So, I’m pretty much piggy-backing on Gerard’s catch about the Colorado Rockies, but in reading about the Rox’ clubhouse-wide dedication to The Deity, I was reminded of a long piece that ran at Salon.com several weeks ago. I didn’t post about it because I usually only post on developments involving a possible new Mets stadium or how bad the Royals are. And also because Salon’s articles are sometimes hidden behind a premium subscription wall. If you’re a subscriber, you can read it. If not, you can watch a commercial in exchange for seeing a picture of George Wrighster and Kyle Brady praying together (that’s a plurality of Jacksonville’s tight ends!) and what I found to be a fairly interesting overview of clubhouse evangelicals. Turns out they’re rather conservative Christians. I was also shocked. Tom Krattenmaker reports:
The Fellowship of Christian Athletes, which claims the Bible is “the only infallible, authoritative Word of God,” strives to “see the world impacted for Jesus Christ through the influence of athletes and coaches.” Similarly, (Athletes In Action) states that it “exists to boldly proclaim the love and truth of Jesus Christ to those uniquely impacted by sport.” Houston Astros third baseman Morgan Ensberg (above), who has worked with AIA, put it succinctly in an interview with Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network. “The entire reason that I play baseball is so that I get a chance to speak about Christ,” he said.
To promoters of sports-world Christianity, faith is a wholesome force that helps players curb the worst temptations in pro sports — violence and greed, for starters. Chaplains of pro sports teams say their role is to offer prayer services and spiritual counseling to religious players, whose demanding schedules often prevent them from attending church. Today, by most estimates, anywhere from 20 percent to 40 percent of players on a team, sometimes more, participate in Christian Bible studies and prayer services held by team chaplains, a percentage that mirrors Americans who attend church weekly.
But the Christianizing of sports comes at a scarcely examined cost, both to fans who would prefer watching the game without a dose of in-your-face religion and, in the view of some critics, to religion itself. The problem is that the sports-world faith movement isn’t only bringing religion to professional locker rooms but a potentially divisive brand of conservative Christianity, replete with a worldview shaped by an intolerance of gays and lesbians, women’s rights and other religions.
There’s more, including the inevitable quote from Etan “More Than An Athlete” Thomas, and the slightly less-inevitable quote from wild Samoan Esera Tuaolo (above) :
“I went to a Bible study, and, lo and behold, it was about homosexuality,” recalls Tuaolo, who came out as a gay man after his retirement. “I was thinking, ‘Is this a sign?’ That was what really turned me off.”
The choicest bits, though, come from a former NFL journeyman named Anthony Prior, who went on to write a book entitled The Slave Side of Sunday.
“How can you say Jesus helped you score that touchdown when the player you beat believes in Jesus too?” asks Prior. “You’ve embarrassed him in front of his fans. God answers your prayer and not his?
In training camp, Prior adds, some marginal players vying for roster spots carry around their Bibles and attend religious services to impress management. If they’re still on the roster after the final cuts, “then their Bible is nowhere to be found,” Prior says. “Until they get injured, of course, and then the Bible is back in your hand.”