game is on the line. His identity is built around his prowess. His achievement is measured by how much he can elicit the admiration of other people — the roar of the crowd and the respect of ESPN.
His primary virtue is courage — the ability to withstand pain, remain calm under pressure and rise from nowhere to topple the greats.
This is what we go to sporting events to see. This sporting ethos pervades modern life and shapes how we think about business, academic and political competition.
But there’s no use denying — though many do deny it — that this ethos violates the religious ethos on many levels. The religious ethos is about redemption, self-abnegation and surrender to God.
Ascent in the sports universe is a straight shot. You set your goal, and you climb toward greatness. But ascent in the religious universe often proceeds by a series of inversions: You have to be willing to lose yourself in order to find yourself; to gain everything you have to be willing to give up everything; the last shall be first; it’s not about you.
I think Mr. Brooks describes the tension well–and I use that word carefully and purposefully. This is the tension that every Christian athlete feels. In fact, if we’re honest, it’s the tension that every Christian spectator, coach, volunteer, etc. feels as well.
I would agree with Mr. Brooks when he says much about sports is about supremacy and domination and I agree this is in conflict with Christian tenets. As you read his piece though, there is no hope offered. There is no solution brought forth. Is this because he believes there isn’t one? Perhaps.
I’m here to say though that there is hope. There is a solution and that is to offer your sports to God as an act of worship. Make your playing, spectating, and coaching for the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31) and not for the glory of yourself. Is this difficult? Absolutely! Will you fail occasionally? Undoubtedly. But you will change (by God’s grace) and it will revolutionize the way you interact with sports.
What does it look like though to play, spectate, and coach for the glory of God? There are no simple answers to that question but it is the right question to ask. You could write a book about how to answer that question but what I will offer is this–go back to the garden.