Tuesday, January 11, 2005

The Gospel According to ESPN

In a conversation with Dwayne recently, we discussed the relative merits of sports as a place where Christians live out their lives. Is the aggressively competitive but close community of a sports team collectively good or bad for someone trying to live out a life reflecting God's image? It's a topic worthy of discussion, since nearly all of us will raise children that will be shaped, perhaps deeply, by their experience on the field or court.

Our friends over at Books & Culture Review sounded an interesting and encouraging note for us "sports fans" out there:

"Sport is not exactly real life - many athletes behave heroically on the court and pathetically off of it - but it takes place in real time, in a real place. It reminds us that real human beings can confront dramatic contingencies and still, at least occasionally, achieve mythic status. So sport offers us something, even if only in stylized form, that fiction does not. Charles Schulz never let Charlie Brown kick the football, but if he had, it would still have been just a story, no matter how it resonated with what the sportswriters call 'redemption.' But when the Red Sox win the World Series, it actually happens. It's a myth that happens to be true.

The game is, of course, only a game. But our games and our stories grope toward something beyond themselves, and in that sense they indicate the gospel by a kind of negative space, by the shape of their yearning. And this, it seems to me, is the reason to watch The Simpsons or ESPN - not so much to find the truth, but to find the space where the truth might fit. And to remind ourselves - as the best of these books do -

that wherever we look in culture, that gospel-shaped space is there."

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