Monday, February 7, 2011

Football and Church

Professional sports have no appeal for me whatever.  As a result, I know nothing about them.  When I settled down in front of the tv last night so that I could spend the evening with my family, a stack of papers to grade on my lap, I had no idea which team was which.  Actually, it took me awhile to remember which teams were even on the field. 

I have no idea what is so compelling about sports.  Especially sports that you watch rather than those in which you participate.  Even when I was in school ~ I loved to play softball and basketball, but I thought that watching them was pretty boring.  And football? ~ The worst.

This morning I thought: Wow.  That's exactly how most people whom I know feel about church.

No appeal. No knowledge.  No idea who the players are or even what team is involved.  Something to observe, not something in which to participate.  

After the game last night, a friend of mine posted to FB that she's learned a lot about football in the past three years (I'm guessing her son is playing), and is even beginning to enjoy the game.  Not for me, I thought.  I can't begin to imagine three years of watching football games.

But I can imagine the words of so many of my family, friends, and acquaintances:  Three years of church involvement?  Are you out of your mind?

Something to think about.


  1. That strikes me as a very apt comparison.

    Re: football, I thought to myself, "Oh, but you have to be there. The crowd makes a HUGE difference, and the whole sensory experience (stadium food, crisp autumn air, the music of the band) when you're AT a game is so different from seeing tiny figures on a screen."

    And that same crowd participation and sensory involvement is part of why I love liturgical churches. Taste and see that the Lord is good. And so are the hot dogs.

  2. I played all the sports as a kid and have three younger brothers - so watching them became part of our family history. Plus, when we lived in WI in the 1960's my mother fell in love with Vince Lombardi and the work he did in Green Bay to ensure that his players, black or white, where accepted and not discriminated against - so I have an affection for sports but not an addiction...I really can take 'em or leave 'em...unless one of my local favorites is playing. :-)

    I also think that for most people in this country sports are the new religion and athletes are the local Gods.

  3. What a beautiful photo of Chartes. And I LOVE this analogy - never thought of church that way (since for most of my life, I loved it), but you are SO right! Thank you for saying it.

    Unfortunately, I think Terri (above) is right about American religion & gods.

  4. For me, the best part of game day is the people gathered, the conversation, the great food shared, the funny commercials, and the simple joy of sharing life. The football lovers are there, too, but they are in the minority, sitting close to the tv, and not talking much. Maybe the same is true with Church. Most people are there for community and comfort and comic relief, and not so much for the denominational goals. There are just a few of those, but they do keep the ritual alive!

  5. Now that, that is a pretty amazing metaphor. (Metaphor?)

    I KNOW what good football is. I attended Texas A&M in some of its best winning days in the early 80's - so I tried; I stood up for 4-hour televised games and the whole thing. And...I just don't get the attraction. It leaves me cold.

    And I think that is what you are saying.

  6. That's what I mean. I've been trying to think of some way that football would appeal to me and I can't. And I know that a lot of people go to church for exactly the interactions Karen describes -- the community and comfort and sharing of life -- just like they go to football games. That's what would get me over to someone;s house for a Superbowl party -- but is it enough for church?

  7. I am (have been) familiar with both football and church... And while I have a lingering latent affection for both, I couldn't call myself a "fan" of either, these days...

  8. yes, just right. I'm not great about football, but have been learning to appreciate baseball as my husband is a fan from way back. And like some people and church, I do have a few fond memories from childhood to jump off from. It's not the same as really knowing what's going on, which is what I'm discovering.

  9. You are exactly right~the three years correspond to my son's involvement in football. But to take your metaphor a bit further, the beginning to enjoy it really grows out of the fact that dh was out of state for the majority of those three seasons. So instead of just being the chauffeur to practice I was also stuck in the role of helping him learn the positions and plays, hanging out in the backyard (trying) to play catch with him, watching our local high school and televised college games as we both tried to sort out what on earth all those penalties and calls were about and trying to comprehend enough of his games to have some sort of feedback beyond "yay, you won!" and from that immersion started to grow an understanding and appreciation beyond just seeing a field full of boys/men trying to hurt each other. I think my church involvement has grown in the same way~writing liturgy, choosing music, leading prayers, puzzling over what to do for Lent this year~creates a different experience on Sunday morning for me than for those who walk in cold. And the puzzle may be how to let those who are no more interested in digging deeper than you and I would ever be in football see that on the other side of the effort of learning more there is something good.