Thursday, May 03, 2012

Is football unchristian?

I’m going to comment on this post:

Before I get to the details, I’ll make a few general observations:

i) I don’t object to Christians discussing the ethics of contact sports. I also don’t object to reasonable efforts to make contact sports safer.

ii) This is sometime cast in bumper-sticker terms: WWJD? In general, I disagree with that way of framing issues. It’s usually presumptuous or impious–making Jesus a mouthpiece for our personal opinions. Unless Jesus has really spoken to an issue, it’s sacrilegious to put words in his mouth. We don’t write the script for Jesus.

iii) But as far as that goes, I expect boys in 1C Galilee engaged in rough-n-tumble play. That’s what normal boys do. I doubt that, as a boy, Jesus absented himself from normal social interaction with his male age-mates.

iv) Like the current hysteria about “bullying,” this is simply another front in the war on boys. The attempt by the liberal establishment to emasculate boys and men.

(Not that bullying can’t be a genuine problem. But this has become a pretext to promote homosexuality and demote heteronormativity.)

Is it ethical to watch football? For those of us who consider ourselves Christians do we have an obligation to disengage from the culture of violence promoted by college and professional football?

To label contemporary contact sports as part of the “culture of violence” is silly, as if football is equivalent to gang violence in the ghettoes and barrios. Intramural and professional contact sports have various rules and safeguards to minimize the risk of serious injury. You may still say that’s too violent, but it’s hardly a “culture of violence.” “Culture of violence” is one of those pretentious academic phrases.

In a recent interview with Slate Magazine Malcolm Gladwell argues that college football should be banned (see “Head Games”).

i) I seriously doubt that’s realistic. Banning college football would lead alumni and students boycotting colleges that do that. They’d take their business elsewhere.

ii) And even if it were successful, it would create an underground football culture lacking the safeguards of college and pro football. Same thing in spades for MMA. 

Is the NFL the “gladiator games” of our empire? Is boycotting the NFL and college football the Christian thing to do when people seek to make money from violence?

i) “Gladiatorial” is another bit of a facile hyperbole. Gladiatorial games involved mortal combat, man-eating predators, &c. That’s hardly equivalent to contemporary contact sports.

If you want to have a serious debate about the ethics of sports, you need to resist the temptation of resorting to cheap, prejudicial exaggeration.

ii) Boycotting is very different than banning. People should be free to mobilize economic boycotts. Of course, that’s a two-way street. Boycotters can find themselves on the receiving end of that tactic. 

1 comment:

  1. I love how people equate football games with the culture of violence. When people use terms like that you'd think they were talking about the slums of L.A. at night. Then they wonder why they get accused of not being "real men". There are cultures of violence in the world, but contrary to legalistic opinion, they make football look like a child's playground.