Monday, October 29, 2007

Jesus Plays Sports: When Christian Athletes Fail

So with the Rockies and Paul Byrd both having fallen on hard times lately, I thought I should squeeze off a quick post about that. I hate it when people only talk about their causes or favorite players when times are good, thus I respond.

First, the Rockies were swept in the World Series. I wrote about this team's unique relationship to Christianity here. Quite honestly, I'm not surprised they lost in the World Series. You know, some might argue that had the Rockies won, they could have been this great testimony to fans about the power of Christ, etc. But rarely do things work out that neatly for Christians. Look at Kurt Warner's up-and-down career as an example. No blessing of God is guaranteed for being a Christian athlete.

Warning: Christian speculation ahead!
My personal bias, which I don't think Christians or non-Christians may agree with, is that God has a way of being coy about his role in the affairs of men. That way, only people who really are looking for him will notice. For me as a Christian, a few times my team won or lost games, and I thought "Wow, that was ALMOST miraculous the way we won or lost, it felt like something different was in the air, etc." But you can't prove it to be truly miraculous on pure statistics alone; unlikely, yes, but miraculous, no. So you're just left wondering if God may have intervened or if you're making too much of nothing. I think that although sometimes God is obvious, more often he makes himself known, then retreats. It then becomes a matter of faith as to whether you believe he really exists or not.

Second, Paul Byrd. There's a temptation to defend Paul Byrd as just trying to compensate for a medical condition in a way that was legal at the time. After all, often people complain that Christian athletes aren't tough or competitive enough. There's nothing uncompetitive about the man who got into a heated confrontation with Bob Wickman last year because he felt Bob cost him a W.

However, I keep thinking that Christians should hold a higher standard in the competitive arena. After all, on the Sermon on the Mount Jesus talks about "If someone forces you to go with them one mile, go with them two" and talks about thinking about adultery and saying harsh words to a brother as being a sin. Other muscle-building substances were illegal at the time Paul Byrd injected HGH. It seems that Paul Byrd obeyed the law of MLB but disobeyed the spirit of the law. That doesn't seem quite right to me.

However, I'm saddened because Paul Byrd's book was going to talk about his struggles with porn, despite being a married athlete. To think that athletes, known for being wealthy and supposedly having all these women at their disposal, have problems with porn would be a new perspective for a lot of people. I think it would start some badly-needed conversations about the lure of virtual reality (VR) in general (video games, porn, Internet communities, TV, etc.). Many, many Americans are getting addicted to VR at the cost of everyday relationships and experiences. It's a problem we need to seriously confront as a society and as individuals. Now, though, there's not much chance that book comes out.

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